Skin Sleuth: Why Is Menthol Used in Skin Care?


You know that cooling sensation you get when you apply shaving cream on your skin? The kind that makes the surface of your skin tingle just a little bit, but also feels soothing enough for the area you’re shaving? If this sounds familiar, chances are, the cream you’re using is formulated with menthol. This peppermint-derived ingredient is  found in some skin-care product formulations. Ahead, we tapped board-certified dermatologist and consultant Charisse Doltsky, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group to explain what it is, how it works, and who should use — and avoid! — it. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Menthol?

According to Dr. Doltsky, menthol is also known as ‘mentha pepperita,’ a chemical derivative of the peppermint plant. “When applied topically, menthol provides a cooling sensation. . This is why applying products formulated with menthol can feel so good — you immediately feel a cold, sometimes tingly rush.

Where Can You Find Menthol?

In addition to shaving cream, menthol can be found in a variety of other skin-care products. “Menthol is also responsible for the cool, refreshing sensation in toothpastes, mouthwashes, hair care, after-shower gels and, of course, shaving products.”

Who Should Avoid Menthol?

Although menthol is known to provide a “cool sensation,” its — it’s not for everyone. “ If menthol-containing products cause any type of discomfort, consult with your physician  ,” says Dr. Doltsky.

Always Test First

According to Dr. Doltsky,  test a new product on a small patch of skin before applying it onto a larger surface, and that includes products containing menthol. “Allergic sensitization to menthol is rare but does exist,” says Dr. Doltsky. “Products that contain menthol, along with essential oils such as peppermint oil, eucalyptus and camphor, may have a higher incidence of contact allergy.” If you do not notice a reaction, embrace your menthol-formulated product to keep skin cool and happy.

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