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Your questions about hand sanitiser answered

1st May 2020

Does hand sanitiser make your hands dry?

Hand sanitisers often have moisturisers in them. They are less harsh on your skin than using soap and water to wash your hands. However, washing your hands with soap and water does a better job of removing debris and killing the coronavirus. In short, if the skin on your hands is becoming damaged, the culprit is most likely washing them with soap and water. The remedy is to use moisturisng cream. Soap and water is considered more effective at treating the Coronavirus than hand sanitiser. However, soap and water is also considered harsher on your hands than alcohol-based hand sanitiser, says Dr. Justin Ko, chief of medical dermatology at Standford Health Care.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which kill the microbes on skin without removing any debris, irritate hands less than soap, according to Dr. Ko.

Washing your hands often can help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Washing your hands often can also strip natural oils in your skin, causing them to dry out and potentially become chapped or have skin cracking. What can you do about skin that becomes dry and cracked from washing often with soap and water? Use a moisturiser immediately after you wash your hands. The best way to handle the washing of your hands is to scrub them with soap and water for 20 seconds, and then pat them dry (but leave a little moisture). Afterwards, put lotion on your hands that will seal in the moisture, keeping your skin healthy and hydrated. Hand sanitiser kills bacteria and viruses without removing debris from your hands. Because of this, the natural oils in your skin remain. Though hand sanitiser is gentler on your skin, it doesn't do as good of a job of cleaning as soap and water. The CDC recommends to only use hand sanitisers when soap and water is not available. For the best care of hands which may be experiencing damage from dry and cracked skin, opt first for washing your hands with soap and water, patting them dry and applying skin moisturiser. If this is not convenient, consider using a hand sanitiser that also contains moisturiser, or apply an additional moisturiser after applying the hand sanitiser.

Is using too much hand sanitiser harmful?

Not all bacteria is harmful. There are "good" bacteria that are necessary to help keep us healthy. Part of building our immune system involves us coming in contact with various bacteria and viruses that are not harmful, but nonetheless trigger our immune system to become healthier. Hand sanitiser does such a good job of killing bacteria and viruses that it may deprive our immune system from access to good bacteria and viruses.

Using them too much may have dire consequences to our hand microbiome, the “good” bacteria that keep our skin, and our bodies, healthy. “There’s no question that use of hand sanitizer—not just overuse, probably any use—will ‘disrupt’ the hand microbiome,” says David Coil, PhD, a microbiologist at the UC Davis Genome Center. “The stuff really does kill a lot of microbes.”

A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands instead of using hand sanitiser, if possible. If you have no access to soap, limit your use of hand sanitiser to when you change to a new environment, or touch objects you think may be contaminated (such as a doorknob). By cutting down on sanitiser, you allow beneficial viruses and bacteria to help build your immune system.

Can hand sanitiser make you break out?

Yes, hand sanitiser can make you break out (especially if not using it on your hands). For starters, it can change the PH of your skin. If you were not having acne, then suddenly started getting acne after using hand sanitiser (especially on parts of skin that aren't your hands), the PH of your skin could change and be more conducive to acne formation.

Hand sanitiser made of alcohol has the potential of killing skin cells. The same is true of most substances that make your skin feel "tingly". If dead skin cells (caused by alcohol) are not properly scrubbed off, they can clog pores. Where you started believing that the alcohol kills bacteria, so putting it on your acne would kill the bacteria inside -- in reality it is likely killing skin cells and then allowing those dead skin cells to clog your pores, causing more acne.

While acne on your hands is rarely of concern, it is not a good idea to use hand sanitiser on other parts of your body (including your face). Alcohol-based skin cleansers can cause dryness, irritation and breakouts.

Can you use hand sanitiser on disposable gloves?

The most common types of disposable gloves are latex and nitrile. There are three types of alcohol-based hand sanitisers (ethyl alcohol, ethanol and isopropyl alcohol). The main concern is that using hand sanitiser on disposable gloves would cause them to degrade. All three types of alchohol are safe to use on both types of disposable gloves mentioned above.. In conclusion, it is safe to use common alcohol-based hand sanitisers on commonly used types of disposable gloves, without fear that the material will degrade.

You can, of course, use soap and water to help disinfect disposable gloves, washing your hands while wearing them. You can use disposable gloves while using surface disinfectants to clean counters, sinks, tables and other surfaces which need disinfecting.