Isopropyl alcohol on skin

If you’ve spent one too many nights deep-diving the depths of Reddit, you’re certainly in good company. Especially if your go-to forum just happens to be the SkincareAddiction feed. As a beauty editor at Allure, it’s literally my job to have my finger on the pulse of what’s trending in beauty on Reddit, which, sometimes, can also be a little scary. Case in point: Late last night, after clicking through dozens of product recommendations and skin type Q&As, I discovered a Reddit skin-care hack so frightening I audibly gasped (twice).

On Monday, Reddit user schmisschmina shared a screengrab of a Facebook conversation that recommended using alcohol — as in rubbing alcohol — as a face cleanser. (Um, excuse me?) In full, the “hack” reads: “Wash your face with alcohol, morning, noon, 5pm, and bedtime. Alcohol kills bacteria. Change your pillow slip and sheet every day. Dirty pillow slips and bed sheets re infect your skin with bacteria. That like wearing the same clothes over and over for a week or 2. I had the same skin problem in high school…doctor told me this and it works. This is common sense stuff alcohol kills bacteria. Take alcohol wipes to school wipe your face between each class it will clear up in 2 weeks.” It’d be one thing if just a few weirdos — hand raised — were consuming this ill-advised tip. But, surprisingly, it was super popular, trending in the Rising tab late into the night.

Now, before we jump in and start debunking this “tip” there is an aspect that actually stands up. “I’d only recommend using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), SD alcohol, or denatured alcohol as a disinfectant for a surface wound or to clean skin of bacteria,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. But when those same forms of alcohol are applied to the face, in this case, like a toner, they strip and destroy the skin’s surface, a.k.a. the “essential barrier that keeps your complexion healthy and protects against bacteria and other environmental assaults,” says Engelman. “Because the skin barrier is now depleted, it can no longer hold in moisture, which ultimately leads to dehydration.”

If you’ve got an oily or acneic skin type, it may be tempting to reach for something to dry it out quickly and without any fuss. That no-nonsense approach, as Engelman points out, will only backfire. “Alcohol can actually increase oiliness, as overly dry skin can trigger oil production,” she explains. “In some cases, it can also trigger contact dermatitis, which is the result of continued exposure to an irritant. Additionally, damage from alcohol can lead to an increase in bumps and enlarged pores.” Yikes.

More DIY skin-care hacks to keep in your cabinet:

  1. This Is Exactly How to Make Jessica Alba’s Vanilla Sugar Body Scrub
  2. Whip Up This Soothing DIY Chest Rub From The Ayesha Curry Cookbook
  3. Could This DIY Contouring Mask Change Your Beauty Routine?

Suffice it to say, steer clear of rubbing alcohol — on all accounts — unless, of course, you have an open wound. But if you’re looking for a quick fix to help stop sheen, Engelman recommends sudsing up with a non-drying cleanser or even an oil-based formula to help control oil production. (We like

Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil

A light oil-based cleanser


Courtesy of Imgur

Now that you’ve learned about the Reddit skin-care hack, find out how to make your own DIY scrub:

Fact vs. fiction: Benefits of rubbing alcohol are outweighed by dangers

THE CLAIM: Rubbing alcohol can help cool a fever.

THE FACTS: Alcohol may sting when poured on cuts and scrapes, but its cooling effects on intact skin have led many parents to employ it as a quick home remedy against fevers in small children.


According to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, the folk treatment seems especially common among parents in low-income and minority communities, where it is passed down through generations and in some cases recommended by doctors. As rubbing, or isopropyl, alcohol evaporates from skin, it soothes like a fresh breeze, potentially reducing body temperature. Many parents soothe their feverish children by rubbing it on the skin or adding a little to a sponge bath.

But using it this way can cause serious harm. Isopropyl alcohol is quickly absorbed through the skin, and large amounts applied topically can be inhaled, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and other problems. A number of case reports in the medical literature describe small children who slipped into comas after a caregiver tried to reduce their fevers with alcohol. Other reports have described cases in which adults suffered cardiac and neurological problems after using alcohol-soaked towels to cool down or ease pain.


For better results, try plain and simple acetaminophen, at least after the child’s first birthday, and a lukewarm bath – minus the rubbing alcohol.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Applying rubbing alcohol to the skin, a popular remedy for reducing fever, can have serious side effects.

Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Tips for Washing

Topic Overview

If you have contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, immediately wash areas of the skin that may have touched the plant. Sometimes the resulting rash (contact dermatitis) can be completely avoided by washing the affected areas with plenty of water and soap (such as dishwashing soap) or rubbing alcohol. Rinse often, so that the soap or rubbing alcohol doesn’t dry on the skin and make the rash worse. Use creek or stream water if you are outdoors.

  • Do not scrub hard when you wash, so you don’t irritate the skin. Also, be careful to clean under the fingernails, where the oil can collect and spread easily.
  • Special products, such as Tecnu and Zanfel, are available to remove urushiol from your skin. A hand cleaner, such as Goop, also may help.
  • If your pet was in a area where poison ivy, oak, or sumac grows, you may want to wash your pet with water and a mild soap to make sure the oil doesn’t spread. For example, you could get the oil on your hands by petting a dog that has urushiol oil on its fur.

Urushiol can remain active on clothing and other items for many months, especially in dry climates. If these items are not cleaned properly, handling them can spread the urushiol to the skin and possibly cause a rash.

  • Wash all clothing, shoes, and other items that had contact with the plant or with a person who touched the plant.
  • Clean surfaces such as camping gear, gardening tools, and sporting equipment.
  • Wear vinyl or cotton gloves when handling or washing items that have touched poison ivy. Thin rubber (latex) gloves offer no protection, because urushiol can penetrate rubber.

1. Soothe Your Skin
To promote healing (and relaxation), add a few drops of rose, lavender, bergamot or tea tree oil to your warm bath. Mix them in a carrier oil, such as vegetable oil first.

2. Numb the Pain
Calendula lotion or ointment applied to blisters several times a day eases pain. Or apply a paste made of two crushed aspirin tablets and two tablespoons rubbing alcohol three times a day to soothe throbbing nerve endings.

3. Visit the Pharmacist for Help
Ask your pharmacist to prepare a mixture with 75 per cent calamine, 20 per cent rubbing alcohol, and one per cent each phenol and menthol. (Inert ingredients account for the remaining 2 per cent.) You may want to call ahead so the pharmacy can ensure to have these ingredients in stock. Apply to blisters continuously until you’re healed. Other itching remedies include vitamin E oil or aloe vera gel.

4. Apply Cold Packs
Apply ice packs for 10 minutes at a time to affected areas. Keep them off for at least five minutes between applications.

5. Try a Compress
Compresses containing aluminium acetate solution, available over the counter in pharmacies, can help relieve the itching.

6. Avoid Irritating Blisters
To keep your clothes from rubbing against your blisters, dust yourself with colloidal oatmeal powder.

7. Try a Natural Method
Applying a cream containing capsaicin (the heat in hot peppers) three or four times a day has reduced pain for many sufferers after a couple of weeks of use.

8. Get Some Rest
Bed rest is recommended during the early stages of shingles, especially if you have a fever. Because open blisters can spread chicken pox to anyone who hasn’t had it before, change bed linens frequently.

26 Uses for Rubbing Alcohol, Plus What You Shouldn’t Use It For

Alcohol has multiple uses in your home, from polishing to disinfecting. Grab a bottle and check the following household to-dos off your list.

  • Cleaning blinds. Wrap an alcohol-soaked washcloth around a spatula, place a rubber band around the cloth, and clean between the slats of blinds. This can be a quick and easy to way get these hard-to-clean blinds clean.
  • Cleaning dry erase boards. You’ll need at least a 90 percent rubbing alcohol solution to truly remove dry erase marks. You can put the solution into a spray bottle or apply some on a washcloth or paper towel to clean the board.
  • Cleaning makeup brushes. You can harness alcohol’s disinfectant properties to clean your makeup brushes. Pour some rubbing alcohol into a small cup and dip your makeup brush into the cup, swirling it around for a few seconds. Rinse the brush with lukewarm water and lay flat on a towel to dry.
  • Cleaning sinks and chrome. Rubbing alcohol can make these surfaces clean and shiny again. Pour the alcohol onto a soft cloth and clean. You don’t have to follow up with water to rinse because the alcohol will evaporate.
  • Deodorizing shoes. If your shoes are starting to smell a little strong, spraying on rubbing alcohol can help. Setting them out in the sun to fully dry can further aid the alcohol in killing bacteria.
  • Disinfecting computer mouse and keyboard. Using a 90 percent or greater rubbing alcohol can make for a quickly evaporating cleaner for your electronics. Use an alcohol-soaked cotton swab or damp alcohol-soaked microfiber cloth to clean your computer’s keyboard and mouse.
  • Disinfecting mobile phone. From skin oils to makeup, there are lots of things that can dirty up your phone. Use an alcohol pad or wipe to clean and disinfect.
  • Dissolving windshield frost. You can mix up a quick defrosting solution by combining one part water and two parts 70 percent rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Spraying this on the windshield will make the frost easier to remove.
  • Getting rid of fruit flies. Spraying fruit flies with rubbing alcohol will kill them almost on contact. However, don’t aim toward any fruit as rubbing alcohol can cause fruit to spoil.
  • Creating homemade disinfectant. You can clean most surfaces by spraying or wiping rubbing alcohol on them. However, don’t apply alcohol to permeable materials like quartz and granite. Plastic laminate and sealed marble are fine.
  • Cleaning jewelry. If your rings, bracelets, and other jewelry have lost their luster, soaking them in rubbing alcohol can help. Wipe them off with a clean cloth afterward to achieve a super shine.
  • Preventing ring around the collar. Wiping your neck with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton pad or ball can help you keep your shirts cleaner longer.
  • Refreshing sponges. Soaking kitchen sponges in rubbing alcohol can help to disinfect them so they’re ready for use. This money-saving trick can give your sponges new life.
  • Removing hairspray from mirrors and tile. Sticky hairspray can cloud up your mirrors and tiles. Soak or spray alcohol on a soft cloth and use to achieve a crystal-clear surface.
  • Removing ink and permanent marker stains. You can give pesky stains the boot by soaking a stained area in rubbing alcohol for several minutes. Follow this up by washing the garment.
  • Removing stickers. If your little one went a little overboard with the stickers, try saturating the sticker with rubbing alcohol. Wait 10 minutes, and you should be able to more easily wipe the sticker away.
  • Cleaning stainless steel. Alcohol can make an excellent stainless steel cleaner by removing water spots and disinfecting the surface. Use a damp alcohol-soaked microfiber towel to clean any stainless steel in your home.

Burns: Treatment and Prevention

What should I do if my child is burned?

First, get your child away from the source of the burn and remove any clothing or jewelry from the burned area. Don’t take off any clothing that has stuck to burned skin, however, or you could cause further injury. Next, quickly cool the burned area, since skin continues to burn because of the stored heat. The best method for cooling a burn depends on the seriousness of the burn. Here are some tips.

For mild or moderate burns:

First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin — the burned area is usually red and slightly swollen but has no blisters. Second-degree burns injure underlying layers of the skin and usually cause blistering, swelling, and more severe pain.

For first- or second-degree burns, loosely cover the injured area with a clean towel or sheet that’s been soaked in cool water and wrung out, or place the burned skin under cool running water. Also, give your child sips of water to drink. Call your child’s physician immediately if the injury is from an electrical burn or if the burn involves a large area of your child’s body or his face, hands, or genitals.

For more serious burns:

Third-degree burns tend to turn the skin either hard and white or black and charred and are deep enough to damage nerve endings. For that reason, a third-degree burn often doesn’t hurt. Fourth-degree burns are the most serious of all because they damage tissues and organs beneath the skin.

If your child’s burns cover an area larger than three inches or appear to be third- or fourth-degree burns, call 911 immediately. Don’t apply water. Cover with a clean dry cloth. If your child has stopped breathing, start administering CPR.

Four important cautions to take when treating any burn:

1. Don’t breathe or cough on the burned skin. This increases the risk of infection.

2. Don’t apply ointments, lotions, butter, baking soda, or ice to the burned area. Ointments, lotions, and butter may hold the heat in and prevent healing. Ice can further injure the skin.

3. Don’t break blisters. They are part of the body’s healing process.

4. Don’t use adhesive bandages or cotton balls, which can stick to the skin and cause more damage.

How should I treat a chemical burn?

Burns from lye, acids, or other harsh chemicals usually cause only first-degree burns. Just like a sunburn, a mild chemical burn causes reddening and peeling. Remove contaminated clothing, and rinse the exposed areas with cold water for 20 minutes. Keep in mind that some chemicals cause worse burns when mixed with water. If your child has been exposed to a metal compound, flush the area with oil. For carbolic acid, use rubbing alcohol. Don’t apply lotions or ointments, which may worsen the pain. If the burned area is large, cover it with a clean damp sheet. Call the doctor immediately after providing first aid.

What’s the best way to relieve the pain of a minor burn?

A nonprescription medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease the discomfort. The pain of a first-degree burn usually disappears in two to three days. Second-degree burns are typically less painful but more likely to blister. If a blister breaks, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment on the affected area and cover it with a bandage.

Further Resources

National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

Mayo Clinic. Burns: First Aid. January 5, 2008.

Drinking Rubbing Alcohol: Can You Do It Safely?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic disease that involves changes affecting the brain as a result of drinking a lot of alcohol. Someone who struggles with AUD experiences a negative emotional state, physical illness, depression, and intense cravings when they can’t drink. They may drink a lot to feel normal, although they also have to drink more alcohol over time to get effects that are similar to those experienced the first time they drank.

For many people struggling with AUD, tolerance leads them to switch from “soft” alcohol like beer and wine to hard liquor, so that they can become intoxicated faster. In some cases, a high tolerance may cause the person to switch to other types of alcohol, including rubbing alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol is a highly concentrated form of alcohol that is designed for external applications, and it was never intended for internal use. It is used to clean surfaces and skin because it is an effective disinfectant. The substance is roughly 70 percent absolute or isopropyl alcohol; this is a different type of alcohol than beer, wine, and hard liquor, which are ethanol derived from fermenting carbohydrates in fruit or grain. Even large amounts of ethanol are dangerous to drink, but isopropyl alcohol is not intended for drinking at all. The chemical can cause rapid intoxication, lead to poisoning quickly, and severely damage the stomach and intestines.

The Risks of Rubbing Alcohol

Pure ethanol is often used as an industrial solvent, cleaner, or sometimes as a fuel. Isopropyl alcohol is a slightly bigger molecule than ethanol, but it has similar industrial applications. The 70 percent mix found in rubbing alcohol is a powerful disinfectant as well. These types of alcohol may have similarities to beer, wine, and hard liquor in chemical structure, but they are not safe to consume at all.
Rubbing alcohol can be toxic when inhaled or swallowed. Tiny amounts can be toxic to children, and even a little can be toxic to adults, too. When ingested, the initial effects of isopropyl alcohol are similar to hard liquor, although the side effects will happen much faster. Indications that someone has swallowed isopropyl alcohol may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Stumbling and loss of motor control
  • Sedation, including passing out
  • Vomiting

When inhaled, rubbing alcohol may burn the back of the throat and lungs, which can cause inflammation, coughing, and headaches. It also increases the risk of lung infections. Too much rubbing alcohol on the skin can cause irritation and redness, like a rash, or it can even break the skin. Ingesting isopropyl alcohol can damage the stomach lining, intestines, liver, and kidneys.

Rubbing Alcohol Quickly Causes Alcohol Poisoning

There is no safe amount of rubbing alcohol, or other forms of absolute or isopropyl alcohol, that you can drink. These products are not intended for consumption.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the permissible airborne exposure limit as 400 parts per million over an eight-hour work shift. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports a similar exposure limit of 400 ppm over a 10-hour work shift, and 500 ppm, which should not be exceeded during any 15-minute period of work. Airborne exposure of 2,000 ppm is immediately dangerous to health.
If you drink rubbing alcohol, accidentally or to get drunk, you are more likely to experience alcohol poisoning than experience any high. Extremely small amounts of isopropyl alcohol can be managed by the kidneys, which can remove 20 to 50 percent of the alcohol from your body; the rest is broken down into acetate and eliminated through the lungs and kidneys. However, this type of alcohol will cause much more damage to the liver than beer, wine, and hard liquor.
When isopropyl alcohol poisoning occurs, the main symptom is liver damage, but many other organs will be damaged as well. Peak intoxication and signs of poisoning will begin within 30 to 60 minutes after consumption.
Symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Low blood pressure, or hypotension
  • Low body temperature, or hypothermia
  • Rapid heartbeat or tachycardia
  • Vomiting and nausea, including vomiting blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Other symptoms of gastroenteritis
  • Slowed breathing
  • Unresponsive reflexes
  • Throat pain or burning
  • Coma

If you notice someone with alcohol poisoning, or you think you may have alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Proper medical attention is the only way to stop severe alcohol poisoning. Someone with untreated alcohol poisoning from a toxin as strong as isopropyl alcohol may die of heart failure, kidney failure, or stopped breathing.
At its most dangerous, too much rubbing alcohol can cause:

  • Internal bleeding.
  • Brain damage.
  • Oxygen deprivation from breathing changes.
  • Kidney failure.

Swallowing or inhaling isopropyl alcohol at high levels not only causes acute problems, especially alcohol poisoning, but it also can lead to chronic health problems. Reproductive damage may occur, and the risk of cancer from consistent exposure over months or years increases. Damage from oxygen deprivation, liver damage, kidney damage, and gastrointestinal damage can last for a long time and require ongoing medical attention.

Treatment Starts With Hospitalization

It is not safe to recover from rubbing alcohol poisoning at home. Hospitalization involves several tests to determine the extent of the poisoning and any internal damage that has occurred. The individual’s vital signs will be monitored after lifesaving treatment is administered, and they may have to stay in the hospital for several hours or days. They may require dialysis or breathing support.

If a loved one drank isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol because they struggle with AUD, they will need professional help from evidence-based rehabilitation programs to address this disorder.

Isopropyl Alcohol Poisoning. (November 13, 2017). Healthline. from

Isopropanol Alcohol Poisoning. (October 8, 2017). Medline Plus. from

Isopropyl alcohol (topical)

Generic Name: isopropyl alcohol (topical) (EYE doe PROE pil AL koe hol TOP i kal)
Brand Name: Butterfly Alcohol Pad, BD Single Use Swab, …show all 8 brand names.BD Butterfly Alcohol Pad, Curity Alcohol Preps, Webcol Alcohol Preps, Rubbing Alcohol Wipes, SureComfort, 1% Iodine Tincture

Medically reviewed by on Aug 21, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

  • Overview
  • Side Effects
  • Professional
  • Pricing
  • More

What is isopropyl alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol kills or prevents the growth of bacteria on the skin.

Isopropyl alcohol topical (for use on skin) is used to help prevent bacterial skin infections from minor cuts or scrapes. Isopropyl alcohol is used in healthcare settings to prevent infection that may be caused by needle punctures.

Isopropyl alcohol is also used as a topical rub to help relieve minor muscle pain.

Isopropyl alcohol may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Before taking this medicine

Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using isopropyl alcohol on a deep puncture wound or a serious burn.

How should I use isopropyl alcohol?

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin. Do not use isopropyl alcohol on open wounds or on sunburned, windburned, dry, chapped, or irritated skin. If this product gets in your eyes, nose, mouth, rectum, or vagina, rinse with water.

Apply a small amount of this product to your skin using a clean cotton ball, cotton swab, or cotton gauze. Throw away the cotton applicator and use a new piece of cotton if you need to apply more isopropyl alcohol.

To use isopropyl alcohol for sore muscles, apply a generous amount to the skin and rub in until the alcohol dries.

Do not allow a child to use this product without supervision.

Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with isopropyl alcohol does not improve, or if it gets worse while using isopropyl alcohol.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

Isopropyl alcohol is flammable. Do not use near high heat or open flame. Do not smoke until the medicine has completely dried on your skin.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since isopropyl alcohol is used when needed, it does not have a regular dosing schedule.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed this product.

What should I avoid while using isopropyl alcohol?

Avoid getting this product in your eyes or mouth.

Isopropyl alcohol is not a substitute for other types of alcohol. Do not drink.

Isopropyl alcohol side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Isopropyl alcohol may cause burning, stinging, or a cold feeling where the medicine is applied.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect isopropyl alcohol?

It is not likely that other drugs you take orally or inject will have an effect on topically applied isopropyl alcohol. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.01.

Medical Disclaimer

More about isopropyl alcohol topical

  • Side Effects
  • Pricing & Coupons
  • En Español
  • Drug class: antiseptic and germicides
  • FDA Alerts (2)

Professional resources

  • Isopropyl Alcohol Swabs (FDA)

Related treatment guides

  • Topical Disinfection

The Dangers Of Drinking Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl)

If someone is experiencing negative symptoms after drinking rubbing alcohol, poison control or 9-1-1 will likely recommend seeking immediate medical attention. Hospitalization may be required, depending on how much was consumed and the severity of symptoms.

Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl) Abuse And Addiction

Drinking rubbing alcohol or other non-beverage alcohol products to get drunk is a sign of alcohol addiction and severe dependency.

Other common NBAs of abuse include:

  • mouthwash
  • hand sanitizer
  • rubbing alcohol
  • cologne
  • cleaning products containing alcohol

In many cases, these products are not the first choice for someone addicted to alcohol. Some people may resort to drinking rubbing alcohol if they don’t have access to an alcoholic beverage. Products like rubbing alcohol are also cheaper to buy than alcoholic beverages, and can result in intoxication in smaller amounts.

Most of the rubbing alcohol a person drinks will be absorbed in the body within 30 minutes of drinking. Side effects can occur within a couple hours of drinking, and may last up to 24 hours. More serious harm to internal organs, or other serious side effects such as coma, may last longer.

Get Help For Your Alcohol Addiction

Drinking rubbing alcohol is very dangerous. If you’re deliberately drinking rubbing alcohol to stave off withdrawal effects or to get drunk, help for alcohol abuse is available.

At Addiction Campuses, we offer several alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs to help people overcome their addiction and work towards a balanced and more satisfying future.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t wait. Contact us today.

Written by Addiction Campuses Editorial Team


Q. I use rubbing alcohol on my feet after taking a bath. Lately, I’ve started wondering whether this chemical gets into the body to any significant degree and what its possible toxic effects are, if any.

A. Small amounts of rubbing alcohol, also called isopropyl alcohol, don’t go through your skin to any significant degree. The main danger lies in accidentally drinking this chemical, which is twice as potent in toxicity as ethanol, the alcohol in alcoholic drinks.

In general, the skin is an effective barrier that protects the body from taking in toxic chemicals and other potentially harmful substances in the environment. In fact, drug companies have had to develop fairly elaborate technology to create skin patches that are able to release medicines into the body. However, some chemicals — such as organophosphate pesticides and camphorated oil — do penetrate the skin easily and can cause serious toxicity.

When used in large amounts, however, enough rubbing alcohol can seep through the skin to cause harm. Some people mistakenly use rubbing alcohol soaks to bring down high temperatures in children with fever. Besides the danger of skin absorption, this treatment exposes the child to inhalation of alcohol vapors, which get into the bloodstream.

Children who have large amounts of isopropyl alcohol in the blood can experience nausea, vomiting, lethargy and even coma. An average 1-year-old, for example, would develop serious toxic effects from drinking about half a cup of rubbing alcohol.

In summary, wiping or rubbing the skin with small amounts of isopropyl alcohol is safe. Prolonged soaking in large amounts increases the risk of absorption and toxic effects. Above all, don’t use rubbing alcohol soaks or sponge baths for children with fever.

For more information or any questions about the toxicity of household or commercial products, call the National Capital Poison Control Center at Georgetown University: 625-3333.

Follow-Up: Dehydration

Q. I am a 27-year-old competitive runner and was interested in your answer about preventing dehydration during exercise. Some of my friends seem to inappropriately limit their fluids and either take just a swallow or two of cold water or merely rinse their mouths with water, rather than drinking as much fluid as they comfortably can.

My coach recommends drinking Gatorade after workouts, and I drink more than a quart a day. It seems to speed recovery and help ward off cramps.

My question: Is there any danger of getting too much potassium this way? Are there any dangers in drinking this much Gatorade? Would taking salt tablets be a better way of replacing lost salt?

A. I agree with your coach — it’s a good idea to replace lost fluids, both before, during and after heavy exercise, especially in the summer heat. Your friends’ habit of just rinsing their mouth with cold water may seem macho, but it’s not smart.

Gatorade and other “sport drinks” replace water and minerals (mainly salt) that are lost through sweat.

Although plain cool water works well for most people, those who exercise heavily for long periods may benefit from the sugar and salt contained in these beverages.

Gatorade is mostly flavored water, with some sugar and salt (sodium chloride) added. The amount of potassium is small; it would be nearly impossible to get too much. For example, you’d have to drink about a gallon of Gatorade before getting as much potassium as a large banana contains.

Gatorade and other sport drinks supply modest amounts of salt, less than what you could obtain from many other beverages. The concentration of sodium in Gatorade is 20 milliequivalents per liter, compared with the 40 to 60 milliequivalents per liter in the sweat you lose during exercise.

You could make a drink with a similar amount of salt and sugar in it by adding a 1-gram salt tablet and 4 tablespoons of sugar to one quart of water.

Before taking salt tablets, however, people who have heart or kidney problems should check with their doctor. I think either plain water or one of the commercially made sport drinks is a safer way to replace the fluids that are lost during exercise.

Jay Siwek, a family physician from Georgetown University, practices at the Fort Lincoln Family Medicine Center and Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington.

Consultation is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician.

Send questions to Consultation, Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Questions cannot be answered individually.

Rubbing alcohol, along with other forms of drying alcohols (ethanol, SD alcohol, alcohol denat, propanol, propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol), can be very harsh for the skin.

While there are instances where drying forms of alcohol are used in skin care/beauty products, this is to aid the dry-down time of the actual product/formula itself to cut down on the product possibly leaving any sort of film or stickiness/tackiness on skin. In the long haul, drying alcohols can dehydrate skin, leading to skin becoming severely dried out or even overcompensating in the oil department to try and quickly replace what is lost. Either way, this can create a new onslaught of issues with having to find a richer moisturizer or suddenly trying to tackle more oil than what you started with. While effects may not immediately take place, issues can arise later in life when you may not expect it and it’s no fun to deal with unexpected bumps in the road in the future when you can stop them from happening in the present.

In terms of cleansing, please be sure you’re utilizing a cleanser that is best suited for your skin type and concerns. Massage the product onto skin for at least 45 seconds to a minute (even longer if you’re using the cleanser to break down makeup) before rinsing.

If needed, follow with a gentle face toner or facial mist with balancing and conditioning properties. If you’re looking for a purifying component for oil, try witch hazel. Witch hazel is a natural astringent that constricts cellular tissue to make pores appear more refined in their size and texture. The constriction also aids in controlling the pace of oil release to the surface of skin.

Algenist and Murad make two alcohol-free formulas that utilize witch hazel as well as a slew of conditioning and soothing properties to help balance skin.

If you find a toner that contains a drying form of alcohol, it may ultimately boil down to personal preference as to whether or not you wish to opt for it. Some folks will avoid items with any form of drying alcohol while others may consider them for use as long as the whole of its ingredient listing/formula is fortified with enough good ingredients to counteract what drying properties the harsh alcohol may have. Either way, be sure the rest of your skin care items are not too harsh for skin and work cohesively to support skin care goals and improvements.

If you deal with pimples on the regular, chances are, you’ve tried rubbing alcohol for acne. While some acne veterans swear by rubbing alcohol to get rid of pimples fast, many experts caution against its use. Below, learn how this at-home acne treatment works and whether it is the best choice for your skin.

What you should know about treating acne with rubbing alcohol Thumb and Image via Getty
How Rubbing Alcohol Works on Acne
Rubbing alcohol (also known as isopropyl alcohol) has a drying effect on skin. When you apply rubbing alcohol to acne, it may dry out blemishes more quickly. For those who are prone to oily skin, the drying properties of rubbing alcohol may seem to help reduce the oiliness. Rubbing alcohol also has antiseptic properties, which can help remove bacteria from the surface of your skin.
Bacteria contributes to acne, however, so reducing its levels could mean fewer breakouts or ones that clear up more quickly. Finally, rubbing alcohol has a reputation for shrinking pores. The truth is, though, nothing can make your pores smaller. Certain treatments may reduce the visible appearance of pores, but these effects are usually temporary and can sometimes exacerbate the underlying problem.
Why Alcohol Might Backfire as an Acne Treatment
Although rubbing alcohol may seem like a tempting solution, experts caution that you might want to think twice before treating your acne with rubbing alcohol. Over time, you may experience increased problems from rubbing alcohol. For one thing, rubbing alcohol can be too drying. It strips skin of essential moisture and leaves it dry, red and irritated. The burning feeling you might experience afterward is a sign of the damage being done to your skin.

Your skin requires a certain amount of sebum (that’s the oil you’re trying to get rid of) for protection and nourishment, and if you completely eliminate this secretion, your sebaceous glands respond by producing even more of it. That means more oil and more breakouts. The longer you use rubbing alcohol, the more vulnerable your skin becomes to the effects of sebum and bacteria. That’s because, according to the CDC, prolonged topical use of isopropyl alcohol actually “defats the skin.”
Final Verdict on Alcohol and Acne
Using rubbing alcohol for acne is an absolute no-go. Most dermatologists will tell you that this treatment is not good for your skin because it’s drying, irritating and likely to cause you more long-term problems, even if it helps in the short term. In fact, some experts even recommend avoiding all skin care products that contain alcohol — period . To weed out those products, look for SD alcohol, denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol on the ingredients list. All of those types of alcohol will further aggravate acne and weaken your skin in general.

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