6 Dangers of hand sanitizers

Yes, they’re useful when there are no washing facilities available, for instance at shop entrances, when you’re out and about.

Yes, sanitisers with at least 60 percent ethanol  act similiar to soap in destabilizing lipid membranes, but they cannot easily remove microorganisms from the skin.

This is where water is useful – to flush away microorganisms.

So I see 6 issues with sanitizers:

  1. Hand sanitizers  need to contain at least 60 percent ethanol. The official  WHO recipe uses 80% ethanol , 1.45% glycerol and 0.125% hydrogen peroxide.DIYers using pure Vodka would only have 40% ethanol content.This means that many crafted products are not doing the job the consumer expects.
  2. Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. (Vs soap that cleans the dirt and grime away AND zaps viruses)
  3. You need to use a large volume of hand sanitizer to reach all the nooks and crannies of your hands. But soap is better because you only need a fairly small amount of soapy water, which, with rubbing, covers your entire hand easily.
  4. Sanitisers are highly flammable. Which creates a danger in their storage and transport. Soap doesn’t explode.
  5. Methanol poisoning. Because ethanol is expensive and its sale is restricted, unethical suppliers use toxic methanol instead.
  6. Alcohol kills your microbiome. Hand sanitizers are extremely harsh on your hands, even if you don’t have eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis.

Sanitisers with toxic methanol

Methanol (wood alcohol) can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and lead to:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • headache,
  • blurred vision,
  • permanent blindness,
  • seizures,
  • coma,
  • permanent damage to the nervous system or
  • death.

If you’ve been exposed to methanol-based hand sanitizer it’s critical to seek immediate treatment to reverse the toxic effects of methanol poisoning.

Avoid these hand sanitizers that may contain toxic methanol

Despite the fact the FDA has emphasized that methanol (wood alcohol) is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers, over 101 products have been listed. (As at 3 August 2020)

This is a list from the FDA’s website in July 2020. Do not buy or use these:

  • 4E Global’s Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer with 70% Alcohol
  • 4E Global’s Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear Ethyl Alcohol 70%
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear
  • 4E Global’s KLAR AND DANVER Instant Hand Sanitizer (labeled with Greenbrier International Inc.)
  • 4E Global’s MODESA Instant Hand Sanitizer Moisturizers and Vitamin E
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Advanced Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Advanced Hand Sanitizer Aloe
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Lavender
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Clear LEAR Advanced Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s BLUEMEN Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s The Honeykeeper Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Advanced Hand Sanitizer Clear
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Lavender
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Aloe Advanced Hand Sanitizer, with 70 Alcohol
  • 4E Global’s Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Lavender, with 70% alcohol
  • 4E Global’s Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Aloe, with 70% alcohol
  • 4E Global’s Blumen Antibacterial Fresh Citrus Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s Blumen Hand Sanitizer Fresh Citrus
  • 4E Global’s Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer
  • 4E Global’s Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer (Vitamin E and Aloe)
  • 4E Global’s Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer (Aloe and Moisturizers)
  • 4E Global’s Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer Vitamin E and Aloe
  • 4E Global’s Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe and Moisturizers
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Instant Hand Sanitizer Fragrance Free
  • 4E Global’s BLUMEN Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe Vera
  • 4E Global’s Assured Aloe
  • AAA Cosmetica’s bio aaa Advance Hand Sanitizer
  • AAA Cosmetica’s LumiSkin Advance Hand Sanitizer 4 oz
  • AAA Cosmetica’s LumiSkin Advance Hand Sanitizer 16 oz
  • AAA Cosmetica’s QualitaMed Hand Sanitizer
  • DDI Multinacional’s Earths Amenities Instant Unscented Hand Sanitizer with Aloe Vera Advanced
  • DDI Multinacional’s Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare
  • DDI Multinacional’s Vidanos Easy Cleaning Rentals Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare
  • Eskbiochem’s All-Clean Hand Sanitizer
  • Eskbiochem’s Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer
  • Eskbiochem’s Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer
  • Eskbiochem’s The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer
  • Eskbiochem’s CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
  • Eskbiochem’s CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
  • Eskbiochem’s CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
  • Eskbiochem’s  Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer
  • Grupo Insoma’s Hand sanitizer Gel Unscented 70% Alcohol
  • Limpo Quimicos’ Andy’s Best
  • Limpo Quimicos’ Andy’s
  • Limpo Quimicos’ Gelclor
  • Limpo Quimicos’ NeoNatural
  • Limpo Quimicos’ Plus Advanced
  • Liqesa Exportacion or Liq-E-S.A.’s Optimus Lubricants Instant Hand Sanitizer
  • Maquiladora Miniara’s Shine and Clean Hand Sanitizer
  • Maquiladora Miniara’s Selecto Hand Sanitizer
  • Mystic International’s Mystic Shield Protection hand sanitizer
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution hand sanitizer
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Hand sanitizer (labeled with Wet Look Janitorial and Gardening Corp.)
  • Tropicosmeticos’ Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%
  • Yara Elena De La Garza Perez Nieto’s DAESI hand sanitizer
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Born Basic Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Scent Theory – Keep It Clean – Pure Clean Anti-bacterial Hand Sanitizer
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Cavalry
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s ENLIVEN Hand Sanitizing Gel
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Lux Eoi Hand Sanitizing Gel
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Keep It Clean
  • Real Clean Distribuciones’s Hand Sanitizer
  • MXL Comercial’s Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel 70% Ethyl Alcohol (labeled with Resource Recovery & Trading LLC)
  • MXL Comercial’s Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel 70% Ethyl Alcohol Rinse Free Hand Rub (labeled with Resource Recovery & Trading LLC)

And these are only the products made in North America. There’s going to be the same dodgy stuff going on right around the world.

What’s alarming to me is the greenwashing of product names with botanicals – Aloe,  Lavender, Vitamin E, Agavespa Skincare, Moisturizing, Fragrance Free, there’s even a Hello Kitty variety targeting vulnerable children.

Those names lull consumers into a false sense of safety and naturalness.

Hand Sanitizer vs Soap and Water

What is best for skin?

The most effective, skin-friendly and affordable is soap. – this is why soap is better than hand sanitizer.

So, soap is the best, but always use alcohol-based sanitiser when soap is not handy or practical .

And no, antibacterial soaps are not more effective than regular soap and water for killing disease-causing germs.

What to avoid in natural soap:

  • Fragrances. Most hand soaps contain fragrances. ...
  • Parabens. ...
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) ...
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) ...
  • Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone. ...
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine. ...
  • Triclosan.
  • The best soap for sensitive skin

    Most soaps sold through supermarkets and pharmacies are not true soap but chemical concoctions of synthetic detergents compressed into a bar shape.

    These do little for you other than clean away dirt.

    The very best soap for keeping your hands in good condition, would be old-fashioned cold-process soap, which is what artisanal soap makers make.

    Cold-process soap is gentler on the hands as it retains the hydrating skin-loving glycerine.

    It’s made with slightly acid plant oils that saponify into soap when lye is added.

    Traditional soaps

    Traditional soaps are naturally palm-oil free as they were made with lard, tallow, goose or duck, whatever the family was eating. The drippings were gathered and sieved to remove bits. So these are automatically rain-forest friendly and use locally available resources so are part of sustainable living and low food miles.

    These traditional soaps are gentle on the skin, so suitable for those with dry or sensitive skin. In particular soaps made with goose or duck fat provide a creamy lather. (If you’re curious if the soaps smell bad. No. You can use refined or sieved animal fat. You can always add some essential oils if you are concerned.)

    Goat’s Milk Soaps

    My favourite soap maker in the US Borden Acres uses fresh goats’ milk in their luxurious soaps.

    Goats milk makes the soap extra mild and nurturing for your skin.

    Goats milk contains caprylic acid, selenium, fatty acids and immune enhancing vitamin A. All skin-food components that you wont find in regular soap.

    If you suffer from any skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin, then look out for goats milk soap.

    Goat milk soap is a gentle creamy cleanser rich in fatty acids that can help support a healthy skin barrier to keep skin nourished and moisturized.

    The lactic acid (an AHA) gently exfoliates  and adds a moistening component.

    In low doses lactic acid is moisturising. (That’s why it’s often included in toners or face creams for mature or menopausal women ). Lactic acid may also benefit skin prone to acne.

    Use goats milk soap to clean your hands and body.

    and if you’re looking for a vegan soap, there are many small makers using the cold-process method.

    What makes soap Vegan friendly?

    If you’re a vegan you’ll avoid:Beeswax, honey and propolis.All forms of milks goat’s milk or powder, camel, sheep, donkey etc . Lard, tallow and any animal fat eg duck, goose, crocodile, emu etc

    What makes a soap palm- oil free?

    For the rain-forest friendly recipes you need to avoid:palm fruit or oil, red palm oil – anything from the Elaeis Guineensis plant Stearate and Sodium Stearate Stearic acid Vegetable fat/oil (this hides the source – palm!) Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate Sodium laureth sulfate Palmityl alcohol, Octyl palmitate Sodium Palmate Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS) Cocamidopropyl Betaine Glycerin and Glycerine Lauric acid Sodium Cocate, Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate Sodium Palm Kernelate Tocopherols

    healthy vs wounded skin
    Keep your skin healthy with a good hand cream

    What is hand eczema?

    “Hand eczema” is when the skin of your hands is broken, irritated, dried or oozing, or infected.  Those washing their hands often are most prone – hospital workers, hairdressers, cleaners and anybody using detergents without rubber gloves.

    What to do for dry chapped hands?

    Apply moisturizers immediately after cleansing. The ingredients to look for are botanical butters like Shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii) and waxes (Jojoba),  glycerine, aloe vera polysaccharides, honey and hyaluronic acid. The reparative ingredients help restore healthy skin with a long list of botanical extracts available.

    hand holding jar of cream

    The best hand cream for wrinkles

    And after washing your hands remember to protect the skin with a nourishing hand cream like this prebiotic hand cream

    And remember  to apply a decent hand cream throughout the day and an extra layer at night.

    If you use a hand lotion, you may need to apply several layers.

    You should look for Shea butter, which does not block pores like cocoa butter, at a high percentage in the formula.  Humectants like glycerine, flower hydrosol and aloe vera are awesome. Avoid products that are petroleum based with Vaseline or paraffin. These are not healthy and block your pores.

    If your hands are very dry you might wear cotton gloves over a thick layer of hand cream when you go to sleep. This could be helpful if you are a nurse, teacher, chef, florist, massage therapist and are washing your hands extra often.

    If you’d like an uber luxurious hand cream handcrafted with facial grade ingredients, then my brand new recipe, Prebiotic Hand cream might be of interest. It’s made with powerful plant hydrolats/hydrosols that support a healthy skin biome.

    It’s not cheap because it’s made with organic and natural ingredients that I use in night creams.   The air tight pump dispenser means that your product is kept hygienic, so will be suitable to take in your handbag for work or on holiday. The airless containers are also spill proof and break-proof so if your jar slips onto the floor, it won’t shatter.

    You may even request hyaluronic acid or plant-based retinol in your bespoke hand cream!

    How soap works

    Read this article written by an Australian chemistry professor who explains how ye- olde- fashioned soap works. And you will learn why soap is better than hand sanitizer.

    Yes while Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days. Disinfectants, liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol are all useful at getting rid of them – but they are not quite as good as normal soap.

    Health authorities have been giving us two messages: once you have the virus there are no drugs that can kill it or help you get rid of it. But also, wash your hands to stop the virus spreading. This seems odd. You can’t, even for a million dollars, get a drug for the coronavirus – but your grandmother’s bar of soap kills the virus.

    So why does soap work so well on the Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? The short story: because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.

    The slightly longer story is that most viruses consist of three key building blocks: ribonucleic acid (RNA), proteins and lipids. A virus-infected cell makes lots of these building blocks, which then spontaneously self-assemble to form the virus. Critically, there are no strong covalent bonds holding these units together, which means you do not necessarily need harsh chemicals to split those units apart. When an infected cell dies, all these new viruses escape and go on to infect other cells. Some end up also in the airways of lungs.

    When you cough, or especially when you sneeze, tiny droplets from the airways can fly up to 10 metres. The larger ones are thought to be the main coronavirus carriers and they can go at least two metres.

    These tiny droplets end on surfaces and often dry out quickly. But the viruses remain active. Human skin is an ideal surface for a virus. It is “organic” and the proteins and fatty acids in the dead cells on the surface interact with the virus.

    When you touch, say, a steel surface with a virus particle on it, it will stick to your skin and hence get transferred on to your hands. If you then touch your face, especially your eyes, nostrils or mouth, you can get infected. And it turns out that most people touch their face once every two to five minutes

    Washing the virus off with water alone might work. But water is not good at competing with the strong, glue-like interactions between the skin and the virus. Water isn’t enough.

    Soapy water is totally different. Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, some of which are structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane. The soap molecules “compete” with the lipids in the virus membrane. This is more or less how soap also removes normal dirt from the skin.

    The soap not only loosens the “glue” between the virus and the skin but also the Velcro-like interactions that hold the proteins, lipids and RNA in the virus together.

    Alcohol-based products, which pretty much includes all “disinfectant” products, contain a high-percentage alcohol solution (typically 60-80% ethanol) and kill viruses in a similar fashion. But soap is better because you only need a fairly small amount of soapy water, which, with rubbing, covers your entire hand easily. Whereas you need to literally soak the virus in ethanol for a brief moment, and wipes or rubbing a gel on the hands does not guarantee that you soak every corner of the skin on your hands effectively enough.

    So, soap is the best, but do please use alcohol-based sanitiser when soap is not handy or practical.

    • Pall Thordarson is a professor of chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney

    So plenty of hand washing with real soap please.

    Photo Credit: Jonathan Corum and Ferris Jabr

     Another soapy article:

    “People typically think of soap as gentle and soothing, but from the perspective of microorganisms, it is often extremely destructive. A drop of ordinary soap diluted in water is sufficient to rupture and kill many types of bacteria and viruses, including the new coronavirus that is currently circling the globe. The secret to soap’s impressive might is its hybrid structure.

    Soap is made of pin-shaped molecules, each of which has a hydrophilic head — it readily bonds with water — and a hydrophobic tail, which shuns water and prefers to link up with oils and fats. These molecules, when suspended in water, alternately float about as solitary units, interact with other molecules in the solution and assemble themselves into little bubbles called micelles, with heads pointing outward and tails tucked inside. (Note: these characteristics are not unique to soap; all surfactants work this way!)

    Some bacteria and viruses have lipid membranes that resemble double-layered micelles with two bands of hydrophobic tails sandwiched between two rings of hydrophilic heads. These membranes are studded with important proteins that allow viruses to infect cells and perform vital tasks that keep bacteria alive. Pathogens wrapped in lipid membranes include coronaviruses, H.I.V., the viruses that cause hepatitis B and C, herpes, Ebola, Zika, dengue, and numerous bacteria that attack the intestines and respiratory tract.

    In tandem, some soap molecules disrupt the chemical bonds that allow bacteria, viruses and grime to stick to surfaces, lifting them off the skin. Micelles can also form around particles of dirt and fragments of viruses and bacteria, suspending them in floating cages. When you rinse your hands, all the microorganisms that have been damaged, trapped and killed by soap molecules are washed away.”

    Why Soap Works by Ferris Jabr, The New York Times 

    wendy gardner

    About Me

    Wendy Gardner is the aromatherapist and skincare alchemist at Glow Skincare. She's the author of Dare to Go Bare and host for the Aspie in Menopause podcast. When she's not making creams, or looking after the wild birds, she likes to draw and read.

    Diploma in Aromatherapy (ITHMA London, 2003)

    Usui Reiki Master. Bardic Grade (OBOD)

    Distant Healing

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