The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of hygiene. From disinfecting surfaces to hand hygiene, we have all learnt how to do basic sanitation during the pandemic. How effective are our methods and how do these sanitation methods affect our skin? Accredited Singapore dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin shares on common skin problems encountered as a result of sanitisers. She also includes her top dermatologist tips on how to choose the best gentle hand sanitisers to prevent skin dryness and sensitivity. If you suffer from sensitive skin, this guide will help you choose a hand sanitiser that will not aggravate your dry skin condition. If you have normal skin, this is the best opportunity for you to learn about which sanitisers can best protect you against viruses like COVID-19. At the same time, it should not cause your skin to get dry.
Are you looking for the best hand sanitiser for sensitive skin?
Ingredients to look out for in your hand sanitiser for effectiveness
Isopropyl alcohol is currently the most widely used and acceptable disinfectant. It can kill a broad range of microorganisms including the COVID-19 virus. However, many OTC hand sanitisers do not meet the minimum concentration of isopropyl alcohol required for effective antimicrobial activity. A survey of even well-known hand sanitiser brands showed that they did not comply. The CDC stipulates that a minimum concentration of 60% isopropyl alcohol as a requirement to effectively kill viruses that cause respiratory disease. This includes the COVID-19 virus and its variants.
Always look for a brand that labels its isopropyl alcohol active concentration levels.
How do I know I am buying the right hand sanitiser? Are all hand sanitisers the same?
Isopropyl alcohol while effective, is extremely irritating to skin. This is why dermatologists recommend to only use hand sanitisers that are formulated with moisturising ingredients. The key here is a formula that is effective with 60% isopropyl alcohol and moisturising ingredients. Isopropyl alcohol alone is an astringent, which means it dries out the skin. If you have dry sensitive skin, many hand sanitisers will dry out and further inflame your skin. Signs you suffer from hand eczema includes dryness, tightness, redness, swelling, pain and flaking. You may have one or more symptoms to qualify for diagnosis of hand eczema. This is also known as hand dermatitis. If you suffer from these symptoms, visit a dermatologist as this condition should undergo medical treatment.
Moisturising ingredients to prevent skin damage
Dr.TWL Pharmacy compounds a gentle hand sanitiser suitable for sensitive skin. It is the recommended hand sanitiser for those who wish to prevent skin dryness and damage. It contains glycerin and other moisturising antioxidant oils to repair damaged skin.
How to read ingredient lists on hand sanitiser bottles
Know that the ingredients of a hand sanitiser are key to choosing the best hand sanitiser for your skin. The order of ingredients listed show the concentration. For example, the highest concentration would be isopropyl alcohol, which is the only active ingredient required for germicidal activity. However, most commercially available hand sanitisers contain a long list of chemical names. These are actually stabilisers that help to make the product look and feel cosmetically acceptable, but these are not required for the germicidal activity.
Preservatives in liquid skincare are necessary. Correctly formulated isopropyl alcohol based sanitisers do not require any additional preservatives. This is because isopropyl alcohol itself is a preservative. However, consumers often think that the best hand sanitiser products must be in a gel form that does not “drip”. This is erroneous because gels are actually the most drying forms of topically applied cosmetics on skin. Gels actually worsen dryness by increasing trans-epidermal water loss. If you suffer from sensitive skin, do not use a gel hand sanitiser. Look carefully at the ingredient lists. You should choose one that is based on isopropyl alcohol, and the other ingredients should all be moisturisers.
The best hand sanitiser for sensitive skin is one that is formulated to be effective yet gentle.
The Dr.TWL Pharmacy MaxClean hand sanitiser uses a formulation containing glycerin, grape seed oil and jojoba oil. This unique combination of plant seed oils with humectant glycerin helps to trap a moisturising layer under the surface of the skin after disinfection is complete. The 60% isopropyl alcohol content effectively disinfects when allowed to dry on the hands. When it dries it does not dehydrate the skin but rather leaves a moisturised feel, much like after you apply moisturiser. This is because we formulate the sanitiser with moisturiser ingredients. It effectively disinfects and moisturises your skin at the same time.
The best hand sanitiser for dry skin types is one that respects the skin barrier.
The skin barrier comprises of skin cells we know as corneocytes that join together by “cement” that is ceramide. Ceramides are naturally occurring fatty lipids in the skin that form the barrier. The outermost skin barrier is the stratum corneum. This layer protects the skin from external environmental damage. Disinfectants including isopropyl alcohol damage the skin barrier directly by an astringent effect. Excessive concentrations or usage can cause irritant contact dermatitis. This is a form of hand eczema that shows up as redness and flaking. The problem with most hand sanitisers is that they are formulated for a non-sticky lightweight feel, which is a gel texture. This is a problem because while it disinfects the surface, it causes excessive water loss. It also disturbs the protective barrier function of skin.
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How to choose the best hand sanitiser for sensitive skin?
Important ingredients: This is how to choose the best hand sanitiser for sensitive skin. First of all, check the effective isopropyl alcohol content. It should have a concentration of at least 60%. This is so we can be certain it actually is working as a hand sanitiser. Anything more than 70% is actually considered very drying and unsuitable for skin as it can cause chronic skin irritation and can even cause irritant contact dermatitis. Look at the other ingredients present. If it is formulated as a gel formula, chances are it’s going to be very drying for the skin.
Ingredients which are not necessary in a hand sanitiser and can cause skin allergies:
There is no need to add any fragrances to hand sanitisers as these synthetic fragrances can only serve to further irritate and cause irritation to sensitive skin. It is critical to also check the other constituents.
This article is brought to you by Dr.TWL Pharmacy, a specialist online skincare pharmacy that provides freshly-compounded personal care products for you and your household. Dermatologist-formulated for sensitive skin.