Hand Sanitizer and Your Skin
Hand sanitizers were created in the 1990s by medical professionals looking for a quick way to sanitize their hands between patients, especially when soap and water were not available. In order to kill bacteria, the sanitizers needed to contain at least 60% alcohol. The sanitizers worked well as an antibacterial topical, but the drying effects from alcohol are harsh on hands with repeated, frequent use.
Since that time, hand sanitizers have become an accepted alternative to soap and water outside the medical profession – millions of people use them daily. Here are some things you may not know about using alcohol-based hand sanitizers:
Hand Sanitizers Can Cause Dry Skin
Isopropyl, ethanol, and n-propanol alcohol are used in many hand sanitizers. These alcohols severely dry skin tissue as they rob skin of oil, deplete the acid mantle, cause cell dehydration, and add to the chances of developing contact dermatitis.
Hand Sanitizers Can Cause Skin to Age Rapidly
After prolonged use the drying effects can upset the skin’s natural defenses, allowing the skin to become more dehydrated. Hands can develop wrinkles and flakiness more rapidly, giving the skin an appearance of advanced age.
Their Use Might Increase Germs’ Resistance to Antibiotics
Triclosan, an antibacterial used in many hand sanitizers, has been shown to upset hormone function when tested on animals. Studies have also implicated it in the development of “superbugs” that are antibiotic resistant.
They Might Weaken Your Immune System
Recent research shows that an environment that is too clean and bug-free can rob young children of the opportunity to build up their immune system’s defenses.
They May Not Work Better Than Soap and Water
Soap and warm water may work just as well as sanitizers in killing bacteria according to a recent FDA report. The oil-stripping that results from the skin’s contact with sanitizers reduces the skin’s natural defenses and may increase the chances for bacteria to remain on the hands.
What to Do?
If you use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, or you are required to use hand sanitizers in your profession, it is important to hydrate and moisturize your hands throughout the day to avoid some of the hazards listed above. If you are having any issues using hand sanitizers, or have other concerns, please contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our caring Derick Dermatology professionals. We have offices to serve you in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, McHenry, and Park Ridge and coming soon, Oak Brook.