Is Your Hand Sanitizer Causing Hand Dermatitis?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective reducing the spread of disease, but overuse can lead to severe hand dermatitis.

Hand Sanitiser Cloud

They’re everywhere: airports, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, and on many people’s key chains and backpacks: hand sanitizers.

A recent article in Cosmetic Dermatology titled “Rethinking Hand Sanitizers” looks at the benefits and drawbacks of hand sanitizers.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers when used properly do help prevent the spread of disease.  They’ve been endorsed by the World Health Organization and have played an important role in reducing the impact influenza and other infections.

Unfortunately, hand sanitizers are also a major cause of hand dermatitis which can lead to severe dryness, burning, redness, and cracked, bleeding skin.

So, should you stop using hand sanitizers? Not yet. They’re still less drying than soap-and-water hand washing. Instead, try this: Use hand sanitizers when necessary. And moisturize frequently.

If you develop a raging case of hand dermatitis, then follow these steps:

1. Stop using hand sanitizers, unless absolutely necessary.

2. Treat your hands to thick moisturizing creams, such as Neutrogena Hand Cream, and apply repeatedly throughout the day.

3. At night, apply a thick moisturizing cream or a healing ointment such as Aquaphor to your hands and wear cotton gloves to trap moisture in the skin.

4. It may take up to 2-3 weeks for your hands to heal at which point you can start to safely use your hand sanitizer again. But don’t stop the moisturizing, unless you want to keep repeating steps 1-3.

Here’s a video that shows you how to properly use hand sanitizer.

Photo credit: FCC, bratha