In addition to washing our hands with soap and water regularly, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers has become one of the main preventative measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19. However, as time passes, the continuous use of products that contain ethyl alcohol are starting to cause problems for all skin types, and especially for those, who like me, have sensitive skin …
Numerous, well-documented studies recommend avoiding the use of alcohol in skin-care products as it can cause not only dehydration, but when used in high concentrations, it also destroys the hydrolipidic film that protects the upper layers of our epidermis. It’s not surprising then that in this “new normal” we’re all living, we’re seeing an increase in cases of dermatitis on the hands due to the excessive use of hydroalcoholic gels, which normally contain between 60% and 90% ethyl alcohol. The reason is that ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) at high percentages, in addition to killing germs and deactivating viruses, also eliminates key skin lipids. It’s no wonder one of the most common comments we hear nowadays is “my hands are wrecked”!
As if that weren’t enough, there are also studies which show that alcohol inhibits collagen biosynthesis in fibroblasts and alters the protein structures of our skin, which, in plain English means it accelerates skin ageing!
How to counteract the effects alcohol has on our skin
In order to try and reduce skin problems caused by ethanol, moisturising your hands at least 3 times a day is a must (and so is avoiding overusing alcohol-based hand sanitisers!). I recommend using a hand cream rich in active ingredients such as allantoin and shea butter to restore lost suppleness, or highly soothing and hydrating aloe vera or mallow extract. In addition to these, look out for saccharide isomerate also, as it’s a sugar that binds strongly to skin amino acids and its hydrating effects last up to 72 hours in spite of repeated washing. In this instance, REWARDING BODY BALM is what I usually recommend from the Twelve Beauty range of products.
An alternative to alcohol-based hand sanitisers
If either your hands are suffering from the continuous use of hydroalcoholic gels, you want to avoid things getting that bad, or you’re concerned about using them on very young skins (the CDC warns that they might be associated with a greater health risks in young children1), perhaps it’s time to look for an alternative.
A virologist named Dr. Volha Teagle from BioScience Labs (Montana, USA) and her team selected a coronavirus strain structurally similar to COVID-19, known as human coronavirus 229E, and tested an alcohol-free, Benzalkonium Chloride based hand sanitiser against it. (As not all laboratories in the world have access to SARS-CoV-2 to perform tests, human coronavirus 229E has been specifically identified as the only strain of human coronavirus that government agencies and labs should used as a surrogate for COVID-192.) They discovered that Benzalkonium Chloride eliminated 99.9% of the virus in a 30-second test and found persistent protection at 60 seconds and 120 seconds according to their report3.
What’s more, in early February of this year the Singapore government issued an official statement based on published scientific studies confirming Benzalkonium Chloride as one of the key active ingredients capable of eliminating coronaviruses, the family of viruses to which the SARS-CoV-2 belongs4. Such evidence makes Benzalkonium Chloride a valid way of keep hands safe and germ-free without the need of ethyl alcohol. This news is of particular importance as this ingredient is one of the many biocides I chose to include in our CLEAR BEGINNING HAND SPRAY.
My idea behind CLEAR BEGINNING HAND SPRAY was to create an effective yet skin-friendly hand hygiene formula that was completely alcohol-free, as it’s known to dehydrate biological tissues (such as skin). For someone like me whose ethos has always been to prioritise skin health, I felt compelled to find a powerful yet clean, skin-safe alternative (or in reality, various active ingredients known for their germ-busting properties).
As a result, the formula contains an innovative blend of highly anti-microbial ingredients which have been carefully selected to keep skin microbe-free, happy and hydrated. Apart from Benzalkonium Chloride, its other active ingredients are Propanediol, a natural and sustainable alternative to glycols, which increases the antibacterial capacity of the formula; Lactobacillus Ferment, a hydrating probiotic capable of minimising bacterial growth in two ways (through acidification of formula itself and by producing antibacterial peptides called bacteriocins), and Cetrimonium Chloride, which in addition to being used as a skin conditioner, it also inhibits the growth of bacteria and germs. What’s more, to hydrate and repair skin, I’ve also included ingredients such as Oryza sativa (Rice) starch and Panthenol (B5).
In my opinion, it’s a very valid option for this new world we’re all trying to navigate as best we can.