Demystifying Hand Sanitizer

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2020’s hottest item: Hand Sanitizer.

It’s good to be clean (to an extent…more on this later) and important to have all the tools to protect yourself from germs—especially when you’re in a rush or during a collective health crisis. Hand sanitizer steps in as the key to cleanliness—it’s an effective disinfectant that works with your body, rather than against it. 

So how does hand sanitizer work, how should it be used and what should you look out for? Let’s dive in. 

What is hand sanitizer?

At its most simplistic, hand sanitizer is an alcohol-based liquid or gel that directly kills microbes. The base of any hand sanitizer is alcohol. Depending on the producer, this alcohol can come in the form of ethanol, propanol or isopropanol. Rather than these drying alcohols, EO uses non-GMO sugar cane derived alcohol instead. 

These are all highly soluble in water and destroy pathogens by splitting cells into pieces. Per CDC recommendations, all hand sanitizers should contain 60% alcohol to ensure that a broad variety of bacteria and viruses are killed. But more isn’t always better. Sanitizer with a concentration higher than 90-95% alcohol may not be effective because the solution will evaporate quickly. 

When should I use hand sanitizer?

Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is key, but for moments when you can’t get to a sink, hand sanitizer is your next best option. The CDC recommends using sanitizer after any activities that introduce outside foreign bacteria. Basically, after you do any regular activities, like petting a dog, treating a wound, or making a meal, use hand sanitizer to keep hands clean and healthy. 

How do I find the best hand sanitizer?

The sanitizing portion of a hand sanitizer is generally the same across the board. The only difference  is whether the active ingredient (alcohol) is natural or petroleum-derived. Ethanol and Ethyl Alcohol are natural, while Isopropyl Alcohol is petroleum derived.

Sanitizers can be drying so look for products with moisturizing ingredients like jojoba and glycerin to add hydration. Everyone Hand Sanitizer Sprays include moisturizing ingredients and essential oils.

Is it possible to use too much hand sanitizer?

Our body’s natural bacteria balance is complex. The  microbiome, a collection of our microorganisms, is abundant with good bacteria that help with digestion, fight off infections and support the immune system. Antibacterials, like hand sanitizers, can’t necessarily distinguish the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ bacterias. Using too much hand sanitizer and fabricated products that disrupt the microbiome can reduce immunity in the long term.

During events where bacteria and germs are widespread (like during the COVID outbreak and cold + flu season), it’s best to practice thorough hand washing as your first line of defense, with regular hand sanitizing as a backup.

That being said, having hand sanitizer in your back pocket is always a good idea. Our bodies are used to a certain amount of exposure, but our world is full of foreign bacterias that may not play nicely with our microbiome. Remember to prioritize the sanitizers that moisturize!