We studied the effect that three alcohols, ethanol (EA), propanol (PA), and isopropanol (IPA), have on the skin permeation of p-hydroxy benzoic acid methyl ester (HBM), a model ester-type prodrug. HBM was applied to Yucatan micropig skin in a saturated phosphate buffered solution with or without 10% alcohol, and HBM and related materials in receptor fluid and skin were determined with HPLC. In the absence of alcohol, p-hydroxy benzoic acid (HBA), a metabolite of HBM, permeated the skin the most. The three alcohols enhanced the penetration of HBM at almost the same extent. The addition of 10% EA or PA to the HBM solution led to trans-esterification into the ethyl ester or propyl ester of HBA, and these esters permeated skin as well as HBA and HBM did. In contrast, the addition of 10% IPA promoted very little trans-esterification. Both hydrolysis and trans-esterification in the skin S9 fraction were inhibited by BNPP, an inhibitor of carboxylesterase (CES). Western blot and native PAGE showed the abundant expression of CES in micropig skin. Both hydrolysis and trans-esterification was simultaneously catalyzed by CES during skin permeation. Our data indicate that the alcohol used in dermal drug preparations should be selected not only for its ability to enhance the solubility and permeation of the drug, but also for the effect on metabolism of the drug in the skin.