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Are you damaging your hands by overusing soap and alcohol?

Constant hand cleaning is becoming a requirement however is it also becoming a potential hazard? Hand sanitiser needs to contain at least 60 per cent alcohol to be an effective cleaner and this can have significant side effects for frequent users- • Compromises the integrity of skin • Causes reactions such as drying and cracking • Which allows easier passage of irritants and infection • Accelerates visible aging • Enters your blood stream and liver • Can disrupt hormonal balance

Dermatologist Dr Louise Reiche told TVNZ1’s Seven Sharp she’d seen an increase in cases of dermatitis, and that there’d been a lag in the cases. She said the fragrance in hand sanitisers can trigger irritation. "Fragrance would be your commonest cause of problems on the hands."

A recent UK news article on the subject sighted comments from Emma Coleman 'The skin barrier has a certain permeability when it's balanced, and part of its structure is oil (ceramides), which are a fats that maintains skin integrity. 'If that's compromised, or if the skin starts to become cracked, this means that the structure or permeability (of your skin) has been compromised or put under stress. It will become extremely reactive to the product being put on to it.'

Dr Ismat Nasiruddin, a dermatologist at, adds: 'Alcohol is known to be a skin irritant and very drying for skin, especially sensitive, damaged or fragile skin such as eczema. 'Damaged skin can (then) react to things that would not irritate normal skin, and we know that this is due to the 'skin barrier' being damaged. This allows easier passage of irritants and infection and difficulty retaining moisture, as well as disrupting the natural skin bacteria.'

Emma added that some hand gels contain triclosan, an antibacterial compound for added protection- 'They also often contain artificial fragrance and a combination of any of those things can compromise the skin,' she said. 'An overuse of sanitiser will affect the skin barrier, leading to dry, cracked skin and accelerated aging.'

If the nails were already quite brittle and in poor condition - then Emma says using the hand gel could have an impact and make things worse. The skin is highly porous and any product we put onto our skin can have an effect. It will go into our blood, and all humans are highly hormonal creatures our bodies try to excrete these kind of things and one of the pathways is through the liver.'

To combat it, Dr Reiche recommends moisturising. “Waiting about half later and then putting a moisturising cream on your hands can help to compensate or undo some of that dryness.”

Alternatively just switch to Spraysafe - certified effective in NZ and completely alcohol free. SpraySafe eliminates 99.9% of germs but is 100% alcohol free and 100% non toxic.


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