5 Dangers of Commercial Hand Sanitizers, Plus: How to Make Toxin Free Hand Sanitizer
I'm sure you've heard it before: an important key to staying healthy is keeping your hands clean. While there is no substitute for washing your hands with soap and water to help prevent illness, certain hand sanitizers can help when soap is not available. Commercial hand sanitizers can have a negative impact on your health, though. Here are five dangers related to many commercial hand sanitizers and a recipe for making your own toxin-free version.
Problems with Commercial Hand Sanitizers
Some commercial hand sanitizers contain triclosan, a controversial antibacterial agent that has been linked to the development of resistant "superbugs." Triclosan kills some, but not all, bacteria on the hands; bacteria left behind may become more resistant to antibacterial agents and drugs. Triclosan also targets bacteria only and does not combat viruses. Triclosan is also believed to interfere with hormones and to disrupt immune system function (source)- rather ironic when we consider that triclosan is supposed to help with immunity! It has also been found to build up in the environment, where it may negatively impact wildlife.
Commercial hand sanitizers that do not contain triclosan may instead be alcohol based. Hand sanitizers that contain 60% alcohol are effective against some bacteria and viruses, but they won't kill all pathogens (source). And of course, alcohol based hand sanitizers can create very dry skin (which is one reason I don't use them unless I have to).
3. Dyes and Artificial Fragrances
Some hand sanitizers may contain dyes as well. Manufacturers sometimes add aloe vera to the hand sanitizer and then add green dye as well. I guess they think that consumers expect a product containing aloe to be green.
Commercial hand sanitizers may be scented with artificial fragrances, which have been linked to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, hormone disruption, and possible negative effects on the reproductive system (source). Unfortunately, artificial fragrances are protected as "trade secrets," so manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients that are in them. If you see the word "fragrance" on a product label or ingredient list, be aware that it may be code for dozens of synthetic chemicals (unless the specific ingredients in the fragrance are also listed).
4. Increased Exposure to BPA
Commercial hand sanitizers may also make the skin more permeable to the suspected endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A (also known as BPA). BPA is widely used on receipts because it helps ink adhere to the paper and makes it more visible. One study found that volunteers who used Purell brand hand sanitizer immediately before handling paper receipts absorbed ten times more BPA into their bodies than those who did so with dry hands (source). BPA absorbed through the skin is potentially more harmful than BPA that is ingested because it remains in the blood longer and isn't immediately processed by the liver, as it is when ingested (source).
5. Eczema and Dermatitis Flare Ups
Commercial hand sanitizers can also exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis by contributing to the dryness and soreness that is often already present with these conditions (source).
DIY Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer
Commercial hand sanitizers are clearly far from risk-free. However, there are still times when hand sanitizer is useful. For this reason, you may want to make your own toxin-free version.
This recipe calls for essential oils because many of them have anti-microbial properties. I use Verefina Immunity Oil Blend, Verefina Clean Blend, or a combination of lavender and tea tree oils. I also add Fractionated Coconut Oil because it is moisturizing, yet it absorbs quickly into the skin. Other plant oils, such as almond, apricot, or jojoba will also work. Here is the recipe:
DIY Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer Recipe
- 3 tablespoons aloe vera juice (available in health food stores)
- 1 teaspoon Fractionated Coconut Oil
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon vitamin E oil (optional; also available in health food stores)
- 20-24 drops Immunity Oil Blend; Clean Blend, or lavender or tea tree oils (or both lavender and tea tree)
- small spray bottle*
Using a funnel, pour all ingredients into your spray bottle. For extra immune support in the winter, I like to use the Immunity Oil (see the note below, though). Shake gently to mix and before each use. Makes a little less than 2 oz.
Store in a cool, dry place, and use within a few weeks.
* Glass is preferable because essential oils can break down plastic over time. If you have an opaque bottle, that’s even better because light can damage essential oils.
Need a ready-made, toxin free hand sanitizer? Try our Immunity Multi-Purpose Spray. This spray contains the same essential oils found in the Immunity Oil Blend, but they are already diluted in the Multi-Purpose Spray. It can be used as an air freshener and surface cleaner as well.
Do you make your own hand sanitizer? What do you put in it? Please comment below!
Caution: The Immunity Oil is NOT recommended for pregnancy. Please consult with a qualified medical professional before using any essential oils in pregnancy or while nursing.
Barnett, Bob. "Is Hand Sanitizer Toxic?" CNN. 16 November 2013. Web. 31 January 2017.
Baumann, Leslie. "Is Your Hand Sanitizer Safe?" Miami Herald. 10 November 2014. Web. 31 January 2017.
Main, Douglas. "Hand Sanitizer Speeds Absorption of BPA from Receipts." Newsweek. 22 October 2014. Web. 2 February 2017.
Miller, Zach C. "Hidden Dangers of Hand Sanitizers." Natural News. 26 October 2014. Web. 2 February 2017.
About the Author
Katie Zapotoczny is a Verefina Affiliate and the creator of An Ever Green Life, a blog that seeks to empower readers to make changes that will improve their health and help protect our environment.