The use of hand sanitizer: Safety vs effects on skin

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The current COVID pandemic has changed the way we live. We now have a whole new concept of what constitutes the “new normal”. Frequent use of hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing is one of the most important lifestyle changes in the new normal. These sanitizers have high levels of ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol and also an antibacterial ingredient called ‘Triclosan”. They are effective in killing the virus but can also affect the skin adversely. We got in touch with Dr. Sirisha Singh, a Dermatologist to know the effects of using sanitizer on our skin and this is what she had to say.

Frequent use of these hand sanitizers often results in dry skin, redness of the skin, and in some extreme cases eczema of the skin. This causes certain redness leading to dry skin with several cuts on the skin. In addition to making the skin look anything but presentable, there is also intense itching in the skin along with an extreme sense of burning when exposed to acidic agents like lemon or vinegar.

Regular use of the hand sanitizer also thins out the skin. This results in deeper penetration of UV light into the skin. This may enhance ageing of the skin or cause pigmentation of the skin in the long term.

Frequent use of the sanitizer can also cause the skin immediately surrounding the nails to get inflamed and swollen. This affects the nails and can result in discoloration which can be unsightly.

The question that immediately comes to the mind is should we stop using a sanitizer? Protecting oneself from COVID probably overrides all beauty considerations at present. However, it would be great to try and minimize damage. Studies show that washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more is as effective as using a hand rub. So, avoid using a hand rub unless you have no access to running water.

Moisturising the hands and using sunscreen can also minimize damage. When you wash your hands with soap and water, the hands may be moisturised immediately using a soothing glycerine based moisturiser. If an alcohol-based hand rub is used, wait for the hand rub to dry off completely before applying the moisturiser.

Use a good sunscreen on your hands if you are stepping out of the house. Also do not forget to re-apply the sunscreen if you are outdoors for a prolonged period of time.

Stay safe but also look after your hands.

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