Sometimes I see 'alcohol free' written in big letters on toiletry bottles, such as on deodorants and shaving foams.

You would think that the toiletries bearing these words contain 100% no alcohol, but looking at the ingredients suggests otherwise - I still see alcohols in these products.

So does 'alcohol free' only refer to one type of alcohol not being present in the toiletry, such as a type of alcohol which causes irritation etc?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Might answer the question: fda.gov/Cosmetics/Labeling/Claims/ucm2005201.htm $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    May 29, 2018 at 21:45
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Consumer product labeling is not chemistry. Don’t get me started on ‘organic’... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    May 29, 2018 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Tyberius If you turn that into an answer, you'll get my upvote :3 $\endgroup$ May 30, 2018 at 4:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster Yeah, chemists and non-chemists perceive 'organic' products slightly differently... $\endgroup$
    – user60221
    May 30, 2018 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


Summarizing from the FDA website (some of this info could vary by country, but I think the general ideas should hold anywhere) commercial use of the term "alcohol" doesn't coincide with its use in chemistry. Cosmetic products use "alcohol" to mean ethanol, so you may find other alcohol compounds in a product that is ostensibly "$100\%$ alcohol free".


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