Skin treatment and its drawbacks: How much do you know about hand sanitizers?

November 04, 2020

Skin treatment and its drawbacks: How much do you know about hand sanitizers?

COVID-19 has undoubtedly altered our lives drastically within a short time. Starting from washing your hands countless times to stocking up on hand sanitizer, you’ve probably done it all to protect yourself from coming in contact with the virus. Applying hand sanitizers may seem like a fair skin treatment regime despite suffering from very dry skin, but have you taken a minute to find out what’s in the product?


Hand sanitizers have been selling out quickly due to instructions from health officials to use it as an alternative to stopping germs from spreading. Due to the excessive demand globally and within Canada, Health Canada temporarily approved the use of technical-grade ethanol in the production of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.


What is ethanol?


Without getting into scientific details, in simple terms, ethanol is another way of describing alcohol, a liquid that can efficiently dissolve in water and other organic compounds. Ethanol is used in hand sanitizers because it is a powerful ingredient that kills microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.


What is the difference between pharmaceutical/food-grade ethanol and technical-grade ethanol?


During normal conditions when hand sanitizers don’t see a rapid rise in sales, hand sanitizers are created with pharmaceutical or food-grade ethanol. Due to the shortages caused by exaggerated demand, Health Canada is allowed manufacturers to use technical-grade ethanol instead. The main difference between these two types of ethanol is that technical-grade has more impurities than food-grade. One of the impurities is known as acetaldehyde, which can be found in alcohol, other foods that contain alcohol, and other skin care products.


What is acetaldehyde and is it harmful?


Acetaldehyde is a colorless and flammable liquid with a strong smell. It exists in products such as vegetables, coffee, bread, cigarette smoke, and gasoline. Can’t seem to understand why it might be dangerous? The ingredient contributes to the negative impacts of alcohol, such as hangovers after alcohol consumption. Also, large doses are capable of causing death due to respiratory paralysis.


Is it still okay to use hand sanitizers with acetaldehyde?


All manufacturers must meet the requirements laid out by Health Canada while creating antiseptic cleansers, while also referring to the World Health Organization's (WHO) recipe of how much of which ingredient to use. After assessing the pros and cons, Health Canada allowed manufacturers to create hand sanitizers with technical-grade ethanol as it is safe to do so if used in proportion and for a short period. Since the spread of COVID-19 has become outrageous, the potential risk of catching the virus outweighs the risk of using hand sanitizers with acetaldehyde. However, it is still our responsibility to still the product within a limit and be well informed while doing so.


How can you stay safe while using hand sanitizers?


  1. To minimize the use of hand sanitizers, frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  2. If you are unable to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol, but make sure it is approved by Health Canada.
  3. Read the ingredients on the label and do your research before purchasing a hand sanitizer.
  4. Look up the List of Hand Sanitizers Authorized by Health Canada to find out if the product you’re interested in purchasing has been authorized by Health Canada.  Authorized hand sanitizers have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN).
  5. Try to use all natural skin care regimes to protect your skin. Follow-up your hand wash or use of hand sanitizer with a hydrating moisturizer because frequent washing and sanitizing may lead to very dry skin.
  6. Another way to commit to an all natural approach is to make your own hand sanitizer. But only do it if you are well-aware of which ingredients and how much of them to use.


Put your health first, but don’t let your skin suffer in the process - it’s a huge part of you too!

Keywords: Skin treatment - all natural - hydrating moisturizer - very dry skin

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