Hand sanitizer has become so norm that we don’t even think before sticking our hands under the automatic dispensers next to the elevator, the work kitchenette, etc. We carry around little containers of sanitizer for “cleaning up” before eating, after taking the bus, and even when we go camping.
As with most heavily processed products, conventional hand sanitizers have some weird/bad stuff in them. Triclosan, an active ingredient in many antibacterial products, is currently being reviewed by the FDA because there’s evidence that it’s contributing to bacteria resistance, it’s nasty in general (the EU banned it in any product that could come in contact with food), and it isn’t even effective in protecting against seasonal infections (which are mostly viral, not bacterial).
Other less-than-desirable ingredients in your everyday hand sanitizer include parabens (common in personal care products, and linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive and immune problems, and skin irritation) and chemical fragrances (linked to allergies, dermatitis, and respiratory issues).
Most hand sanitizers are comprised primarily of alcohol, which is pretty effective in slaying both bacteria and viruses, but which kills not just disease-causing bacteria but also healthy microorganisms on the skin. (The skin’s naturally occurring microorganisms are important for immunity and protect against the invasion of harmful bacteria.) Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also dry out your skin, which reduces its protective functioning.
What to do?
Essential oils are good sanitizing alternatives because they have antibacterial, antifungal, and other antimicrobal properties.
Bldg 25 (the Free People blog) has a great recipe for all natural homemade hand sanitizer. You’ll need aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, lavender, clove, and lemon essential oils, Vitamin E oil, and witch hazel. These ingredients are all easily available on Amazon.
Wellness Mama has another trusty recipe for homemade hand sanitizer, which includes rubbing alcohol (it has its downfalls, as listed above, but it kills germs if you need it to), aloe vera gel, grapefruit seed extract, tea tree and cinnamon essential oil, and distilled water.
* * * *
So, there you have a couple recipes for homemade hand sanitizers to use when you need ’em. But also know that a good old fashioned hand washing with soap (non-antibacterial, just normal soap) and water is probably the most effective way to keep your hands clean(ish) and your immunity strong.
New research suggests that hyper-sterilizing ourselves with persistent use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may actually inhibit proper immune development, especially in children. Our immune systems require exposure to common germs to develop properly and stay strong.