I’ve always been a bit intense about the hand washing, even before it became a hot topic this past year! I also have super sensitive hands that dry out easily, so finding hand sanitizers + soaps that protect my hands (and my health) is super important!
But how do we know if a hand sanitizer is *actually* effective? And what ingredients should we look for or avoid?
Here’s everything you need to know for clean + safe hands!
Clean Swap Spotlight | Hand Sanitizer
What makes an effective hand sanitizer?
From the CDC—
To be effective against killing some types of germs, hand sanitizers need to have a strength of at least 60% alcohol and be used when hands are not visibly dirty or greasy. Do not rely on “Do It Yourself” or “DIY” recipes based solely on essential oils or formulated without correct compounding practices.
Sadly many more “natural” hand sanitizers just don’t have the ingredients needed to effectively kill germs! Always make sure to have the right alcohol content.
What ingredients should I avoid in hand sanitizers?
Alcohol // The issue is that most hand sanitizers on the market will just say “alcohol” on the label as the active ingredient. They won’t disclose what TYPE of alcohol is used and this makes all the difference to your health, hormones and skin! Yikes.
Methyl alcohol // Sometimes called wood alcohol or methanol—this is used in antifreeze and rocket fuel too and is highly toxic. It can cause blindness, nausea, headaches and even seizures.
1-propyl alcohol or 1-propanol // This is a major ingredient in industrial cleaners and is very toxic to humans. It can cause difficulty breathing and skin irritation.
Triclosan // This is a chemical with anti-bacterial properties that is also a harmful endocrine disruptor and skin irritant. It was banned by the FDA but is sometimes still used so always double check!
Fragrance // Always top of the “no” list! Fragrances are trade secrets, so there can be thousands of harmful ingredients all listed under that one word “fragrance.” Fragrances contain endocrine disrupting phthalates that will really alter your hormone balance. Instead look for natural essential oils added to give your hand sanitizer a nice smell.
Guide to using hand sanitizer properly…
- Always make sure your hands are free of dirt, food or other particles so the hand sanitizer can work effectively.
- Repeated use of hand sanitizer leaves a film on your hands that can actually trap pathogens. (source)
- Hand washing with warm water and soap is always the best option!
- Like many products in the beauty and health industry, deceptive marketing or GREENWASHING is a problem. Many items on the market are either not effective or can contain harmful ingredients.
Does non-antibacterial soap work too?
YES—you don’t need antibacterials to cleanse away germs. There is a difference between killing germs (anti-bacterial agents) and removing germs. Soap + water removes germs and viruses (the soap dissolved the membrane which holds the virus together and renders is useless) and washes them down the drain. Killing germs still keeps them on the same surface—your hands, car, countertops, etc. Removing germs is always the best option. Here’s a great article on the science behind it!
Safe, least toxic hand sanitizers
Beautycounter’s Hand Savior Boosting Serum + Sanitizer // Ok, this stuff is AMAZING and I am a particular person! I literally want to bathe in it. I keep smelling my hands because they smell SO good. This is a MUST have. Your hands actually age faster than any other skin on your body and this sanitizer is packed with ingredients to protect your delicate skin cells. Your hands will feel clean and hydrated but not sticky at all!
- 60% organic sugar derived alcohol: sanitizes in a safe way
- Hyaluronic acid: hydrates and allows our body + skin to retain moisture, also keeps our skin cells plump and hydrated which is key to protect against natural aging
- Niacinamide: this acts as an anti-inflammatory and can brighten skin and decrease fine lines and the effects of aging
Primally Pure’s Hand Sanitizer // This includes 63% organic grape alcohol and immune boosting essential oils. It also has aloe vera to sooth and replenish the skin’s moisture. I love the strong scent of the Immune Boosting version but there is a lighter version as well. This is very effective and your hands feel clean (you do feel like something is on your skin for about a minute after, just a slight sticky feel).
Safe + gentle hand soaps
Beautycounter’s Hand Wash // My all time favorite—my hands are SO sensitive I love this one. It does not dry out your skin and doesn’t have any essential oils which can often be harsh on skin. I love the light citrus smell too.
Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap // I love this all in one bottle, it has so many uses including body wash! It is pretty gentle too!
Primally Pure’s Baby Bar // This is SO gentle. My mom stocks bars of these because she has the most sensitive hands ever and it’s all she can use.
Primally Pure’s Hand Soap // I LOVE the smells of their seasonal hand soaps. They are heavier on the essential oils so they do dry my hands out a bit more than the others.