Why Does Rubbing Alcohol Burn?

Why Does Rubbing Alcohol Burn?

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Rubbing alcohol is an interesting substance and one that many people don’t know much about.

For example, did you know that rubbing alcohol burns? What causes this burning sensation?

Rubbing alcohol burns because oxygen in the air reacts with the ethanol in the rubbing alcohol to create heat. This reaction creates water vapor and warmth which will burn your skin if you don’t remove it quickly.

I love science and I always enjoy learning about new things. So, I thought I would do some research and find the answer for myself!

What Causes Rubbing Alcohol To Burn?

Rubbing alcohol consists of ethanol and water.

Ethanol can be oxidized by heat to create an energy release. The oxygen molecules in the air react with the ethanol molecule to produce a small amount of heat as well as carbon dioxide and water vapor.

This reaction creates enough heat for it to cause a burning sensation in contact with the skin.

Rubbing alcohol triggers a burning sensation because it activates pain receptors in the body.

The receptor in the body that triggers a burning sensation is called the Vanilloid receptor-1 (VR1).

Usually, VR1 is only activated when you are actually getting burned and it requires high temperatures for activation.

However, the ethanol in rubbing alcohol changes all that by lowering the temperature threshold so now your skin feels like it’s burning but without actual heat or fire nearby.

Ethanol activates the vanilloid receptor-1 and lowers its temperature threshold to below body temperature thus causing the burning sensation.


I hope you enjoyed this article on what makes rubbing alcohol burn. If you have any other questions, just let me know in the comments below!

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