Rubbing Alcohol May Help Get Rid Of Acne

How Rubbing Alcohol Treat Acne Feature Image

Rubbing alcohol is a common form of soothing the skin and cleaning off bacteria. By virtue of its cleansing properties, it is considered to be effective in clearing acne. It is mostly used as a base agent in combination with other healing ingredients such as tea tree oil and aspirin. 

This alcohol is often used for skin cleansing. Its antiseptic properties, are after all, used to cleanse wounds. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that it can also help in clearing acne. However, it may cause skin irritation and painful skin peeling, so rubbing alcohol should not be used for extended periods in the effort of treating acne.

What is Rubbing Alcohol?

Chemistry refers to rubbing alcohol as isopropyl alcohol. A combination of water and propane is used to produce it. In the United States, sulfuric acid is added to the reaction vessel to accelerate the process. Because it dissolves DNA, it is used in labs to extract DNA from tissues for genetic analysis. Rubbing this alcohol on your skin removes fat deposits present on the surface of your skin. Some of the most popular brands include:

  • Isocol antiseptic: This is an effective cleanser known to kill germs on the skin and prevent the development of acne spots. It can also dry out oily skin.
  • Isopropyl wintergreen rubbing alcohol

alcohol on hands

Using it as an Astringent

Before you buy rubbing alcohol, it is essential that you first understand the logic behind it. An astringent is a skin care product used to remove excess sebum from the skin. Isopropyl is cheap and readily available at any drugstore. Most rubbing alcohol products contain at least 70 percent of isopropyl while only 30 percent is oil and water.

These products are known to fight harmful microbes including bacteria. The effects make them ideal for disinfecting surfaces.  Isopropyl can only kill acne bacterium when the concentration is 45 percent. Any percentage less than this can only irritate the skin leaving it to repair itself by making more sebum. Once alcohol comes into contact with your skin, it destroys all types of bacteria. The question is; does it work?

Well, the antimicrobial and antibacterial attributes of rubbing alcohol could be used to treat acne, especially the inflammatory acne [1] which is triggered by P. acnes bacterium.  You could create a homemade astringent by mixing it with clove or tea tree oil. These micro-organisms result in pustules, nodules, papules, and cyst. For blackheads and whiteheads, alcohol may not have similar effects because these are non-inflammatory.

It may feel great to use isopropyl on your skin. But it is worth noting that too much of it strips the skin not tone it. Exposing your skin to the frequent application of isopropyl strips it of sebum and robs it of moisture. Because it is not scientifically proven to be an acne remedy, you might want to stick to facial wash to clean and tone your skin.

How to Use Rubbing Alcohol

Before applying the alcohol to your face, be sure to select an isopropyl that does not contain more than 70 percent of ethanol. Most OTC products contain between 70 and 90 percent alcohol depending on the manufacturer, a content that can damage your skin. Because alcohol has a drying effect, you could dilute it with a carrier oil such as tea tree.

Here is a simple procedure you can follow:

  • Clean your face with a soft cloth and pat it dry
  • Use a cotton swab to rub the alcohol around the rashes and scars
  • Once the alcohol dries out on your face, put on sunscreen or a moisturizer
  • Start with using it only once a day to give your skin enough time to get used to it. After about a week, you could repeat the process at least thrice daily

Isopropyl may be safe for your skin, but can cause dryness, redness, itchiness, flaking, pain, and peeling. Rubbing the alcohol on sensitive skin could make your acne worse. Once your skin dries out, it responds by triggering the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. A dried-out skin can also produce more dead skin cells which may then clog the pores leading to blackheads and whitehead.

2 cotton swabs

Alternatives to Isopropyl

There are more soothing products such as microdermabrasion for scars that could be employed to get rid of acne, most of which contain acne fighting ingredients like salicylic acid. Some of them are expensive and don’t have great effects like those offered by witch hazel. Witch hazel is an excellent alternative to isopropyl alcohol. It prevents dehydration and reduces irritation of inflamed skin.

Can Hydrogen Peroxide Cure Acne

Hydrogen peroxide is used as a bleaching agent and contains antibacterial properties. The theory behind it is that it kills germs found on the surface of the skin and can dry excess oil. Because it is an oxidizing agent, it can kill living cells such as bacteria. 

The problem is; hydrogen peroxide can also damage fibroblasts cells responsible for healing wounds. Once they are damaged, scars are likely to develop.  Before using hydrogen peroxide to cure acne, check with a dermatologist. If you choose to use it without a prescription, be sure to dilute it first. Skin irritation is the most common side effect of it.

Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol can be used in the treatment of acne. However, the problem of using strong ingredients is that there is little scientific proof backing them.

Rubbing alcohol is a potential acne fighting solution. However, so far there is no clear evidence regarding its effectiveness and safety. Before this has been clinically proven to be effective, it might be safe to start with tried and tested ones such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid [2], which is especially preferred for its capacity to also eliminate blackheads and whiteheads.

Microdermabrasion is gaining popularity in the market these days too – for its gentle and effective treatment that can be done both clinically and at the ease of your own home. Does microdermabrasion help with blackheads? Not only is that a definite yes with the right product (if you’re doing it at home), it is also known to reduce the appearance of acne and other skin condition such as fine lines, wrinkles, stretch marks, and hyperpigmentation.

If you continue to experience a breakout episode despite the use of OTC cream or home remedies, see a dermatologist. They should evaluate your skin and give you proper medication for your condition. Should you experience any side effects upon using rubbing alcohol, see your dermatologist to prevent further damage to your skin.

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