If you want to disinfect your hands, the first thing you probably reach for is a hand sanitizer bottle. Many of us have been accustomed to this practice and most of us think this is a more effective way to get rid of germs compared to washing with soap and water.
These hand sanitizers are so popular these days that they are used in clinics and hospitals and are even a must-have for people who are traveling.
But are these products really a necessity?
Research has discovered that every hour, we touch our face for an average of 23 times. Out of these touches, we come in contact with our nose, mouth, and eyes through our hands. Our hands can easily be contaminated with germs, bacteria, and viruses, which we can spread them on our faces, causing various infections, such as the common cold, diarrhea, and influenza. These problems can be prevented using soap and water when we wash our hands. However, we are advised to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, either as an alternative to soap and water or to supplement the traditional method of washing.
There are some studies that contradict the necessity for alcohol-based hand sanitizers. According to one study, these products don’t reduce instances of coughing, fever, and other symptoms of the common cold. While there are some organizations and researchers who claim that regular use of hand sanitizers containing alcohol can decrease illness rates and even swine flu, other studies disagree. They point the limited influence of hand transmission for such infections.
Other Reasons to Avoid Hand Sanitizers
Hand sanitizers are not the ultimate solution and if possible, they should be avoided for cleaning our hands for the following reasons:
1. They can cause dry skin.
Because they contain alcohol, such as n-propanol, ethanol, and isopropyl, they can cause irritation on our skin. Such products can strip away the natural oils as well as the acid mantle of our skin, causing dehydration of cells. Regular use of alcohol can increase the risk of developing contact dermatitis.
The drying effects can easily cause fast appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
3. They can cause skin damage.
Scientific studies have proven that products with alcohol can damage our skin cells.
If you must use hand sanitizers, stay away from those with triclosan, which is an antibacterial that can disrupt the function of our hormones. New York City’s Department of Health advises the use of hand sanitizers when the hands are not visibly soiled. While adults can use hand sanitizers, these products are not for children under two years old. Use soap and water when washing their hands instead.