Acetaldehyde, also known as ethanal, is sometimes used to create specific scents or notes in cosmetic and skincare products. It’s sometimes used as a preservative in skincare products to extend shelf life, but concentration is regulated because of potential skin irritation. It is also used as an active ingredient in products like exfoliators (e.x. chemical peels, callus removers, etc), but these products would generally require specific labeling and warnings.




Acetaldehyde can be found in small amounts in natural sources like fruits and vegetables or manufactured. It is potentially harmful in high concentrations.


Acetaldehyde is generally not well-tolerated on skin and is not a common ingredient in skincare products because of its potential for irritation.


Acetaldehyde does not have direct skincare benefits. Direct application to skin is generally discouraged.


Toxic Effects

Acetaldehyde is considered toxic and prolonged exposure can have adverse health effects including headaches, nausea and respiratory issues. Acetaldehyde has also been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This means there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it can cause various forms of cancer.

Irritates Skin

Acetaldehyde, when applied to skin, may cause redness, itching and discomfort. This is because of its potential to disrupt skin's barrier function.

Causes Skin Reactions

Some individuals may be more sensitive to acetaldehyde than others and even low concentrations of acetaldehyde can cause skin reactions in sensitive individuals.