Why Hand Sanitizers Are Not Always A Good Idea

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, Skincare


Hand sanitizers are now big business; compounded by the panic over Swine Flu, we are now carrying them on our person and having one in practically every room in the house.

Now, I am not against them per se, but they are a second line of defence after hand washing, not instead of, as they are increasingly being used. Also, the most common alcohol-based hand sanitizers have some unhealthy ingredients with some unpleasant associations like these listed from the most commonly included items:

Ethyl alcohol is a common ingredients and it is what kills the germs.
Anything mixed with it will move through the skin and into the bloodstream as the alcohol improves penetration of other chemicals through the skin and this disrupts the oils in the skin so it dries out. . This is also the quality that makes alcohol dry out the skin.

Did you know that there have been reports of prison inmates getting drunk on hand sanitizers and of children licking hand sanitizers off their hands and getting inebriated? While most of the alcohol in hand sanitizers evaporates within seconds of being rubbed on the hands, some is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream and that is cause for concern if you use them frequently.

Isopropyl alcohol is another common ingredient and that is a petrochemical that can be absorbed through the skin and through inhalation of vapours. It is toxic to the nervous system and dries the skin out.

Fragrances can contain just about anything and are made from dozens of chemicals, many of them highly toxic. They are of course only present in tiny amounts but the cumulative effect, along with the other ingredient can cause a reaction in anyone with chemical sensitivity. .  Chemical, or fake fragrances have been linked by some to the rise in the cases of asthma in children as they tend to be irritating to the lungs.

In the US, the Government’s Environmental Working Group gives fragrance a toxicity rating of 8, one of the highest available.

Propylene glycol is a petroleum or plant-based chemical that is widely used in everything from antifreeze and processed foods to cosmetics and medicines. Although it is classified by various government regulatory agents as being non-toxic, for some people it can be extremely irritating to the skin, eyes and lungs.   The EWG gives it a rating of 4 to 7.

Should you go alcohol-free?
You would think this was a safer option, given the above, but unfortunately they all seem to contain benzalkonium chloride, which numerous studies have implicated exposure to it as the leading cause of occupational asthma and chronic dermatitis in healthcare workers and cleaners .

The other common alcohol-free hand sanitizer ingredient is triclosan, a petrochemical antibacterial closely related to dioxins, which accumulates in the body and has a long list of serious safety concerns.

What to do?
I don’t want to scare you, using hand sanitizers occasionally will not cause a major problem but they are not a substitute for hand washing.  Keep them for use outside the home and when travelling and you should not have any ill effects if used sensibly, it’s the over use that is the problem and the most common symptom you are likely to notice is irritation of the skin.

Personally, I prefer to use a natural product such as Green People’s Foaming Hand Sanitizer.  It is an organic antibacterial product that contains Manuka, Tea Tree and Larch and is a UK product that I can recommend, I have even used it to clean a graze when I scraped my knee climbing a stile!  If you want more information on it, visit their website at www.greenpeople.co.uk

Natural help for healthy hair

No matter what your age, your hair reflects your state of health and particularly as we get older it is more prone to weakness and thinning. You don’t have to accept poor or lacklustre hair as a given, because there are plenty of things you can do naturally to help improve its condition. These suggestions might help:

Thinning hair: The hormone natural progesterone has been used by several trichologists to help people with thinning hair, in particular Ailsa Bosworth of Hair Tomorrow has had good success. The ‘recipe’ for healthy hair is to have a good intake of iron, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins. All of those can be got from a good healthy diet but if you have a serious hair loss problem then it will be worth while taking them as supplements. A natural way to stimulate hair growth is to go out in the countryside and pick some nettles or get dried nettle from any good herbalist, or online from people like Neal’s Yard. This old-established method is easy to follow, because instead of using shampoo, you take a handful of loose nettle tea and boil in water. Strain the tea, let it cool and then use it to ‘wash’ your hair.

If you can’t bear not to use shampoo, then please pick one that is organic, mild, natural and PEG free. That excludes most commercial, major brand shampoos no matter how ‘herbal’ or natural they claim to be. Not sure what to look for? Avoid these:

* sodium lauryl sulphate
* sodium laureth sulphate
* diethanolamine
* isopropyl alcohol
* propylene glycol
* anything ending in ‘parabens’.

Always read the label, and if you have trouble finding such a shampoo locally, then Simply Nature have a very effective natural one and you will find it on their website at www.simply-nature.co.uk. Your scalp matters if we are not happy with your hair, it’s tempting to hide it away under a hat or scarf, but please don’t. Your scalp has to be healthy to allow new hair growth to come through, and in order to do that you need to keep your pores and hair follicles free of dead skin cells. One of the best ways to do that is to massage your scalp every night before you go to bed.

Here’s a great two fold process: first using a metal comb tap all over your head with it for about a minute. It has to be metal, not plastic, because tapping with metal will create tiny electromagnetic currents on the scalp that stimulate the cells in the hair follicles. Next, you massage your scalp gently with a few drops of jojoba oil. It will naturally and gently help cleanse your scalp and contains lots of great hair nutrients like Vitamins C and B and the hair health mineral Zinc.