Do hand sanitisers really live up to all the hype?
Posted on 26th July 2023 at 07:17
Not surprisingly, the use of hand sanitisers and specialised cleaning products has rocketed in recent years, fuelled by the ongoing madness and a relentless public health campaign. The rationale behind them both is very simple. By killing germs on people’s hands – as well as other surfaces they’d been in contact with – the spread of disease would be slowed down and madness brought to an end.
While this all sounds completely reasonable – and the sensible thing to do – as so often is the case, it isn’t quite that simple.
To start with, it was quickly found that the traditional methods of maintaining hygiene were much more effective. In other words, regular hand washing with hot water and soap. Carrying – and using (!) – a tissue or handkerchief. Disposing of it when used or putting it through a hot wash. And all the other things that used to be considered “commonsense” and “good manners”.
Moving swiftly on, you’ll be pleased to know this isn’t what we’re going to talk about today (!).
Nor that there really is no bogeyman out there waiting to pounce on the first unsuspecting person passing by. Susceptibility is always down to each of us as an individual, rather than a numbers game. If you need a quick reminder why this is the case, click here. Having said all of that, this doesn’t mean that good basic hygiene isn’t important, for a whole host of reasons…
Instead, we’re going to take a closer look at hand sanitisers and whether they live up to all the hype. And, while they may not be exactly the same – or have the same chemical makeup – similar comments apply to the plethora of specialised cleaning products which have also sprung up in recent years.
Take a look at the label on any hand sanitiser and you’ll notice that the first named ingredient is alcohol. To be effective, it needs to be in higher amounts, usually accounting for 60 to 90% of the product.
Have you ever wondered why this is?
Well, the answer is quite simple. In higher amounts, alcohol helps kill any germs present – by literally drying them out – as well as making the skin itself less attractive to any that may then come into contact with it. Added to this, it also helps provide the environment needed by the other ingredients in the hand sanitiser to work more effectively.
Unfortunately, alcohol’s drying action is also one of its big downsides. As anyone who’s used hand sanitisers knows, your hands quickly become very dry and, longer term, rough and cracked. It can also cause redness and irritation, leading to Eczema and other skin problems, both from the alcohol and other chemicals found in the sanitiser.
Added to this while alcohol may, initially, make the skin less hospitable to bacteria, the resulting dryness and cracking can have exactly the opposite effect; making it easier for the skin to pick them up from other surfaces. Ironically, this process is made much easier by the high percentage of alcohol in hand sanitisers.
If you’re wondering why this is, again, the answer is quite simple. Not only does alcohol remove any “debris” on the hands, it also cleans away the sebum too. As you may know, sebum is an oily substance produced by the Skin to provide additional protection, as well as acting as a natural moisturiser. So, the high alcohol content in hand sanitisers is rather a two edged sword…
Going back to the list of ingredients, you’ll find a number of different – and unpronounceable (!) – names. We’re not going to look at all of them, but it’s fair to say that they each come with their own concerns. In particular, they tend to easily pass through the Skin and into the bloodstream, then spreading across the body as a whole. And this is without how they may interact with each other.
To keep this post to a manageable length, we’re not going to look at all the ingredients found in hand sanitisers. However, we will quickly mention two which are causing particular concerns.
The first are benzenes, also found in crude oil, plastics and resins as well as some dyes and pesticides. Not only are they easily absorbed, but have been linked to an increased risk of blood and bone marrow disorders, particularly Leukaemia.
The other is Tricolosan, used as a preservative and anti bacterial in many hygiene and beauty products. Again, it’s easily absorbed and well known as an endocrine disrupter, particularly of thyroxine and the sex hormones. It’s also been linked to Cancer and brain damage. Of equal concern is that Tricolosan has been found to damage the environment, as well as being one of the most commonly detected chemicals in the water supply.
Having looked at some of the specific concerns about the ever increasing use of hand sanitisers, let’s look at them more generally.
A good place to start is with chemical load, in other words, the number of chemicals we come into contact with every day. These put a huge additional strain on our bodies, particularly the Liver and Kidneys, both of which are responsible for detoxing our bodies on an ongoing basis.
Added to this, while it may sound like a “good thing” to reduce the threats that our Immune Systems have to deal with each day, this is not necessarily the case. The old adage of “use it or lose it” is a good one to remember here and sums things up perfectly. If our Immune Systems aren’t regularly activated and, like our computer systems, updated to face the latest threats – whatever they may be – then, very quickly, we’ll find ourselves with problems. It’s a topic we’ve written about before and can be found here.
At the same time, by selectively targeting one particular disease or germ, the natural balance is knocked out of kilter. And, as is always the case, this imbalance causes ripples far and wide. Perhaps, allowing another disease / germ to spread or something completely new and unforeseen to appear. This is most easily seen in the Digestive System, with the balance of so called “good” and “bad” bacteria being particularly susceptible to damage by the absorption of chemicals found in hand sanitisers – and other cleaning products too. And, as an aside, don’t forget all the concerns about the overuse of antibiotics, which have led to antibiotic resistance and the spread of Superbugs. Again, the importance of the Digestive System in good health and immunity is a topic we’ve looked at before and can be found here.
It’s easy to get swept away by the latest gloom laden story in the press or public health edict. But, before doing so, it’s also a great reminder to STOP and take a deep breath. Give it a little thought. Do a little research for yourself. Our bodies are always much more intelligent and resilient than we give them credit for. After all, the human race – let alone us (!) – wouldn’t have got this far, if not. Again, if you need a quick reminder about just how clever our bodies are, click here.
As our Grandparents knew all too well, a little bit of dirt really isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a case of applying a little commonsense to whatever it is and the actual risk it may pose. Good basic hygiene will easily address most of the issues we’re likely to face in our day to day lives. And, if soap and water aren’t available so you need to occasionally use a hand sanitiser, that’s fine and nothing to worry about. Just get the basics right and the rest will look after itself.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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