Hand sanitising has now become a way of life for all over the past year, about to touch a door handle? Sanitise your hands after. About to enter a shop? Sanitise your hands. About to eat? Sanitise your hands.
However, while hand sanitiser is a staple in the new Covid world – the same can’t be said for your hand care routine. People have been reaching for the alcohol-free sanitiser to see if this is a solution to dry and cracked hands – but does alcohol-free hand sanitiser work? We unmasked some truths…
WHAT IS RUBBING ALCOHOL?
In beauty and healthcare, the word ‘alcohol’ can be used to refer to either Ethanol or Isopropyl alcohol. They perform essentially the same function and have similar small molecules. Both are used in Hand Sanitisers and you can see on their INCI ingredient list which one is used. Both are referred to as rubbing alcohols.
In simple terms, this means it kills bacteria but doesn’t necessarily prevent their growth i.e it rubs it off. Rubbing alcohol is also known to kill fungus and viruses. Brands just choose which alcohol to use in a sanitiser.
Ethanol is the same alcohol we drink but in sanitiser it will have been made into denatured alcohol. Special bitters are added to ensure it is vile to taste and can’t be consumed by humans.
IS A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF RUBBING ALCOHOL IN YOUR SANITISER ALWAYS BETTER?
In short: No, the real sweet spot seems to be between 60-80%.
You can buy up to 99% alcohol. There will then be water added to the formula in the remaining percentage. The water is crucial as it allows the alcohol to penetrate the bacteria cells.
WHAT IS AN ALCOHOL-FREE HAND SANITISER?
To start, alcohol-free sanitiser is exactly what it says in the title: hand sanitiser that is made without any alcohol.
Alcohol-free hand sanitisers usually come in the form of foam and many brands say that this is a gentler approach, although this isn’t the case (as many skincare junkies will know).
No-Alcohol sounds like a more friendly formulation, but this is not always the case. Take a look at the basic formulation of alcohol-free hand sanitiser below.
ALCOHOL-FREE HAND SANITISER INGREDIENTS
- 95% water
- 5% super high-level preservative systems (chloride-based)
When you are preserving beauty products chlorides might be considered if they need a very drastic preservative, we wouldn’t use them in organic or natural formulas. Current recommendations by WHO and ongoing advice from Professor Chris Whitty is to use an alcohol-based sanitiser, not chloride-based.
Alcohol-Based vs Alcohol-free Hand Sanitisers
According to the Government guidelines, it states that 60-95% alcohol content is the level needed for it to work to inactivate bacteria and viruses including COVID-19. Hence why the majority of sanitisers on the market are alcohol-based. The reason alcohol-based hand sanitisers are prioritised in the official World Health Organisation and NHS guidance is that the evidence is much clearer in terms of efficacy.
However, not everyone wants to use a high percentage of alcohol sanitiser due to fears that it can be tearing apart your hands – as alcohol naturally strips moisture from the skin.
IS ALCOHOL-FREE HAND SANITISER EFFECTIVE?
Alcohol-free hand sanitisers, from our experience, are still effective. However, people tend to purchase these products as they think they will halt dry skin and irritation. However, our experience has shown they are more likely to irritate hands.
There are still clear benefits of alcohol-free hand sanitisers as they are less flammable. Often schools look for non-alcohol based sanitisers and they sound gentler or appeal to cultures and faiths - where the use of alcohol is not desired, as some religions prohibit the use of alcohol.
DOWNSIDES OF ALCOHOL-FREE HAND SANITISER
The answer to the question “Does alcohol-free hand sanitiser work?” is a clear yes, for now. But there are still disadvantages to be taken into account.
They work by leaving the preservative agents all over your skin, hence why alcohol-free hand sanitiser will be sticky and feel like there is a layer stuck on you. Not to mention, that they can be very irritating to the skin. The risk with children is that their instinct will be to wipe it off their hands so they may not be protected at all.
Alcohol-free hand sanitiser also has a shorter lifespan/ shelf life and require more testing as they are water-based. Water allows for things to grow within the formula, so sanitisers have to be challenge tested to prove they are not allowing microbes, mould, fungi or bacteria to grow in them. There is more risk that over time (2-4 years) the formula may not remain stable and have the same efficacy it did when made.
70% alcohol sanitisers will outlast us all. Remember to keep them airtight, they will last for years with no changes!
IS HAND SANITISER BAD FOR YOU AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
With increasing levels of plastic production and disposable masks, it’s no wonder that the public is now questioning whether or not sanitiser is bad for both themselves and the environment.
According to National Waste company businesswaste.co.uk found that just in the UK alone, up to 10-million empty sanitiser and soap bottles will be thrown away this year. While most people in Britain regularly make sure to separate their recycling from general waste, experts are worried that the lasting legacy of Coronavirus will be the vast number of hand sanitiser bottles polluting the oceans. It is a lesser-known fact that many gel-based sanitisers, whether they are alcohol or non-alcohol based also contain microplastics.
As Proverb is built around eco-consciousness, we wanted to create a sanitiser that would kill bacteria, smell like something you would actually want to spray onto your hands – all while being sustainably sourced and completely refillable.
The Proverb Refillable Hand Sanitiser does exactly that. By purchasing one handy 50ml bottle or slightly larger 250ml bottle, you will only ever need to purchase the refills after! It’s a win for the environment and your safety.
Want to know more about hand sanitisers? Check out our blog post on everything you need to know about hand sanitiser spray.