The best and most recommended way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria is to wash your hands. But in instances where you might not be near a bathroom or just want extra protection, hand sanitizers are the next best thing (or best additional thing) — especially as we’re all trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When it comes to hand sanitizer, there are two types of people: Some of us have kept a little bottle in our bag for a decade, while others only associate it with hospitals and doctors. Whichever camp you fall into, the bottom line is that we want to stay as healthy as possible. So we asked the experts to explain the ideal way to use hand sanitizer — along with their favorite recommendations.
Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, breaks down the basics of how to use hand sanitizer properly. “Hand sanitizers are designed to kill bacteria and viruses that cause infection,” he tells Allure. “In order for hand sanitizers to be effective, you need to use enough to fully cover the entire hands and fingers.”
How much is that exactly? “I typically recommend about a quarter-size dollop,” says Zeichner. “After applying, rub your hands together for about 20 seconds and let them dry fully.” Hand sanitizer can be drying, so after applying make sure to use moisturizer to restore hydration and improve the skin’s moisture barrier.
Keep in mind that hand sanitizer is meant to kill germs, not erase visible dirt. “Sanitizers simply don’t work as well when your hands are covered in dirt and grime. Soap and water is a better option,” says Boston-based dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling. Similarly, if you’ve touched harmful chemicals, like pesticides or heavy metals, opt for good ol’ fashioned soap and water.
For on-the-go cleansing, Frieling recommends a sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. “The alcohol acts as what’s called a denaturing agent, versus soap, which acts as a detergent. Essentially, alcohol kills or inactivates viruses,” she says. If you have sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema, opt for an alcohol-free version — but keep in mind that “nonalcohol-based hand sanitizers may not reliably kill all microorganisms,” according to Zeichner.
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