Does Rubbing Alcohol Cause Acne


If you are suffering from constant acne breakouts, chances are that you have tried a number of remedies to treat your troublesome skin condition. One treatment that most people will likely use for treating acne breakouts is rubbing alcohol.

Rubbing alcohol has a wide variety of uses which mainly include:​

  • Cleansing your skin- Rubbing alcohol is usually used when cleaning the areas surrounding wounds to avoid infections from reaching the inside of the wound.


  • Cleaning household mirrors- When using mirrors, especially in bathrooms, there are a number of things that could wind up on the surface of mirrors which may include hair spray, water, shampoo, soap, and many more. One quick solution to get rid of these things is by applying rubbing alcohol on the affected surface.

  • Removing frost from car windows- When experiencing wintertime, snow getting in the way of your car windows is quite the problem. A mixture of 1 liter of water and ½ cup of rubbing alcohol can help dissolve the frost.
  • Cleaning your phone’s screen- An oily or dirty mobile phone or tablet screen can be quite irritating and troublesome for most people to use. Rubbing alcohol can be applied to a smooth surfaced cloth that is to be rubbed on the dirty part of the screen. Doing this will clear up the dirt from the screen.

  • Getting rid of ink stains- Ink stains that get on your clothes could easily be removed if soaked in rubbing alcohol before putting the said clothes in the laundry.

  • Erasing permanent markers- It isn’t uncommon for people to mistakenly use permanent markers instead of a whiteboard or any erasable markers. Although hard to erase with an actual board eraser, ink from permanent markers can be easily erased by using any cloth and rubbing alcohol on the surface.

  • Cleaning bathroom fixtures- Pouring rubbing alcohol onto an absorbent cloth can be considered when you are looking for an easy way to clean some parts of your bathroom. The alcohol will kill germs from the surfaces as long as the dirt present isn’t too severe.


As you can see, rubbing alcohol has a number of ways to be used, but its main purpose is to basically be a cleaning agent. Before mentioning how rubbing alcohol actually affects acne, it is only right for acne to be discussed to have a better perspective about the relationship of rubbing alcohol with acne.


What is Acne?

Acne vulgaris, or more commonly referred to as acne, is a long-term skin condition or disease. This type of skin disease usually occurs when dead skin cells and oil from the skin get clogged into hair follicles, the small secretory glands present inside the pores located across the skin.


This skin disease primarily affects the parts of your body that normally has a high number of oil glands. These areas include the chest, back, and face.

Acne has various kinds, ranging from harmless bumps, to acne that can cause deep skin damage and scarring.

Non-Inflammatory Acne- These are the acne that are more commonly found in the facial area and are known to be not that severe and are easier to fade away when compared to inflammatory acne. The best example of non-inflammatory acne is a comedo, which is a clogged hair follicle.

Blackheads- the more commonly used term for an open comedo. Its black appearance comes from melanin (surface pigment) rather than the popular myth that claims that the dark color comes from dirt.

Whiteheads- also known as closed comedones. Whiteheads have an opposite color when compared to blackheads. Their bumps tend to be firmer and are white in color.

Inflammatory Acne- Inflammatory acne is generally more severe than non-inflammatory acne and causes deeper and harsher damage to the affected parts of your skin. Scarring is one of the most likely effects that inflammatory acne may have.

Papules- papules usually appear during severe inflammation when the walls around your pores become broken down. This causes the pores to become hard and clogged. Papules usually appear as pink bumps on your skin.

Pustules- similar to papules, pustules form when the walls surrounding your pores become broken down. However, unlike papules, these pores are typically filled with pus.


Pus is a thick yellowish liquid which is produced in an infected tissue, which consists of bacteria, tissue debris, sebum, and with dead white blood cells. The bumps are usually red in color and emerge from the skin.

Nodules- nodules normally appear when clogged, swollen pores become continuously irritated and enlarge. Nodules affect deeper parts underneath the skin, unlike pustules and papules.

Cysts- cysts usually develop when bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum clog pores. The affected pores are deeper than that of nodules, which makes cystic acne more severe.


These bumps usually appear with red and white color which is very sensitive and painful when touched. Cysts are the largest and deepest form of acne, and a severe infection often follows their formation. Having cystic acne usually results in the formation of scars.

Although there are various kinds of acne, all of them are generally caused by the same reason–clogged hair follicles. The clogging of these hair follicles however, doesn’t happen on their own. The different ways that a hair follicle could get blocked include:

Hormones- Acne is actually an extremely common skin condition. It is mostly seen among people aged between 11-30 years old. The primary reason why acne breakouts start an early age is because acne formation is greatly influenced by the rise of hormone related activities that occur during puberty.


Testosterone in particular, is responsible for the production and excretion of sebum which is the oily substance produced by sebaceous glands. Sebum is the oil that if combined with dead skin cells, would have a tendency of clogging hair follicles, hence causing acne to form. Some examples of people likely to get acne because of hormones include people undergoing puberty and pregnant females.

  • Friction- Clothes, bags, fingernails or any other rough surface making contact with your skin through friction could also cause acne. Causing skin damage or even irritation on your skin could increase the chances of acne breakouts.

  • Dehydration- One notable symptom or effect of dehydration is the dryness of the skin. The sudden dryness will cause the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum in order for the dry skin to become lubricated. The dry skin could also lead to an increased number of dead skin cells.

  • Dandruff- The flakes that are known as dandruff also comes from dry skin. These flakes are likely going to fall on different parts of your body and could clog pores and cause acne breakouts.

  • Pollution- Along with sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells, dirt could also contribute to the formation of acne by clogging hair follicles and skin pores.

How does rubbing alcohol affect acne?

Rubbing alcohol is most commonly used for getting rid of bacteria in a wound to avoid infections. Wounds like cuts, scrapes, and many other wounds are usually treated with alcohol to prevent illnesses from infections.


Most people even believe that it can get rid of skin acne because of the anti-bacterial properties present in rubbing alcohol.

Rubbing alcohol is also often used to get rid of excess oil and close pores. It is usually the base ingredient for various products that are used for treating acne. The direct application of alcohol however, could have a different effect on your skin and its pores.


Although its antibacterial properties could kill bacteria that can cause acne, too much use could also lead to the “good” bacteria to be eliminated. Good bacteria or more commonly known as microbes, help with the protection of your skin against infection.

How Rubbing Alcohol Causes Acne

The various substances or debris from the environment could harm your skin, that’s why the skin has a natural barrier of oils and fats to seal in moisture and keep the skin lubricated and hydrated.


The barrier that keeps your skin hydrated is known as lipids, its main function is to keep your skin preserved. Without lipids, your skin will most likely become dry, cracked, infected and more prone to acne.

Even though rubbing alcohol is considered to be a good option to remove bacteria, it isn’t necessarily needed to get clear skin. It removes all the health bacteria and oils that your skin would need to stay hydrated.


Excess use of rubbing alcohol on the skin will eventually lead to dry skin, and as mentioned earlier, dry skin leads the sebaceous glands to excrete more sebum, hence causing acne breakouts.

Consistent use of rubbing alcohol could also cause a skin condition called follicular hyperkeratosis. Follicular hyperkeratosis is a skin condition that causes the sebaceous glands to have an increased production of sebum. This causes more sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to clog your hair follicles, resulting in an acne breakout.

There are a lot of other skin treatments that can be used for acne that are less harmful than rubbing alcohol. The use of rubbing alcohol should only be seldom, in order for your skin to stay youthful, hydrated, and acne-free.


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