Although alcohol is used in skincare to fight bacteria, keep ingredients stable and boost their absorption, it may also destroy the skin’s surface and cause dryness by stripping the skin of moisture. So if you’re experiencing dryness, irritation, or sensitivity after your skincare routine, check if your products contain alcohol. If they do, it’s time to make some changes and use alcohol-free alternatives. The good news is that you don’t have to change all your products at once. Starting with an alcohol-free moisturizer will be enough to keep skin hydrated, plump, and out of irritations.
Is alcohol in moisturizers bad for my skin?
Well, it mostly depends on the alcohol type and how sensitive your skin is. There’s bad alcohol that may dry the skin and cause irritations, so if your moisturizer contains that, yes, it can be bad for your skin. And there’s good alcohol. No matter how backward it sounds, there’s a type of alcohol, known as fatty alcohol, that’s good for the skin and is better to have it in your product than not. After all, a product still needs alcohol to keep ingredients stable and have a pleasing texture, but it doesn’t have to be the one that causes dryness and irritations.
According to FDA, the alcohol-free label is given when the product doesn’t contain ethyl alcohol, aka the bad alcohol. Thus if it has only fatty alcohols, it’s still eligible to have the alcohol-free label. So instead of running away from every moisturizer with a trace of alcohol, pick the ones with only fatty alcohol. Fatty alcohols, like cetearyl alcohol, are the good guys because they still keep ingredients stable without causing irritations. They are derived from the fatty acids in plant/vegetable oils and help skin feel smoother and softer by adding moisturization.
How to choose the best alcohol-free moisturizer?
You should pick a moisturizer that’s free of bad alcohol. As long as the moisturizer contains only fatty alcohol (cetearyl, lauryl, stearyl, and oleyl alcohols) and not drying alcohol (like isopropyl, ethanol, or isopropanol), it is still alcohol-free, so you are good to go!
Consider your skin type when choosing your moisturizer. Although alcohol-free moisturizers tend to be gentler, if you’re not picking a moisturizer according to your skin type, it won’t show too much improvement. For instance, if your skin is oily, you’d want to dodge moisturizers that contain oils that could clog pores. Sensitive skin types should pick an alcohol-free moisturizer that’ll help consolidate the skin barrier and reduce irritations. In the end, however, the best alcohol-free moisturizer is a matter of preference, but you should still consider your skin type and goals.
Best alcohol-free moisturizers
Are you ready to reap the benefits of the best moisturizers without alcohol that won’t dry out your skin and cause irritation?
Best for dry skin
Clinique NEW Moisture Surge Intense 100H Hydrator
This moisturizer is literally able to keep your skin hydrated for up to 100 hours. Clinique NEW Moisture Surge does that thanks to hyaluronic acid and their exclusive ingredient, aloe bio-ferment, which helps skin retain moisture. It has an oil-free and lightweight formula, which makes it also suitable for oily skin, plus a gel texture that’ll pamper your skin every time. Besides, this moisturizer is free of bad alcohol and fragrances, so even if you’re on the super-sensitive side, it’s perfect for you. In the end, everyone loves Clinique products, and this moisturizer seems to be the next hit.
Best for oily skin
Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer
Or, if you have oily skin or don’t like products that make your skin feel greasy, you can try this oil-free moisturizer from Juice Beauty. It’s made with soothing ingredients like aloe vera, avocado, and cucumber extract, which hydrate and soften the skin, plus natural antioxidants like pomegranate and sage leaf, to protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. Plus, this one is easily spreadable and feels weightless and non-greasy, so it’s ideal for combination and oily skin types.
Best for mature skin
Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Moisturier
Without a doubt, Biossance Repair Cream ticks all the boxes for the best alcohol-free moisturizer. It is EWG-certified and has a rich formula full of skin-loving ingredients that will hydrate, replenish, and nourish your complexion to get the best version of it. Even after a single-use, you’ll instantly feel your skin plumped and moisturized, thanks to hyaluronic acid and shea butter. It also aids in preventing dryness and strengthing the skin barrier with squalane, omega fatty acids, and ceramides. All these lead to fewer wrinkles and fine lines, so if you have mature skin, give this moisturizer a shot.
Best for sensitive skin
Pai Love & Haight Moisturiser
Pai Love and Haight Moisturiser is something you should want if your skin is sensitive. Because it’s formulated with gentle ingredients, and almost 80% are organic, this moisturizer is very unlikely to cause irritations. More than that, it keeps skin hydrated and nourished with avocado, jojoba oils, shea butter, and squalane. “This moisturizer is amazing. I have sensitive skin and deal with reactive skin in the rosacea family. Before Pai, my skin was itchy and painful. Now, it feels great. I have dry skin as well, so Love and Haight is perfect for me,” one reviewer says on Pai.
Best organic alcohol-free moisturizer
100% Pure Restorative Extra Riche Moisturizer
If you are a fan of natural skincare, then 100% Pure has one of the best alcohol-free moisturizers for you. It offers rich moisture, soothes inflammation while plumping the skin with nutrients, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. Everything inside this product is organic and contains a lot of great ingredients for the skin, such as shea butter, coconut, jojoba, and cedarwood oils. Plus, it doesn’t have alcohol but an additive composed of cetearyl alcohol and fatty acids of olive oil to soften the skin while providing a smooth finish and enhanced absorption. Finally, this moisturizer is suitable for all skin types, especially for dry and sensitive.
Best for acne-prone skin
Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Moisturizer
This one is really good at clearing up breakouts and balance acne-prone skin while keeping your skin well hydrated. Murad Clarifying Water Gel is a non-comedogenic, oil- and alcohol-free moisturizer that has it all, from anti-acne ingredients such as salicylic acid and niacinamide to antioxidants, exfoliants, and even skin brightening effects. Besides, it improves skin hydration thanks to glycerin and hyaluronic acid, while pinus densiflora leaf extract offers antibacterial properties to effectively kill acne-causing bacteria. So if you want a moisturizer without alcohol for your acne-prone skin, give this Murad product a try!
Best for strengthening the skin barrier
CeraVe Facial Moisturizer
CeraVe offers a budget-friendly moisturizer and a dermatologist-recommended solution for those who aim to strengthen their skin barrier. Free of fragrance and denatured alcohol, this moisturizer contains hyaluronic acid and three types of ceramide that help restore and consolidate the skin’s protective barrier. It doesn’t feel greasy, having a lightweight texture that gets absorbed really quickly, so it’s almost impossible not to like it — it’s a best-seller on Amazon for a reason.
Chanel Le Lift Crème De Nuit
On the luxury side, there’s this Chanel moisturizer which is another excellent alcohol-free alternative ideal for your PM routine. It has a formula rich in natural ingredients with soothing properties that work to revitalize and hydrate your skin while you sleep. Among the active ingredients in this moisturizer, there is botanical alfalfa extract (a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, D, E, and K, polyphenols, amino acids, and minerals), squalane, shea butter, and lactic acid. This formula targets dryness and dehydration, reinforces the skin, and boosts its overall condition. Plus, it’s suitable for all skin types.
Best for relieving irritations
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream is a dermatologist-tested moisturizer made with colloidal oatmeal, a potent emollient known to relieves itching and irritations that eczema or other skin sensitivities may cause. It softens and soothes the skin due to allantoin, a natural extract from the comfrey plant, and helps strengthen the barrier with ceramides and shea butter. And it does all that without denatured alcohol, artificial colorants, or fragrances. If this isn’t enough for you, it also has antioxidants to protect the skin from environmental aggressors, so it’s an all-in-one solution that gives instant relief and long-term hydration.
Best night moisturizer
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Night Moisturizer
Or you can try this high-rated night moisturizer by La Roche-Posay. It has a soothing gel-cream texture that feels like a dream and a formula that gives long-lasting hydration and helps restore the skin’s barrier with squalane, niacinamide, shea butter, carnosine, and vitamin E. Because it’s made without any ingredient that may cause irritation or sensitivity, such as preservatives, parabens, fragrance, or drying alcohol, this moisturizer is suitable even for allergy-prone or very sensitive skin. More than that, it’s dermatology tested, oil-free, and non-comedogenic, so there’s no chance your skin won’t love it.
Best with SPF
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF 30
If you want a moisturizer without bad alcohol that also offers SPF protection and anti-aging effects, there’s no better option than Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream. It’s an all-in-one moisturizer that improves skin hydration, reduces wrinkles and fine lines, and protects the skin from sun damage with SPF 30. Are you ready to get socked? This moisturizer has been clinically proven to increase skin hydration up to 253% in just one hour and improve aged skin in just 14 days. That’s how good it is!
Best drugstore alcohol-free moisturizer
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Moisturizer
On the budget side, Neutrogena offers a skincare multi-tasker and one of the best moisturizers without denatured alcohol. Besides keeping the skin deeply hydrated throughout the day, it also provides SPF protection and anti-aging effects, thanks to retinol, vitamin B5, and E. It has a gentle formula, oil-free and fragrance-free, that won’t clog your pores, suitable for all skin types.
How to check if a moisturizer is alcohol-free?
As I’ve already mentioned, the law marks products as “alcohol-free” if they don’t contain ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol), aka drying or denatured alcohol. Products with fatty alcohols are totally fine and are considered alcohol-free.
So the first method to confirm if your moisturizer is alcohol-free is to check the product’s label. If you see ethyl alcohol, ethanol, denatured alcohol, alcohol denat, or SD alcohol, it means the product is not alcohol-free. On the other side, if cetearyl, lauryl, oleyl, or stearyl alcohols, which are fatty alcohols, appear on the label, the product is alcohol-free. The second method is to search the product on INCIDecoder, which under the Highlights section, will tell you whether or not the product is alcohol-free.