Hand Sanitizers: Is Your Skin Suffering?

“Wash your hands” is the current mantra of our country. As we fight against COVID-19, the use of hand sanitizer is exploding. Hand sanitizer, which was created in the 1990’s, has become the quick and convenient alternative to soap and water. While the effectiveness of hand sanitizer has been debated, it is currently being used at an extremely high rate. Since hand sanitizers must contain at least 60% alcohol to kill bacteria, it is no surprise that these products can wreak havoc on your skin.

Are you experiencing dry, cracked skin from repeated hand sanitizer use? Here’s some ways to combat these negative effects as well as reasons to consider old fashioned hand washing methods using soap and water.

How Does Our Skin Respond to Hand Sanitizer?

Now more than ever, the elimination of germs and bacteria is paramount, and this undoubtedly outweighs any aesthetic effects that hand sanitizer can have on the skin. The most common side effect of hand sanitizer is dry skin. This occurs due to the isopropyl, ethanol and n-propanol alcohols found in most hand sanitizers. These alcohols can drastically dry skin tissue and deplete our skin of oil as well as acid mantle, which triggers cell dehydration and increases the likelihood of developing contact dermatitis.

Dry skin (especially when it leads to irritation and scratching) can disrupt the skin’s natural defense system. Your skin may become more sensitive to environmental factors and products that may have been well-tolerated in the past. In addition, prolonged hand sanitizer use can lead to the development of wrinkles and fine lines. Dry skin simply shows the effects of aging faster than hydrated skin.

The Benefits of Soap and Water

Anti-bacterial soap and warm water is proven to work just as well as hand sanitizer, but without the oil-stripping effects that dry out your skin or compromise your skin health. While it may take more time to wash with soap and water, if this is a viable option for you, it may prove better for your skin health in the long run.

Ways to Combat Hand Sanitizer Dryness

If you work in a medical profession and are required to use hand sanitizer throughout the day, there are ways you can protect your skin. It is important to hydrate and moisturize your hands as much as possible. If your hands are already irritated (red, swollen, itchy), try to use a fragrance-free lotion or hypoallergenic cream. For more tips on keeping your hands clean and your skin healthy, call Olansky Dermatology. We are proudly providing Tele-Health Services for non-urgent skin care visits during this time.