The Truth About Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer has become more popular than ever, in large part due to its effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Portable hand sanitizer products kill germs on your hands and other surfaces on contact, helping to slow the spread of transmissible diseases like COVID-19.

Hand sanitizer has proven to kill germs, but there are some risks associated with its use. Hand sanitizer overuse can cause dry, cracked skin, redness or discoloration, and flaking. It can be dangerous if it's ingested or gets into your eyes.

Let's cover everything you need to know about using hand sanitizer safely.

Hand sanitizer side effects

The side effects of your hand sanitizer will come down to the formulas you're using. Hand sanitizer often contains a high amount of alcohol (60 to 95 percent), killing germs on your hands. Your hand sanitizer may contain other antiseptic ingredients that have been known to cause negative effects, even if the alcohol content is low.

Dries out your skin

Alcohol is a proven antiseptic that can kill bacteria and viruses on organic surfaces. Alcohol, on the other hand, is known to dry out your skin.

When you use hand sanitizer on your hands frequently throughout the day, the product dehydrates your skin. Dry, flaky, and sensitive skin might result from this. In addition to being uncomfortable, the American Academy of Dermatology Association says that having dry skin can increase your chances of picking up germs.

Can trigger and eczema breakout

You may notice that after hand sanitizer dries on your hands, itchy and red or discolored eczema patches tend to appear. If you have eczema, the chemicals can make your symptoms worse. You may notice increased eczema symptoms after using a foam, liquid, or gel-based hand sanitizer.

Can impact your hormones

Hand sanitizer sometimes contains an ingredient called triclosan. According to the FDA, Triclosan is a bacteria-killing chemical that has been found everywhere, from toothpaste to body wash. According to the FDA, high levels of triclosan exposure have been shown in certain studies to disrupt natural hormone cycles and even affect fertility. More research is needed to understand triclosan's impact on people fully, but the ingredient has already been banned from several types of products.

May contribute to antibiotic resistance.

According to the FDA, triclosan is intended to kill bacteria, but its usage in consumer products may contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to a 2015 research review of how triclosan leads to antibiotic resistance, further research is needed to know how this chemical affects human health.

Hand sanitizer risks

There are risks to using hand sanitizer, especially if you use it in ways other than the package instructions. These risks can usually be avoided by using hand sanitizer just on the outside of your hands and avoiding contact with your eyes.

It can be harmful if swallowed.

The high amounts of alcohol and other ingredients make hand sanitizer unsafe for human consumption. According to the Texas Medical Center, anyone who swallows a large amount of hand sanitizer can get symptoms similar to alcohol poisoning.

It can cause blindness or damage vision if it gets into your eyes.

It's easy enough to apply hand sanitizer and accidentally touch your eye shortly afterward. However, the high levels of alcohol in hand sanitizer can cause chemical burns on your eye's outer layer. Typically, damage caused by hand sanitizer to your eyes will completely heal, but you may experience the following symptoms while it heals:

  • temporarily blurry vision
  • pain
  • redness

Can you overuse hand sanitizer?

There's a reason why doctors advise against using hand sanitizer and instead recommend washing your hands with soap and water. It's because it's very simple to accidentally overdo it with hand sanitizer and cause dry skin and other side effects.

If you use hand sanitizer so frequently that your hands get dry, germs from other surfaces may be easier to take up.

Additionally, your skin may start to crack or bleed. Skin that's dried out and cracked may also be more susceptible to bacteria.

Preventing hand sanitizer poisoning

Before purchasing hand sanitizer, read the ingredient lists and follow the instructions on the product label. For best results:

  • Always supervise children when they use hand sanitizer.
  • After use, wait until your hands are completely dry before touching your eyes or face.
  • Keep hand sanitizer in a cool, dry place to prevent alcohol evaporation.
  • Please don't overdo it. A pump or two from a hand sanitizer dispenser should suffice for your hands.
  • Stick to external use only. Never ingest or taste hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer benefits and how to use it safely

When used properly, hand sanitizer does have benefits, including:

  • quickly kills most types of bacteria on most surfaces
  • requires less time to be effective than washing your hands
  • is more convenient than soap and water when you don't have access to a sink

Hand sanitizer should only be used when your hands are clean and free of visible dirt. Rub your hands together until the hand sanitizer has completely absorbed a dime-sized amount (or less). Apply a moisturizer as soon as possible once the hand sanitizer has dried for the best benefits (and healthy skin). This will help prevent some of the less than desirable side effects.


When hand sanitizer is used correctly, side effects and risks are minimal. When you overuse the product, it can cause dry hands and cracked skin. Some ingredients in hand sanitizer, such as triclosan, might cause health problems if used in large quantities. Always read ingredient labels before you buy and only use hand sanitizer according to the guidance on the product label.

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