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.
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. Isopropyl myristate 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 the oil's ease of absorption by the skin. Used as an emollient in creams and lotions, isopropyl myristate ensures deep, quick penetration for these preparations.
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, isopropyl myristate 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. The oil destroys the wax layer which insulates the lice and causes death by dehydration. It is also effective at controlling oral bacteria and is used in several mouthwash products.