Before the advent of hand sanitizers, washing our hands at the sink would do.
It's only until the 1990s that hand sanitizer started gaining popularity. It guaranteed germ-free hands in seconds. The obsession with being germ-free only fueled this popularity.
Before long, this product was everywhere: in the car, at the playground, on the plane, used after shaking hands with people.
However, bad news followed soon after: hand sanitizer is harmful and unhealthy for us. When used frequently, it accelerates the appearance of aging.
Fun fact: hand sanitizers were invented by medical field workers. In hospitals, it's vital to maintain high hygiene standards to avoid spreading bacteria and viruses among patients. Hand sanitizers provided a quick fix as doctors rushed about during duty.
In the mid-1900s, researchers discovered that they could form alcohol into a gel to provide quick cleaning, especially when there's no access to soap and water.
Water and soap kill and remove germs from the skin, but hand sanitizers work by sitting on the skin and killing bacteria on contact. However, they need at least 60 percent alcohol content to work, according to the CDC.
The alcohol evaporates upon application, leading to the killing of germs. If you wipe off the sanitizer before it completely evaporates, you're reducing its effectiveness.
When used occasionally, sanitizers don't cause harm. When regularly used, though, the story is different.
According to the FDA, there is no evidence currently that sanitizers are more effective than regular soap and warm water in fighting germs. A study done in 2000 found that sanitizers don't significantly reduce the number of bacteria on hands. Researchers added that since the products strip the skin of sebum (which prevents bacteria from penetrating the surface), sanitizers can weaken the skin's defenses.
Isopropyl, ethanol, and n-propanol are some of the alcohols used in hand sanitizers. They irritate the skin since they dehydrate cells, strip away the skin's natural oils and protective acid mantle, and increase the risk of contact dermatitis.
The drier your skin is, the more fine lines and wrinkles are visible. Dry skin also suffers more cracks, calluses, and flakiness. Alcohols disrupt the natural barrier function in the long run, reducing the skin's ability to protect itself, and leading to heightened dehydration.
Many hand sanitizers these days contain triclosan. This antibacterial agent has been found in animal studies to disrupt hormone function. It also contributes to the rise of "superbugs"—viruses and bacteria that resist antibiotics. In 2013 the CDC announced that the increase of superbugs had caused at least 23,000 deaths that year and was a severe threat to human health.
Most hand sanitizers have chemical fragrances. Many fragrances are irritating and have links to causing allergies and hormone disruption. Since manufacturers are not required to list their fragrance ingredients, you don't know what you're putting on your skin.
Scientific studies have proven that certain alcohols can lead to damaged skin cells.
Getting rid of all germs helps us stay healthy, right? Well, not really. Studies have shown that ultra-clean environments weaken the immune system over time.
The Sole Toscana Beauty Team