They guaranteed germ-free hands in seconds, but bad news followed soon after: hand sanitizers are harmful and unhealthy. When used frequently, they accelerate the appearance of aging.
How Hand Sanitizers Work
Fact: hand sanitizers were invented by medical field workers. In hospitals, it’s vital to maintain high hygiene standards to avoid spreading bacteria and viruses among patients. Hand sanitizers provided a quick fix as doctors rushed about during duty.
In the mid-1900s, researchers discovered that they could form alcohol into a gel to provide quick cleaning, especially when there’s no access to soap and water.
Why Hand Sanitizers Are So Intense
Water and soap kill and remove germs from the skin, but hand sanitizers work by sitting on the skin and killing bacteria on contact. However, according to the CDC, they need at least 60 percent alcohol content to work. The alcohol evaporates upon application, leading to the killing of germs. If you wipe off the sanitizer before it completely vanishes, you’re reducing its effectiveness.
Hand Sanitizers With Alcohol Only Work While They Are Wet, Offer Absolutely No Protection After They Dry
Six Big Problems With Hand Sanitizers
When used occasionally, sanitizers don’t cause harm. When regularly used, though, the story is different.
- THEY’RE NOT BETTER THAN SOAP. According to the FDA, there is no evidence that sanitizers are more effective than regular soap and warm water in fighting germs. For example, a study done in 2000 found that hand sanitizers don’t significantly reduce the number of bacteria on hands. More importantly, hand sanitizers strip the skin of sebum (which prevents bacteria from penetrating the surface), sanitizers can weaken the skin’s defenses.
- DRY SKIN. Isopropyl, ethanol, and n-propanol are alcohols used in hand sanitizers. They irritate the skin since they dehydrate cells, strip away the skin’s natural oils and protective acid mantle, and increase the risk of contact dermatitis.
- FASTER AGING. The drier your skin is, the more fine lines and wrinkles are visible. Dry skin also suffers more cracks, calluses, and flakiness. Alcohols disrupt the natural barrier function, in the long run, reducing the skin’s ability to protect itself and leading to heightened dehydration.
- ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. Many hand sanitizers these days contain triclosan. This antibacterial agent has been found in animal studies to disrupt hormone function. It also contributes to the rise of “superbugs”—viruses and bacteria that resist antibiotics. In 2013 the CDC announced that the increase of superbugs had caused at least 23,000 deaths that year and was a severe threat to human health.
- UNKNOWN CHEMICALS. Most hand sanitizers have chemical fragrances. Many fragrances are irritating and have links to causing allergies and hormone disruption. Since manufacturers are not required to list their fragrance ingredients, you don’t know what you’re putting on your skin.
- DAMAGE TO YOUR SKIN. Scientific studies have proven that certain alcohols can lead to damaged skin cells.