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SpecialistMichael
SpecialistMichael, MS, CSCS
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 508
Experience:  Senior Information Specialist
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EVERYBODY -- WHY DOES ALCOHOL MAKE ME GREASY!

Customer Question

EVERYBODY -- WHY DOES ALCOHOL MAKE ME GREASY!
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  SpecialistMichael replied 4 years ago.
Do you mean something like rubbing alcohol on your skin? For example in skin "toners" and some face washes?
Expert:  SpecialistMichael replied 4 years ago.
In the case of rubbing alcohol or facial cleansers that typically contain alcohol it is typically a system of overcompensation for dryness by the skin. By this I mean the skin produces slightly more of its "moisture" to compensate for the perceived dryness caused by washing with products that contain too much alcohol or using rubbing alcohol.

The skin works by providing its own protection and lubrication which also acts as a slight water repellent, the same reason hair gets a "greasy" feeling if it is not washed. These tiny glands in the skin called sebaceous glands create this lubrication which has a slight oily feeling to assist the skin in remaining supple and soft, this is called sebum. When you use something like a facial cleanser repeatedly or if you have sensitive or reactive skin to products like these, they intentionally are made to wash away and dirt or oily substances, unfortunately taking that essential moisture with them.
The skin then reacts by basically overproducing this sebum to counteract the dryness left behind.

An example of a similar situation happens a lot in winter. Men for example wash their face in the hot shower, shave and then put on aftershave, which sometimes contain alcohol. They may spend their days in cold, dry weather or in cool, non humid office buildings - this type of situation unintentionally can lead to oily skin.

These situations do not occur in everyone, while the body has the same reaction to moisture loss in most people, some skin does not "overreact" and produce lots of moisture leaving you feeling greasy.

In the case of consumable alcohol this is a tough case partially because in certain populations diets are considerably different when drinking socially or after drinking socially. Sometimes alcohol can have a dehydrating effect, but other times can act as a general trigger for things like acne. Consumed alcohol also also more blood flow to the skin, which in the area of the face is rich with those sebaceous glands. With more blood flow comes greater secretion of those oils, as well as some mix of light perspiration that can lead to clogging pores.

Diet plays a major role in the complexion of some individuals. Consumption of oily greasy foods(in combination with anything listed above) sets up a potential situation for oily skin as well

Quite the complex situation with many factors but those are the major players to the greasy feeling on your skin with both common alcohols.

Thank you again for the opportunity to assist you.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
nice answer is the excreted lubricant a polar substance-non-polar substance emulsiion?
Expert:  SpecialistMichael replied 4 years ago.
Thank you very much and thank you for the accept. If you need my assistance in the future you can always request me or post something directly to me. Its a pleasure helping you.

To answer your question sebum is technically an oil, non polar, thus basically categorizing it as a lipid. The reason face washes and all these other toner solutions bring about a dry face when used is because of what's in them.
Like dissolves like - in many cases, but not this one. Most soaps, shampoos and face washes designed to clean oils off a person contain surfactants and light detergents. The idea behind these surfactants and detergents is they can be put in a polar solution(something containing water and/or some alcohol) but still have a strong attraction to oily matter. This is basically what allows them to emulsify the [non polar] oily secretion on a person's face but also to easily rinsed away with water [polar]. Same idea with floor degreaser and engine degreaser that all use water to rinse - but obviously on a larger, stronger scale.
The alcohol in these face washes will actually (negatively in some cases) assists with any literal aqueous(water) moisture within the skin basically solubilizes it and allows it to be rinsed them away. This is what helps provide that dry tight feeling many experience after a face wash or toning treatment.
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