Conran International Imports Ltd.
Rathnure, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Phone: 053 9255811

Are Hand Sanitizers Harmful?

Clean Hands Naturally

Keeping hands clean is one of the best ways to reduce the spreading of bacteria that can lead to infection and disease.  Although washing hands with soap and warm water is the best line of defense, it is not always possible.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends hand washing first, followed by the use of an alcohol based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.  But the problem with this is that we are pulling out the hand sanitizer a million times a day (purposeful exaggeration) and not only is this very drying to our hands, but many of the ingredients that make up the many commercial brands are less than desirable.

The main ingredient in the alcohol based hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol, also known as grain alcohol.

Ethyl alcohol enhances the absorption of other ingredients and is therefore used in many cosmetic products.  Although much of the alcohol evaporates while applying the hand sanitizer, small amounts do get absorbed into the blood stream through the skin.  When applied, the alcohol breaks down the outer layer of the skin to allow other chemicals in the product to penetrate the skin.  The problem here is that it allows other outside chemicals to be absorbed as well.  One study found that individuals who were using hand sanitizing products and continuously handling paper receipts absorbed up to 100 times more chemicals than those who did not use the disinfecting products.

Many sanitizing products also contain isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which can lead to allergic reactions resulting in irritation to the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory system.  It is also a known neurotoxin.

Many argue that because only small amounts of these alcohols enter our systems when we rub them into our hands, there are no safety issues. However, we have become a germophobic society with a never-ending supply of these products because we feel the need to disinfect at least every hour!  Remember, these products are generally recognized as safe by the FDA when they are used “as directed”.  Was the intent that we apply after touching practically everything we come in contact with?

What about alcohol free hand sanitizers?  Unfortunately the main ingredient in most of these products is benzalkonium chloride which has been linked to occupational asthma, chronic dermatitis and immune dysfunction. Benzalkonium chloride kills bacterial cells, but is also harmful to our cells, causing allergic reactions.

Another common ingredient in the alcohol free products is triclosan, which is added to prevent the growth of bacteria.  This ingredient is found in most hand sanitizers labeled as “antibacterial.” Research has shown triclosan to be an endocrine disrupter and neurotoxin, and may have adverse effects on the immune system. Did you know that triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in the late 1960’s?

Although these products can kill bacteria, there is concern that they can also elicit antibiotic resistance and the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria—superbugs!

Further, they do not protect against viruses or fungi. And it is viruses, not bacteria, that cause colds and flu.  A 2011 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that healthcare workers who were required to routinely use hand-sanitizing products increased their risk of developing a norovirus by almost 600 percent.

“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not be the panacea for hand hygiene they were once supposed, as mounting research indicates they may not be effective substitutes for soap and water, and in some cases may actually increase the risk for outbreaks of highly contagious viruses in health care settings.“

Many of these products also contain fragrances.  According to the Environmental Working Group, “fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”

Parabens are also a common ingredient.  They are chemicals added to many personal care products to prevent the growth of microbes, however they are known endocrine disrupters, are toxic to our immune and reproductive systems, cause skin irritation, and have been linked to cancer – specifically breast cancer.

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found:

“Parabens are used as preservatives in many thousands of cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products to which the human population is exposed. Although recent reports of the oestrogenic properties of parabens have challenged current concepts of their toxicity in these consumer products, the question remains as to whether any of the parabens can accumulate intact in the body from the long-term, low-dose levels to which humans are exposed. Initial studies reported here show that parabens can be extracted from human breast tissue and detected by thin-layer chromatography…

…These studies demonstrate that parabens can be found intact in the human breast and this should open the way technically for more detailed information to be obtained on body burdens of parabens and in particular whether body burdens are different in cancer from those in normal tissues.”

When reading a product label it is a good idea to look out for and avoid the following commonly added parabens: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.

So what is a healthier and more cost effective option?

Make your own hand sanitizer!  It is easy, inexpensive and most importantly good for your skin and overall health!


  • 8 ounces 100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel
  • 15 drops Tea Tree Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender Oil
  • ¼ teaspoon Vitamin E


Drop essential oils and vitamin E into a small glass spray bottle and gently shake to combine.  Add the aloe Vera gel and shake again to mix the ingredients.  Shake well before each use.  The hand sanitizer may feel a little sticky upon application but this will disappear as it dries.


Why these ingredients?

  • 100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, and it is also a carrier substance used to dilute essential oils.
  • Tea Tree Oil has an antimicrobial component and has been shown to kill several types of bacteria, viruses and fungi.  Studies involving in vitro testing have shown it to be effective in killing germs ranging from Staph to E. coli.
  • Lavender Oil is not only used for its pleasing scent, but it has been shown to inhibit the growth of MSSA and MRSA (drug resistant staph infections) as well as fungal infections.
  • Vitamin E  moisturizes the skin and acts as a natural preservative.

Nature has provided us with everything we need to be healthy, an studies are now proving it!