During cold and flu season, hand sanitizer can be an excellent line of defense against infection. However, not all hand sanitizers are made equal. Some may contain ingredients that smell great but aren't effective, while others may be too strong for your skin. Before you stock up on sanitizer solution, here are some things to look for to help ensure protection from germs.
Some sanitizers use alcohol as an effective way to kill bacteria and germs. In order to be effective, the sanitizer should contain 60 percent or more alcohol, according to the CDC. You can use formulas with a higher percentage, but you should avoid those with amounts lower than 60 percent. Alcohol free hand sanitizer are also an option, but you'll want to make sure they contain an effective active ingredient, such as benzalkonium chloride. Avoid formulas containing only essential oils and perfumes, as these products may not provide any antiseptic benefits.
No matter which formula you select, it's important to practice safe storage and usage habits. Even alcohol-free hand sanitizer can be harmful if ingested. Be sure to store these products out of the reach of children. You should also supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer. Look for bottles with caps that close securely to prevent tiny hands from gaining access to the contents inside. If you keep disinfectant wipes in your diaper bag or purse, be sure they are stored in a container that snaps shut and is difficult for children to open.
The ingredients in hand sanitizer can cause your skin to become dry and cracked with frequent use. You may think that alcohol-free hand sanitizer will prevent dryness, but you may find that your skin can still be sensitive to these products. Fortunately, some formulas contain moisturizing and nourishing ingredients to help prevent this type of skin damage. Look for sanitizers enriched with vitamin E, aloe vera, shea butter, and other nourishing ingredients. If you are unable to locate a formula with these protective ingredients, consider keeping a travel-size bottle of lotion with you. Apply the lotion after using the sanitizer to help combat dry skin.
Sanitizer comes in a variety of packaging options, so be sure to choose the right package to meet your needs. Travel-size bottles are ideal for life on the go, but they often require a squeeze or spray for application. This means handling the bottle with potentially germ-ridden hands. A pump bottle may be a better option, but you can also use disposable disinfectant wipes to handle the bottle before application. For offices or home use, consider a large pump bottle that can sit on a desk or bathroom counter. Be sure to wipe down the pump with disinfectant regularly to keep germs off of your hand sanitizer packaging.