The effect of isopropyl alcohol on skin

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The effect of isopropyl alcohol on skin
Alcohol helps to disinfect injuries. (hand with blood image by Ivonne Wierink from

Rubbing alcohol, also referred to as isopropyl alcohol, aids in the sterilisation of medical equipment, the cooling of the skin and the reduced risk of infection due to epidermal-related injuries. Its effects on skin contact can range from soothing to painful.

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General Effect on Skin

Isopropyl alcohol has a low evaporation rate, so its contact with the skin feels very cool and can soothe aching muscles. When used to treat scrapes, however, it can temporarily sting as it interacts with heat sensors beneath the surface, causing them to be more sensitive in the same way that you feel after touching a burning stove.

As an Antiseptic

Antiseptics like isopropyl alcohol rapidly kill microorganisms that live on the skin. However, they may irritate surrounding mucous membranes like the lips, drying them out and possibly increasing microbial development. Because of its quick evaporation rate and lack of a persistently active ingredient, rubbing alcohol is generally not considered "great" for skin cleansing.


Skin contact of four hours or more has been reported to intoxicate the central nervous system. This can result from bathing children in alcohol to reduce fever, but rarely is of worry or practice in today's society.

Repeated Exposure

Some individuals and facial products use isopropyl alcohol as a way of removing grease and drying out oily skin. Repeated uses, however, may result in cracking and eczema--a disease, or irritation, of the skin characterised with dryness and rash.

How to Avoid Unhealthy Exposure

Minimise the amount of alcohol you use daily or apply lower concentrations of 80 per cent or less. If your skin begins drying from overuse, then take a break for a while, using soap and water to remove excess chemical.

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