Hand sanitizers were not around when I was a kid. I was taking care of my tamagotchi and playing Skip-It in the backyard. Should I have been using hand sanitizer? Just when did they become so popular? Hand sanitizers came about to meet the needs of healthcare workers, but soon they invaded households and found their way into people’s backpacks and purses. Amidst the late 1990’s germ phobia craze, consumers felt they needed hand sanitizers, probably due to good marketing and media reports on scary infections. Are there dangers though in using it too often or using it period?

What To Look Out For

Triclosan used to be a common ingredient in hand sanitizers due to its germ-killing power. In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would ban the use of triclosan in consumer antiseptic wash products (i.e. hand soaps, bar soaps, body washes). They gave companies one year to get these products off the market. Why? Triclosan has been known to disrupt endocrine function (hormones) in animal studies, as well as encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

How widespread is triclosan? The Centers for Disease Control conducted a study between 2003-2004 that found triclosan in the urine of nearly 75% of Americans, showing that it can be absorbed through the skin. Triclosan also has a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems since wastewater treatment doesn’t remove all of it.

According to the FDA, there isn’t enough evidence to show that antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than plain soap and water. You might still see triclosan used in toothpastes, deodorants, cosmetics, and a whole host of other goods though, since the ban only applies to antibacterial wash products. As far as hand sanitizers, most manufacturers have quietly reformulated their products without triclosan, using ethyl alcohol as their active ingredient. Other companies have substituted triclosan with three other chemicals (benzalkonium chloride, chloroxylenol, and benzethonium chloride), none of which are approved by the FDA yet. These chemicals were allowed to remain on the market for awhile longer so that companies could gather data proving their safety and effectiveness.

Are There Alternatives to Hand Sanitizer?

If you want to avoid hand sanitizers altogether (assuming you don’t work in a healthcare setting), that is totally fine and understandable. In fact, the best way to clean your hands is still with good ol’ soap and water since it kills bacteria but also removes dust, dirt, and grime. Remember the mnemonic FROG, which stands for Friction Rubs Out Germs.

Hand washing

Rinsing with water also helps to wash off the product ingredients, whereas hand sanitizers absorb into your skin. Nonetheless, hand sanitizers do come in handy in many situations when you don’t have access to a sink. I would just use it sparingly.

Hand Sanitizers I Like

honest company hand sanitizers spray
Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray

Why I Like It:  It has the same active ingredient (ethyl alcohol) as other hand sanitizers, so it’s effective against most bacteria, fungi, and many viruses. They ditch unnecessary harsh chemicals like propylene glycol, acrylates, and triethanolamine (TEA). The inactive ingredients include soothing botanicals that reduce dried and chapped hands. It’s convenient to throw in your backpack or purse, so you can use it when you’re on-the-go.

honest company hand sanitizers gel

Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Gel

Why I Like It:  It has all the same benefits as their spray, but it’s in gel form.

EO Hand Sanitizers Spray

EO Hand Sanitizer Spray

Why I Like It:  EO hand sanitizer spray uses ethyl alcohol as its active ingredient. The product contains no added harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrance. Furthermore, it’s USDA certified organic!

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