What Is Hand Sanitizer Lotion And Should You Be Using It?

Using hand sanitizer is a great way to clean your hands when you're on the go and don't have access to soap and water. This convenient product can effectively kill any potentially harmful bacteria that are lingering on your hands, so they don't end up being transferred to your face. While it has great germ-fighting properties, hand sanitizer can cause your hands to become dry and cracked, especially during winter (per Today). That's because the main active ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol.

Most hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol, according to Everyday Health. This percentage is the minimum needed to effectively kill germs and bacteria, but that much alcohol can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving your hands dry and irritated. The upside is there are hand sanitizers that contain moisturizing ingredients to keep your skin germ-free without the risk of extreme dryness and other unpleasant side effects.

Moisturizing hand sanitizers are less likely to cause dryness

Traditional hand sanitizers can be quite harsh on the skin, especially for people who have sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema (via Everyday Health). Besides dryness, they can cause your hands to become red, flaky, and even inflamed, which may cause or worsen other symptoms and conditions. Moisturizing hand sanitizers, however, can offer protection against some of the harsher ingredients in hand sanitizer.

"The latest generation of hand sanitizers is truly a hybrid between skincare and disinfectants," Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Everyday Health. "They contain the same types of hydrating ingredients found in traditional hand moisturizers, to protect the skin barrier from the ingredients that are necessary to kill microorganisms that spread infections."

However, this doesn't mean that hand sanitizer lotions won't contribute at all to dry skin. It just means that they're less likely to cause dryness and other related side effects. According to Zeichner, you should use it only when you don't have access to soap and water.