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.