Alcohol Based Hand Sanitisers and Bacterial Resistance

Posted on : 11.25.2016 Updated on : 10.4.2018
Alcohol Based Hand Sanitisers

Alcohol hand sanitisers have become increasingly popular over the last decade as a way to keep our hands clean and protect us from germs. They are used in our homes, in our hospitals and in our businesses. We carry them with us on a daily basis and encourage our children to use them. But did you know there are two different types of hand sanitisers that you could be using.

Hand sanitisers come in two types; the first type just uses alcohol, while the second type uses alcohol in combination with antibacterial agents such as triclosan, benzalkonium chloride or chlorhexidine gluconate.

Alcohol kills bacteria by damaging the proteins in the bacteria cell membrane and dissolving some of the fatty materials that sit in the membrane. This makes the cell membrane leaky and the contents of the cell leak out causing the bacteria to die. Because of the way alcohol works, it is not possible to develop resistance against it.

Resistance occurs when bacteria develop ways to get around the effects of antibacterial agents. We are seeing this happening with many antibacterial agents and antibiotics. The reason antibacterial agents are sometimes included in hand sanitiser is that they can prolong the effects of the hand sanitiser, that is, they have a residual effect. But by having a residual effect they also give the bacteria time to get used to them and develop resistance. Ultimately resistance means they won’t work as well anymore.

Alcohol is a very effective antimicrobial agent and has been extensively used as an antiseptic and disinfectant for many centuries. Alcohol-only hand sanitisers are effective against bacteria, fungi and virus. Alcohol-based products are more effective than either plain soap or antibacterial soap in the removal of micro-organisms from the hands and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers instead of soap reduces skin irritation.

Alcohol is highly effective on its own and it does not need added antibacterial agents to be effective; this has been confirmed by the WHO, the CDC and the FDA. Adding antibacterial agents just increases the chance of creating resistance in bacteria and can increase the chance that users will develop dermatitis from the product.

So when you are looking for a hand sanitiser what should you look for. You want one that contains alcohol as the only active. You want the formula to contains 60-95% alcohol, which means it would be the first ingredient on the ingredient list. And you don’t want added antibacterial agents such as triclosan, benzalkonium chloride or chlorhexidine gluconate. You should also pick a product with added moisturisers like glycerine and pro-vitamin B5 to help keep your hands moisturised.

Click here to purchase an Aqium Handsanitiser.

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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is not good for the skin. Why would skin care companies use this chemical?

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