It seems in recent years the market has been flooded with pocket-size hand sanitisers. Big sanitiser pump bottles can also be found in businesses such as banks and retail outlets at the front counter.
I remember growing up I only ever saw this in places that made sense to have them, such as pet stores, hospitals and kindergartens. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance and we most certainly need some bacteria and germs to support and protect our immune systems.
If we live in an environment where there is no kind of bacteria, then we step outside and come into contact with the smallest hint of bacteria then we are going to react radically to that exposure. Sure we want to kill harmful bacteria but we don’t want to wipe out bacteria all together. Overuse of “convenient” hand sanitisers can see both good and bad bacteria being stripped from the skin and it dramatically upsets our skin’s antimicrobial defenses.
We need some bad bacteria residing on the skin in order to make the transmission of disease harder to break through! The fact of the matter is we can’t always be “sterile”. With the use of hand sanitisers, we are not improving our immune systems but rather weakening it, by living in neurotically clean environments where any trace of bacteria that “could lead to a cold” needs to be exterminated.
Harmful chemicals found within hand sanitisers
The problem is we have no idea what chemicals are used to make up the sanitiser formulas as manufacturers aren’t required to list them. However, one chemical that is often listed on the ingredient panel and most commonly found in the majority of hand sanitisers is “triclosan”.
It is a known hormone disruptor as found in studies carried out on lab rats. It further interrupts proper muscle function and in one experiment in particular where rats were exposed to triclosan, it was found that their heart muscle function was reduced by 25% and their gripping strength reduced by 18%.
In fact triclosan was first used as a pesticide and still is widely used in agriculture- so how on earth did it end up in the majority of our every day skin care products? As with most harmful chemicals that you should avoid, it’s simply a matter of large scale companies producing low cost, yet popular products that they know will sell, with zero care for our health and well being.
The stripping of natural oils from the skin
Hand sanitisers contain large quantities of alcohol in order to be effective and therefore very easily dry out your skin and strip away natural oils by dehydrating the skin cells. The protective layer of oil coated on our skin exists as a natural barrier for protection against bacteria. The process of smothering hand sanitiser on our skin is then removing that barrier completely! Therefore we are actually increasing the risk of germs and bacteria making their way into our bodies!
Try my safe alternative
I use tea-tree oil for anything bacteria related and always have a small 100% pure tea tree oil bottle sitting in my bag or bathroom cabinet. When travelling I carry a small spray bottle of water with about 20 drops of tea tree oil and this is what I use as a hand sanitiser. I know that it’s 100% natural and don’t have to worry about exposing myself to nasty chemicals. The spray bottle is also great to use as a deodorant if you forgot to put any on before your long trip!
Depending on how often you feel you need to “sanitise” yourself, it may seem like small exposure to chemicals via hand sanitisers-in particular triclosan.
However, you might want to pay attention to just how many other every day bathroom products contain this chemical. You also want to take into consideration the exposure of chemicals in your every day life whether through the foods you consume, cleaning products you exposure yourself to or use of skincare products. It all adds up and increases the risk of nasty side effects and especially the many variations of cancers more commonly being diagnosed.
FDA proposing rule to determine safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm378542.htm