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Are Hand Sanitizers & Cleaning Products Drying Out Your Skin?

With it being cold and flu season, we have all ramped up our cleaning routines and started using hand sanitizers more frequently. As a result, dermatologists have noticed an increase in skin sensitivity cases, that dryness, itchiness, and, in some cases, eczema. While these conditions can often be caused by regular allergies and stress, consistent use of chemical based products on the skin appears to be a common factor.

For many people, the increase in washing and sanitizing is a drastic change from the hygiene routine from even a few years ago. The sudden change in routine can be disruptive to the skin barrier. While we certainly want to continue being mindful about personal hygiene, we also want to be aware of the impacts this can have on our skin. 

The skin on our hands is typically more resilient to harsh chemicals than other parts of the body. However, we’re seeing that people will often apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to their hands and then touch their face causing sensitivity and dryness. Same goes for cleaning products that you use around your home. Some people have a higher tolerance to alkaline and chemical based products, but other people are especially sensitive to the repeated exposure. If you’ve noticed changes in your skin this year, consider the type of hand sanitizer and cleaning products you are using and how often you touch your face after application. It could very well be the reason that your skin is itchy and dry. 

Ingredients Causing Skin Irritation 

As you may know, many hand sanitizers are alkaline-based with high alcohol and pH levels. Unfortunately, such ingredients kill good bacteria on the skin that helps keep it healthy. The repeated exposure to high alcohol levels can make your skin more susceptible to infection, allergic reactions, dryness, and other skin conditions such as eczema. 

However, hand sanitizer isn’t the only culprit. Common household cleaners are also a cause for many skin issues. The ingredients in those products can include lye, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and other harsh chemicals that may dry or damage your skin. 

Solutions for Protecting Your Skin 

While we certainly don’t want to stop washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, or cleaning, there are a few smart solutions that may help protect your skin. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider using an alcohol-free hand sanitizer such as hypochlorous acid. This solution is made up of water, chloride, and vinegar. It is strong enough to fight bacteria but less invasive on the skin.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Using hot water dries out your skin faster.
  • Don’t forget to moisturize your skin after washing. It helps to apply it while the skin is still damp to help retain some of the moisture. 
  • Avoid using the same type of moisturizer for your face and hands. For hands, use thick creams or lotions. For the face, choose oil-free lotions that will keep your skin moisturized without creating breakouts. Plus, many oil-free moisturizers contain amino acids, antioxidants, and squalane that help retain moisture. 
  • Avoid touching your face after applying hand sanitizer, as this will reduce your skin’s exposure. 
  • Consider using natural cleaning products to avoid harsh chemicals.
  • If you do use regular household cleaning products, remember to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. 

If you are experiencing dry and sensitive skin, please contact our office to schedule an appointment. Allow our board-certified dermatologists to evaluate your skin and offer a treatment solution that is right for you. We look forward to working with you to get your skin back to looking and feeling its best! 


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