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What is Resorcinol?

Daniel Liden
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Resorcinol is a chemical compound that serves as an antiseptic,an disinfectant, and a chemical intermediate for the production of many other pharmaceuticals. It goes by several other names, including resorcin, m-dihydroxybenzene, 3-hydroxyphenol, and several more. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry recommended the name Benzene-1,3-diol as the standard name for the substance, but it is more commonly referred to as resorcinol. It is obtained by fusing resins, or hydrocarbon secretions of plants, with potassium hydroxide.

Medically, resorcinol is used as an antiseptic and as a disinfectant. It is often used in ointments for the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. Small concentrations are also used in over-the-counter acne medications, and prescription acne medications often have significantly higher concentrations. Sometimes, it is used as an anti-dandruff agent in various cosmetic products.

In addition to its medical uses, resorcinol also has a variety of chemical uses for industrial and scientific applications. It is used as an intermediate in the production of many pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds. It is also used as a template molecule in supramolecular chemistry, holding target molecules in proper alignments for reactions. Such supramolecular reactions can often be conducted in the solid state, removing the need for chemical solvents that are often harmful to the environment. Sometimes, resorcinol is used in analytic chemistry as well.

Resorcinol is classified as a hazardous chemical. It is combustible, and must be kept away from flames in industrial and lab settings. Inhalation can cause abdominal pain, blue skin, confusion, nausea, and unconsciousness. It can also cause redness and pain when exposed to skin. It is recommended that those working with the chemical wear breathing protection and skin protection.

The hazardous nature of resorcinol extends to the environment; it is considered dangerous to the environment. It is primarily dangerous to aquatic organisms, as it dissolves easily, and may infiltrate their systems with relative ease.

While it has many uses, resorcinol is most commonly used in skin creams for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and other skin disorders. It is also used to treat warts, calluses, and corns. It helps to remove rough, hard, or scaly skin so that natural healing may occur more easily. Typically, it comes in the form of a cream or ointment that is available over-the-counter, though some stronger forms are available by prescription. While it can be absorbed through the skin, in the quantities present in such ointments it is generally not harmful.

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Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden , Former Writer
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to his work. With a diverse academic background, he crafts compelling content on complex subjects, showcasing his ability to effectively communicate intricate ideas. He is skilled at understanding and connecting with target audiences, making him a valuable contributor.

Discussion Comments

By anon947602 — On Apr 26, 2014

David, it's not "basically a cleanser", it's a medication. If all acne needed was a good cleanser, treatment would be easy. Science requires more than "putting some stuff" together, unfortunately, so it's a trade off. Small amounts of medication for a legitimate issue or not. Besides, I don't know anyone who buys acne meds to dump out into rivers, etc., anyway. How exactly is the environment going to suffer because I put a smear on my face?

By David09 — On Sep 13, 2011

@everetra - My concern is what to do with a product that is environmentally hazardous?

I always wince when I read something about a product being great for your health (in this case skin) but hazardous to the environment. I wonder if it would be possible to put some stuff into the creams that would more or less neutralize their bad environmental impacts.

Surely something that is good for your skin should be good for the environment too, considering that it’s basically a cleanser.

By hamje32 — On Sep 12, 2011

@everetra - That’s great. Actually while the preparation work is important, I think you need to be careful not to use skin cleansers that are too rough or abrasive. Otherwise, the resorcinol will react by causing redness or irritation, since it does go to work hard on the skin.

By everetra — On Sep 11, 2011

I recommend this ingredient for people who have extreme breakout of acne. I know a girl who had a breakout of acne all over her face. It was really embarrassing.

She finally bought an over the counter resorcinol acne medication and it cleared up her face in weeks. Basically resorcinol opens up your skin pores, clearing out all the oil and restoring your skin to its natural, healthful state.

Sometimes you have to do some preparation work before using the product, like using facial cleansers and stuff.

In some cases you need prescription strength resorcinol based acne treatments; this is when bacterial infections have invaded the pores. That was not the case with her, so she was able to get by with simply using the over the counter medication and it worked wonders for her.

Daniel Liden

Daniel Liden

Former Writer

Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to...
Learn more
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