Although hand sanitiser is recommended for disinfecting hands if there’s no water around, the sad truth is that it can make your hands very sore, with symptoms including peeling and cracked skin.
What’s going on?
To be effective against germs, whether viruses or bacteria, sanitiser needs to consist of at least 60% alcohol. Most are around 70%. The alcohol affects the proteins in viral cells and effectively neutralises them.
Unfortunately, alcohol, especially at this concentration, also has a damaging effect on your skin. It strips vital oils from the epidermis, leaving the skin’s barrier function impaired. This in turn makes your skin vulnerable to irritants, moisture loss and damage. Skin can end up peeling, cracked, inflamed, and any underlying eczema can flare up as well.
What can you do about it?
Use soap instead
Avoid using hand gel if you possibly can! The NHS advice is that sanitiser is a workable temporary alternative to soap, but only if you’re not near water to wash your hands. Washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water is the most effective way of getting rid of germs on your hands, and that includes coronavirus.
Moisturise like mad
It’s not a great idea to slather on moisturiser either immediately before or after using hand sanitiser: you’re using it to kill off the virus so it needs to get on with its job of doing that without a barrier between it and the germs. But you can make sure that your hands are kept well-moisturised throughout the day by applying balm regularly, at least as often as you’re washing hands or using gel.
Treat skin kindly
If you’re having to use sanitiser, then mitigate its effects by going all-out to be kind to your skin. Try applying a generous amount of Skin Salvation last thing at night, and covering your hands with thin cotton gloves. Swap out harsh, perfumed toiletries for unscented natural alternatives. Ditch the soap in favour on ph-neutral washes.
Balmonds Skin Salvation from £7.99 for 30ml
Balmonds Intensive Hand Cream from £10.99 for 50ml
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash £19 for 200ml
Dry Cracked Hands Set: Skin Salvation + Intensive Hand Cream from £15