Hand sanitizers are a very popular and widely used personal hygiene product. They’re convenient and portable, especially if you don’t have access to a sink to wash your hands as often as you’d like.
Bacterial resistance is by far by biggest concern when it comes to the overuse of any anti-bacterial compound- this includes hand sanitizers as well as anti-bacterial soap.
A wave of research has recently confirmed not only the extent of the importance of “good” bacteria for our health, but has also elaborated on the complexities of this microbiome. Not only are these important bugs in our mouth and GI tract, but they also line our skin and airways and reproductive organs. We’re quite literally swarming with bacteria- and this is a very good thing.
Watch the video below for a great explanation of the roll of bacteria and the microbiome
Having an extensive microbiome protects our immune system, fights off infections, maintains good digestion and even affects our cognitive ability and mood. That’s why it’s very important to eat fermented foods full of probiotics, fiber rich foods and/or to take supplements to maintain this delicate balance.
Hand sanitizers (and anti-bacterial soaps for that matter) don’t discriminate in killing bad bacteria and good bacteria. That means any time you use it, you’re killing off precious beneficial bacteria and actually increasing your risk of infection.
Many use hand sanitizers in an attempt to avoid catch the flu or a cold. However, remember those are both caused by viruses and not bacteria- so anti-bacterial sanitizers are ineffective. So when we weaken our immune system by killing off good bacteria, we’re actually more susceptible to viral infections.
As if that’s not bad enough, overuse of anti-bacterial products also contributes to overall bacterial resistance. This means though it may kill off many bacteria, it leaves behind some of the stronger strains to reproduce and proliferate. With no other strains to compete with, this then leads to “super bugs” that can cause dangerous infections that are less susceptible to antibiotic treatment. Scientists and healthcare providers are predicting that if we continue to overuse antibiotics (in soaps, sanitizers, medication and animal feed) we may inadvertently create superbugs faster than new antibiotics to treat them (you can read the CDC’s report here).
Check out more of my personal care product picks in the Farmacy Favorites section.
But keep in mind– nothing replaces proper hand washing technique. The act of rubbing your hand together under running warm water for at least 20 seconds is actually much more effective than any antiseptic product.
So what do you think? Are you ready to stop using hand sanitizers? Why or why not?