Due to their vital importance to fight the virus Covid-19, hand sanitizers are one of the products whose demand has sky-rocketed in 2020 with 600 times ramped up production. Before the pandemic, we could hardly see hand sanitizers in restaurants, hospitals, and even homes. But stop for a moment and ask yourself if there are some unpleasant side effects of using hand sanitizer for the long run?
A fundamental component of hand sanitizer is alcohol and a percentage of 60% is required to be effective in getting rid of pathogens on hands. What could happen if the percentage of alcohol reaches 70% and/or above.
Remember: alcohol is a drying agent and its effect on the epidermal layer of skin is dehydration. In most cases, dry skin is not a serious problem, but it can lead to dermatological complications difficult to treat like managing an infection.
Moreover, another fact/factor comes into play: skin acts as a natural barrier in front of pathogens and hand sanitizers should only be used when necessary and if hand washing with a regular soap is not possible. Otherwise, it could also degenerate the good bacteria (microbiome) of your hand potentially leading to antibiotic resistance and making you more susceptible towards allergies.
Furthermore, WHO recommended guideline in developing a hand sanitizer including the use of hydrogen peroxide. We need to be mindful of the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in our sanitizers because of its oxidative and corrosive nature. When used in higher concentrations; hydrogen peroxide can cause lipid peroxidation thus leading to a chemical burn on your skin surface.
What could be a solution?
Since hand sanitation is one of the best ways to combat life-threatening pathogens, it is necessary to use a sanitizer product if hand washing is not accessible. We can keep in mind a few things to take care of our long-term microbiome and health:
1) Patients with skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis should moisturize their hands few minutes after the sanitizer has dried.
2) Take care to use a low concentrated ethanol (such as 60%) for our daily use to prevent dehydration.
3) Do not let children put hands in their mouth after using a hand sanitizer: they are toxic if ingested.
4) Look for a phthalate/paraben free product for daily use to avoid the endocrine side effects.
5) Avoid non-alcoholic sanitizers and ones that contain methanol, as methanol is a toxic alcohol, which ultimately makes formic acid in the liver when absorbed from skin, stomach or lungs.