“Alcohol Free”- what does it mean

We know how I feel about spray tanners and solution companies labeling and calling their solutions “organic”. ( A reminder: there is no such thing and they just want to use fancy words to charge you more.DHA can be Ecocert APPROVED, like the DHA in The Gemma Line, but that’s as close as we get.)

What we also see are solutions labeled “alcohol free”.

But if our solutions had no alcohol in them, they would never dry and you would have a 60 minute appointment where your client spent 45 in front of a fan,never felt dry, and never came back to get a spray tan again.

First, let’s look at the benign “good” alcohols:

  • behenyl alcohol
  • caprylic alcohol
  • cetearyl alcohol
  • cetyl alcohol
  • decyl alcohol
  • lauryl alcohol
  • myristyl alcohol
  • isostearyl alcohol
  • oleyl alcohol
  • stearyl alcohol

These are emulsifiers and less drying and lock in moisture on the skin versus remove it because they are derived from fatty acids in plants.

Grab your solution bottle. Do you see any of these ingredients?

ethanol or ethyl alcohol

denatured alcohol


isopropyl alcohol

SD alcohol

benzyl alcohol  (that’s fragrance)

These are considered the “bad” alcohols that are drying in large amounts. If you see them on your bottle, you want them to be towards the end of the list.

From Paula’s Choice Skincare: When alcohol ingredients are at the top of an ingredient list, they are problematic for all skin types; when they are near the bottom of an ingredient list, they aren’t present in a high enough concentration to be considered a problem for skin.

The point being, they are all alcohol and yet your solution is labeled as alcohol free.

The point also being, “problematic” is with regular use for most of us, not daily use like in other cosmetic and skin care lines.

So your daily lotion is more important to monitor than a  biweekly or even weekly spray tan.

So why are they labeled “alcohol free”?

From the FDA:

Some consumers select “alcohol free” products because they believe ethyl alcohol dries out their skin or hair.

For many years cosmetic manufacturers have marketed certain cosmetic products that do not contain ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol, or grain alcohol) as “alcohol free.” However, “alcohols” are a large and diverse family of chemicals, with different names and a variety of effects on the skin. This can lead to some confusion among consumers when they check the ingredient listings on cosmetic labels to determine alcohol content.

In cosmetic labeling, the term “alcohol,” used by itself, refers to ethyl alcohol. Cosmetic products, including those labeled “alcohol free,” may contain other alcohols, such as cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl, or lanolin alcohol. These are known as fatty alcohols, and their effects on the skin are quite different from those of ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol, which some consumers may think of as drying the skin, is rarely used in cosmetics.

As a whole, it’s cheaper to use ethanol, which makes cost to consumer lower. But this is also where you appreciate the higher priced brands who don’t use ethanol as their alcohol.
You have to find a middle. And you have to push maintenance and prep at all times, no matter the solution.

what brands do you love that use ethanol and what brands do you love that don’t?

One thought on ““Alcohol Free”- what does it mean

  1. Pingback: Buzzy Buzzwords…do you know what you’re advertising to clients? | Welcome!

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