What is Isopropyl Myristate?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2018
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Isopropyl myristate is a synthetic oil widely used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries as a lubricant, emollient, and as a non-toxic alternative for controlling head lice. The oil is manufactured by condensing myristic acid with isopropyl alcohol and is colorless and mild in odor. It is readily absorbed by the skin and lessens the greasy nature of cosmetics while lending them a sheer, slick feel. In addition, it is commonly used as an additive in oral hygiene products, such as mouthwash. Although generally considered to be safe, isopropyl myristate may cause mild allergic reactions and could aggravate skin conditions, such as acne.

This multi-purpose oil is an ester of isopropyl alcohol and myristic acid. The isopropyl component is a propane derivative; mirystic acid is a fatty acid common in plant sources such as nutmeg and palm seeds. The oil possesses several unique characteristics which make it a valuable additive in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Certainly one of the most significant of these is it's ease of absorption by the skin. Used as an emollient in creams and lotions, isopropyl myristate ensures deep, quick penetration.


This deep penetrating characteristic does have a downside, however; extensive use of products containing the oil may lead to pore clogging. It still remains a valuable absorption carrier, though, and is common component of moisturizers, bath oils, and lotions. Although itself an oil, it also reduces greasiness in cosmetics. When added to lip products and creams, it lends the cosmetics a slick, sheer texture without any greasy feel.

Isopropyl myristate is also a common ingredient in pharmaceutical formulations. It is often used as a non-pesticide alternative for treating head lice infestations by destroying the wax layer that insulates the lice and causes death by dehydration. It is also effective at controlling oral bacteria and is used in several mouthwash products.

Notwithstanding isopropyl myristate's status as a non-carcinogenic and non-toxic substance, cases of allergic reactions do occur occasionally. Those suffering from acne should avoid using products containing the oil as it has been shown to aggravate the condition in some cases. The potential pore clogging side effect of extended exposure to it should also be kept in mind by those with naturally oily skin. Children under the age of four should not be given products that contain the oil, and those with generally sensitive skins should also avoid it.


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Post 5

Be careful of how much you put in your hair, like Resultz Isopropyl Myristate Rinse for lice. I'm not sure how long, but it's left my hair incredibly greasy looking; it looks like my hair hasn't been washed for a month. I suppose eventually it'll all wash out.

Post 4

My best friend is allergic to this and it's a nuisance because so many beauty products contain it. She cannot randomly pick up any moisturizer or cosmetic like I do. She always has to check the ingredients list to see if they have used isopropyl myristate.

Another issue is that different companies use different scientific names for this ingredient. So she literally carries a list with her of all the potential names that her doctor gave her.

I'm looking at her list right now and some of them are: myristic acid and isopropyl ester; promyr; isomyst; isopropyl tetradecanoate; methylethyl tetradecanoate.

The list is much longer than that, but it's all I can list right now. Just wanted to put it out there for people who might have an allergy to it but who might not be recognizing the name in the ingredients list.

Post 3

Isopropyl myristate is probably the safest full-proof method of getting rid of lice. That's what my pharmacists has told me.

Apparently other lice treatments have insecticides in them which can be dangerous for us. I think insecticides have bad effects on the nerves. It makes me uneasy just thinking about using that on a child's scalp.

Isopropyl myristate, on the other hand, doesn't have any insecticides or other chemicals that are dangerous. It doesn't poison lice. Like the article explained, it simply dissolves the wax covering of lice which causes them to die. And it does this for all insects, not just lice.

I think that lice treatments with insecticides should be pulled off the counters and we should just use products with isopropyl myristate instead.

Post 2

First off, apologies for only reacting to your comments now. Secondly, many thanks for the input. Our readers gain additional insight and value from our resources when they elicit open and informed discussion. Your input is most welcome and sincerely appreciated.

Post 1

First, let me say i am not a doctor or in the field of medicine. I have been informed however, that Isopropyl alcohol is extremely hazardous to your health? If ingested through the skin as rubbing alcohol it is the only thing that can hatch larvae in the gut that would normally stay dormant.

This, in turn, starts to affect your stomach and digestive system and a host of other problems! So it's been suggested that ethyl alcohol is the safest alternative as a rubbing alcohol. Healthy living!

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