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To Sanitize or Not to Sanitize?

To Sanitize or Not to Sanitize?

I’ve never been big into using hand sanitizers.  Even though they were supposed to protect me from any bad little bugs that came my way.  I never liked the awful, chemically, perfumy scent, and I didn’t like how my hands felt after using them – so dry and papery.  Yet everyone seems to have one in their pocket or purse.  My office has a sanitizer station by every door and in every bathroom.  

Did I missing something?  Do I just need to get over my aversion for the simplicity and “safety” sanitizers supposedly provide?  How did we ever survive before hand sanitizer came along?  Or is there more to the story?  This recent article by Dr. Chris Kresser make me pause and re-evaluate my stance on these ever-popular personal care products.  And it motivated me to find a better alternative, though nothing replaces a good hand washing with soap and water.

As it turns out, there are a lot of good reasons to avoid using conventional hand sanitizer.

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent added to many personal care and cleaning products, including hand sanitizers.  This little gem has been shown to disrupt hormone regulation and immune function in the body.  Two big things we DO NOT want when trying to heal, especially if you struggle with autoimmune issues!  Additionally, Triclosan contributes to the growing issue of antibiotic resistance.  If you see the word “antibacterial” on the label, chances are the product contains Triclosan.

Parabens are another all-too-common addition to personal care products.  They can be found on the label as themselves (ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben or propylparaben, for instance) or hidden within other ingredients, like “fragrance” and “perfume”.  Parabens are known estrogen mimicers, disrupting the body’s natural balance and production of estrogen, and contribute to endocrine disruption, immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and cancer.

Speaking of “fragrance” and “perfume”, hand sanitizers are usually full of them.  Since these chemical cocktails are considered trade secrets, no one knows what’s actually in them but the companies who make them.  There could be anything!  Artificial and “natural” fragrances have been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive system disruption, allergies, and respiratory distress.  I guess I was right in trusting my nose when I didn’t like the smell!

Use hand sanitizer and you’ve just opened yourself up (quite literally) to a whole bunch of environmental toxins.  Many personal care products, including hand sanitizers, contain dermal penetration enhancers.  These chemicals are intended to improve the delivery and effect of the active ingredients present in the product.  Effectively, they open up your skin to let stuff in, including the stuff you don’t want.  According to Dr. Kresser’s article, hand sanitizers can increase the absorbtion of BPA (a known estrogen mimicer and immune disruptor) by the skin by up to 185%!

If I had my doubts about hand sanitizer before, researching this information has absolutely cemented the fact that I will never use hand sanitizer again!  I’ll be sticking with the old fashioned handwashing to keep the germs in check.  But where does that leave me if I can’t get to soap and water when I need to?  Remember that better alternative I mentioned before?  The active ingredient in this sanitizer is tea tree oil, which has been found to kill most bacteria and viruses at a concentration of 0.5 – 1%.  A 1% dilution also makes this santizer safe for use on children 2 years of age and up.

Natural Hand Sanitizer

  • 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 40-45 drops of tea tree essential oil (total essential oils should equal 50-55 drops for a dilution of 1%)
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel (or high proof vodka)
  • 8 oz. pure aloe vera gel or juice (gel will make it thicker, juice will create a watery consistency which is good for spray bottles)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  1. Combine essential oil and Vitamine E oil in a glass bowl (make sure you use glass as essential oils can react with other materials).
  2. Add witch hazel to oils and stir to combine.
  3. Add aloe vera gel or juice and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour into essential oil safe bottles/containers of choice.  Shake gently before use.

This should keep for several months since the Vitamin E oil acts as a preservative in addition to a moisturizer.

Where do you stand on hand sanitizers?  Have a favourite alternative?  Please share!

This post was shared on Natural Family Friday!

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