When You Use Too Much Hand Sanitizer, This Is What Happens

In these modern times, bottles of hand sanitizer can be found everywhere — from store check-out displays to your friends' entryways to even your car. According to the CDC, washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a key factor in our fight to prevent the spread of diseases. Preventing such spread is vital for a healthy community, of course. But before you reach for the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer, you should know what happens if you start relying on it too often.

First off, the overuse of the germ-killing liquid could disrupt your hand microbiome. A review in the Journal of Dermatological Science revealed that the hand microbiome is a critical variable for transmitting microorganisms between people, pets, and objects within our environments. Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention at UPMC, told The Healthy, "There's no question that use of hand sanitizer — not just overuse, probably any use — will 'disrupt' the hand microbiome." Essentially, hand sanitizer may be killing the "bad" germs, but it could also be getting rid of the "good" germs as well. Here's what else you can expect if you're constantly reaching for the sanitizer bottle.

Look out for dry and cracked skin

If you notice the skin around your hands is becoming dry or cracked, your hand sanitizer habit could be to blame. Alex Berezow, microbiologist and vice president of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health, explained to Insider, saying, "Using too much hand sanitizer dries your hands out, and they can crack and bleed. If you have a skin condition like eczema, this could exacerbate it."

If you find yourself using hand sanitizer even though there is a sink and soap nearby, it's time to cut back. We get that it is often more convenient and takes less time. But according to the CDC, you should only opt for sanitizer when "soap and water are not readily available." And if your hands are visibly dirty, definitely stick with soap and water. "Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not remove dirt, and are less effective at killing bacteria and viruses when hands are soiled," Dr. Snyder told The Healthy. "It's important to use soap and water if your hands need to be cleaned of dirt."