Why Choosing Cleansers and Lotions That are Paraben, Fragrance, and Alcohol Free Could Be Right For Your Skin

Selecting the correct skincare products is an important step in maintaining healthy-looking, radiant skin. A key consideration is whether to choose paraben- and fragrance-free products, such as fragrance-free body lotions or cleansers, as well as using products that don’t contain drying alcohol. While each of these ingredients offers specific benefits, it's important to be aware of their potential downsides.1,2 Let’s explore what these are.

Understanding parabens, fragrances, and alcohol in skincare

Parabens, fragrances, and alcohol are commonly found in many skincare products. Understanding the role of these ingredients in skincare helps you to make informed choices about the products you use. Here’s what you need to know:

Parabens in skincare

Parabens have long been a common ingredient in skincare products. These chemicals help extend a product's shelf life and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and molds.1-3 However, in recent years, many consumers have chosen to avoid products containing parabens due to speculations that parabens might lead to skin irritation and accelerate skin aging.1

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not found conclusive evidence to support these claims, and parabens are considered safe for use in cosmetics at low concentrations.2

At Cetaphil, a dermatologist-recommended brand, the majority of products are formulated without parabens, including paraben-free body lotions. This choice reflects a commitment to customers’ expectations for gentle and effective skincare solutions. While some products may still incorporate parabens when necessary for product stability and safety, Cetaphil takes great care to exclude them when alternatives can achieve the same results.

Fragrances in focus

IFragrances can add a pleasant touch to skincare products. However, they can also be a double-edged sword as some fragrances could trigger unwanted reactions for some skin types, including redness, itchiness, or inflammation.3,4

Cetaphil understands the importance of catering to diverse skincare needs. That's why Cetaphil offers you a range of fragrance-free products, including fragrance-free body lotions, designed to address the concerns of those with skin which is sensitive to some fragrances.

It's important to note that while fragrance-free products can be an excellent choice for individuals that don’t like scents, all Cetaphil products are formulated with skin sensitivity in mind. Cetaphil’s gentle and effective formulations allow everyone to enjoy the benefits of Cetaphil products, whether they prefer fragrance-free options or not. For more insights on managing sensitive skin, you can explore our page on 5 Signs of Skin Sensitivity here.

The alcohol argument

Alcohols include a broad group of chemicals, each with its distinct name and effects on the skin. When it comes to alcohols in skincare, it's important to differentiate between drying alcohols that can be harsh on the skin and those with larger molecules that offer various skin benefits.

Drying alcohols

Certain alcohols, such as ethanol, denatured alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol,5 are commonly used in skincare products for their quick-drying properties. While they may serve this purpose, they have the potential to disrupt the skin barrier and cause redness, irritation, and inflammation, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin or when used excessively.6 That’s why they are often referred to as "drying" alcohols.

how to properly exfoliate your skin

Large alcohol molecules

Long chain alcohols, such as panthenol (a form of vitamin B5) and fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, are larger molecules and offer several benefits for the skin.3,7 Fatty alcohols are effective at sealing in moisture and helping repair the skin barrier.3 For example, cetyl alcohol traps water on the skin by forming a layer, which can be beneficial for dry skin.8 Panthenol is renowned for its moisturizing properties and also helps lock in hydration, while supporting skin barrier.9 To learn more about the advantages of panthenol, you can explore our article on Panthenol for Skin.

Additionally, it's worth noting that phenoxyethanol, a larger alcohol molecule, is often used as a preservative in skincare products as an alternative to parabens. It's considered safe and effective in maintaining product quality and safety.3,7

Identifying paraben, fragrance, and drying alcohol-free body lotions and cleansers

When it comes to selecting paraben-, fragrance-, and drying alcohol-free body lotions and cleansers, reading and understanding ingredient lists is a valuable skill. Here are some practical tips for deciphering Cetaphil product labels:


When you see "alcohol-free" on a skincare product, it generally means that it does not contain the drying alcohol known as ethyl alcohol.5 However, it's essential to check the ingredient list to confirm the absence of other potentially drying alcohols. Cetaphil offers many “alcohol-free” body lotions.


To identify paraben-free Cetaphil products, look for ingredient lists that do not include words like "methylparaben" or "propylparaben."2 Cetaphil is committed to offering a range of paraben-free body lotions for those who prefer to avoid these preservatives.


Cetaphil products that don’t contain scent, such as fragrance-free body lotions, will explicitly state "fragrance-free" on the label. Additionally, you can inspect the ingredient list for the absence of terms like "fragrance" or "parfum."

For a deeper dive into sensitive skincare and its ingredients, explore our pages on Science Based Sensitive Skincare and Ingredients.

Tips for choosing paraben, fragrance, and drying alcohol-free cleansers and lotions

Understanding the ingredients in your products requires a bit of research and knowledge, but it's well worth the effort. It empowers you to select the best options for your skin's specific needs. Here are some tips to further guide you:

Know your skin type

Understanding your skin type is the foundational step in selecting the correct skincare products. Whether you have oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin, your skin type dictates its unique needs and sensitivities. To determine your skin type, consider using tools like the Cetaphil AI Skin Analysis. This innovative tool provides personalized insights into your skin's characteristics and recommends suitable products tailored to your specific needs.

Choosing a cleanser

Selecting the right cleanser is crucial for maintaining clean and healthy skin. Here's what to look for when choosing a cleanser, tailored to different skin types:

Dry to normal, sensitive skin

If you have dry or sensitive skin, opt for a gentle cleanser that won't disrupt your skin's natural character and thus your skin barrier.10 Cetaphil offers a range of fragrance-free cleansers including Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser and Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Wash Fragrance Free.

Combination to oily, normal skin

For combination to oily, normal skin types, a cleanser that effectively removes excess oil and debris without over-drying is ideal.9 Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser -Fragrance Free is formulated for combination to oily, sensitive skin, ensuring a fresh and balanced complexion.

Breakout-prone skin

If you're dealing with breakout-prone skin, consider a cleanser that targets surface oil10 such as Cetaphil's fragrance-free cleanser - Cetaphil Gentle Clear complexion - Clearing BPO Acne Cleanser, which is designed to address the needs of breakout-prone skin.

All of these Cetaphil products are not only formulated without fragrance, but they are also free of parabens or drying-out alcohols, ensuring that your skin remains clean and comfortable without unnecessary irritation. Choosing a cleanser tailored to your specific skin type sets the stage for a successful skincare routine, helping you achieve a fresh and radiant complexion.

Selecting moisturizers: creams and lotions

When it comes to choosing moisturizers, both creams and lotions can provide essential hydration for your skin. Choosing the right moisturizer ensures that your skin remains supple, healthy-looking, and comfortable. If you’re looking for the best paraben free body lotion, take a look at Cetaphil’s range of body lotions - many of which don’t contain parabens. For combination, sensitive skin, Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion offers lightweight hydration for your face and body without clogging pores and for very dry to dry, sensitive skin types, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream provides rich and long-lasting hydration.


Additionally, if you're dealing with rough and bumpy, sensitive skin, and you’re looking for a fragrance- and alcohol-free body lotion to address these concerns, try Cetaphil Daily Smoothing Moisturizer for Rough and Bumpy Skin. It’s also mineral oil free and won’t clog your pores.


For a deeper dive into what's inside Cetaphil’s paraben-, alcohol- and fragrance-free body lotions, and to explore more options for your specific skin needs, read our article What’s in Cetaphil lotions for the body?

The bottom line

Understanding the role of parabens, fragrances, and drying alcohols in skincare helps you make informed choices. By following our tips for choosing Cetaphil paraben-free, fragrance-free, and alcohol-free options that cater to your skin’s needs, you can establish a skincare routine that promotes a fresh and radiant complexion.


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