The Effects of Rubbing Alcohol on the Skin

Isopropyl alcohol is made up of 68 to 99 percent isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) by volume. Sold at drug stores and large retailers, it can often be purchased for as little as a dollar. Safe for children and adults, isopropyl alcohol has a number of uses and effects on the skin.


When used after the skin has been washed, isopropyl alcohol may dry excess oils trapped in the dermis. It is said this drying effect may reduce acne; however, it is necessary to combat excess drying by using a moisturizer to replace the moisture (not oils) lost when isopropyl alcohol is applied to the skin regularly. Continued use is not recommended, as contact dermatitis (CD) can occur. Contact dermatitis is the result of continued exposure to an irritant and symptoms include itching, redness, blisters and hives, according to


When applied to small areas of the body, isopropyl alcohol is a great antiseptic. For example, it is frequently used to clean the skin of bacteria before a tattoo or piercing or to disinfect a surface wound. It should not, however, be used to clean a deep open wound or clean the opening around a piercing after the piercing has been made.

Pain Reliever

When applied to the skin with a cloth or diluted with water and used to soak the feet, isopropyl alcohol can reduce arthritis symptoms like joint pain, muscle pain, and dry skin. According to, isopropyl alcohol can also be used to rub down the body after a rigorous workout or strenuous activity.


Isopropyl alcohol is said to have a rubefacient effect on the skin, meaning it cools and soothes tired, weathered skin. According to, isopropyl alcohol can be applied to cool and soothe the skin of bedridden patients and athletes. Rub the area in isopropyl alcohol using a cloth dampened in the liquid or splash a handful of isopropyl alcohol on the skin for immediate relief. You can also sprinkle cayenne pepper on the cloth or mix in a bowl with isopropyl alcohol, according to, to release endorphins—natural pain killers in the body--for hard-to-treat arthritis pain.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning may result if a child with a fever is given an isopropyl alcohol rub down. The alcohol may enter the blood stream and cause the child to suffer alcohol poisoning. It is safe to use isopropyl alcohol on very small areas of the body; however, it should not be used when the person has a fever.