Everywhere I go I see people pouring hand sanitizer all over themselves like it came straight out of the fountain of youth. Is this really a good idea? Are these people protecting themselves from infectious disease or putting themselves at risk?
Are Hand Sanitizers Sabotaging Your Health?
Let’s consider a basic principle: Our bodies are designed to protect us, so keeping our natural defense systems strong is vital to staying in optimal health. With this in mind is applying hand sanitizer strengthening our natural defense systems or weakening them?
When you look at the composition of hand sanitizer you will see that the objective is clearly to break down and to kill opposed to build up and protect. People are in attack mode right now. They are attacking germs…but what about all of the good bacteria in and on our bodies that play such a critical role in keeping invaders out? When you squeeze sanitizer on your hands you are killing more than you realize. How do you think the naturally occurring good bacteria or the natural oils on your skin like being bombarded with this stuff?
How Do Viruses Enter The Body?
Why is it recommended to not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes when trying to avoid contracting a virus? Because viruses need an entry point to infect you. Your skin is not an entry point in which viruses can infect you, generally speaking. So let’s say a virus lands on your hand…not the end of the world, in fact this happens quite often without us being any the wiser. The friendly disease-fighting bacteria naturally occurring on your skin, along with the rest of your natural defenses, will go to work and prevent the virus from entering your body. That’s in a person with healthy skin. Now let’s consider someone who has been using hand sanitizer all day….The virus lands on this person’s hand, but due to the overuse of hand sanitizer there is no friendly bacteria left, and the outer layer of oil on your skin that neutralizes viruses has been removed. Your natural defense system is down…Advantage virus? I’ll let you be the judge.
I want to make a quick note on why viruses and other infections affect some people but not others. It’s because they are opportunistic…meaning they need an opportunity to survive and thrive. The main “opportunity” that a virus needs to take over is a weakened immune system which can be caused by a number of factors. So maybe we should be shifting our focus from the mindset of “kill all germs, germs are the devil, etc” to focusing on removing the opportunity for these germs to become a problem. Consider a computer virus…it has no power over a computer with a strong anti-virus program. As long as its defense system is strong it has nothing to worry about. The virus has no opportunity to cause damage. Now let’s consider the human body…A human body with a strong defense system has nothing to worry about. So let’s focus on keeping our systems strong instead of playing germ exterminator and weakening our natural defenses in the meantime.
Many hand sanitizers claim they kill 99.9% of germs…if this is true it is even more reason to stay away. Do you really want 99.9% of the healthy bacteria on your hands to be destroyed? Your skin is your first line of defense so keeping it strong is a great idea.
Do We Really Need Hand Sanitizer?
According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is not as effective at killing germs as washing your hands with soap and water. You should only use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available, according to the CDC. Some research has shown that hand sanitizer can actually increase your risk of some infections, such as norovirus, possibly by way of bacterial resistance. Hand sanitizer has also been shown to be less effective than hand-washing at preventing the flu.
Do You Know What You're Putting On Your Hands?
If you were to flip the bottle of your hand sanitizer and read the ingredients tab, you would find names such as isopropyl alcohol, ethanol/ethyl alcohol or propanol. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain antibacterial compounds, such as benzalkonium chloride or triclosan…Feel free to look up the safety of these ingredients on your own time…start with triclosan.
Development of Superbugs
Multiple studies have shown that the use of anti-bacterial products can have devastating effects in the long run. Rather than keeping germs at bay, the prolific use of hand sanitizers and other antibacterial products has led to bacteria becoming resistant to these products, making these bugs more difficult to eradicate using previously effective measures. Thus, hand sanitizers do nothing to kill drug-resistant bugs like MRSA, and may, in fact, be helping these superbugs proliferate instead!
Call to Action
Stop applying hand sanitizer obsessively. If you are going to use it, use it responsibly. If you have access to soap and water, choose that option every time. Consider natural alternatives such as essential oil solutions, coconut oil solutions such as the natural hand barrier lotion we carry in our clinic, probiotic soap and a number of other options which I’m sure you can find out about on the Internet.