According to some sources, alcohol-based hand sanitizers as we know them today originated in the 1960s when a registered nurse in Bakersfield, California had the idea that the disinfecting power of alcohol could be used via a gel delivery system that allowed cleaning and disinfecting without the use of soap and water. In the late 1980s, one of the most popular brands of alcohol-based hand sanitizer appeared on the market as a way to help healthcare providers reduce the spread of germs.
Today, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is used by millions of Americans every day, according to the Food and Drug Administration. However, while alcohol-based hand sanitizers may help check the spread of germs and provide a defense against infection and disease, there are many reasons why they may not always be the best hygiene solution.
Reason #1: All that alcohol is bad for your skin.
An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is generally composed of anywhere from 60-65% ethyl alcohol. That is pure alcohol, not the kind that you would ever want to drink. Some hand sanitizers also contain isopropyl alcohol, sometimes known as “rubbing alcohol.” Together, these two types of alcohol can comprise as much as 95% of the total volume of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
All that alcohol can be absorbed into the skin, which results in a “drying” effect that you can usually feel after using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. More than just dehydrating your skin, however, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can actually break down your skin’s natural defenses, resulting in a rise in skin pH that leaves your skin more vulnerable.
Reason #2: You can’t be sure what you’re going to get.
Besides alcohol, many hand sanitizers also include clarifying or thickening agents, dyes, and other “inactive” ingredients, such as fragrances.
Some of these ingredients are considered proprietary, which means that they don’t have to be listed on the label and are virtually unregulated, making it difficult for you to know what chemicals you may be putting on your body.
Reason #3: They’re not always effective at eliminating certain kinds of germs.
Hand sanitizers may provide a certain amount of defense against infection and disease, but they also promote a false sense of cleanliness and sanitation. While they kill many types of bacteria and viruses, there are other types—such as bacterial spores like those created by the Clostridium difficile bacteria—against which they are far less effective. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also less effective when used on hands that are covered in dirt, oil, or grease, making them less appealing to those who lead particularly active lifestyles.
Reason #4: They may lead to antibiotic resistance.
Just like everything else, bacteria are constantly evolving to meet new challenges. With increased reliance on hand sanitizers and other “antibacterial” products, new strains of bacteria are developing that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. In fact, a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that health care facilities that favored hand sanitizer over soap and water were almost 6 times more likely to experience norovirus outbreaks!
Reason #5: You may be doing harm to your skin, your body’s natural defense against infection and disease.
The outer layer of your skin is your first line of defense against pathogens, infections, and disease. On the surface of your skin is a protective layer called the “acid mantle,” made up of sebum (fatty acids) secreted from the skin’s sebaceous glands, not to mention lactic and amino acids from sweat. These, along with the healthy bacteria that naturally live on your skin, combine to create a layer of protection. Changes to the pH of your skin can have detrimental effects on skin health and can open you up to the risk of more harmful bacteria and other dangers. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can cause a rise in skin pH and upset the natural balance of your skin.
So, what should you use in order to preserve personal hygiene and defend against infection and disease instead of alcohol-based hand sanitizers? For a convenient hygiene solution that will also preserve the natural bacteria on your skin without negatively impacting skin pH, Combat One is an all-purpose cleanser designed to be safe to use on your entire body, and easy to transport and use wherever you need it. Combat One comes in the form of sprays, foams, and no-rinse outdoor body wipes, any one of which can be dropped into a pocket, bag, or purse and used on the go to keep your hands—and the rest of your skin—clean and healthy.