Soap or Sanitizers
Currently we are being inundated with the Coronavirus or Covid-19. This virus is a large strand of RNA coated with structural proteins. The structural proteins are enclosed in a lipid membrane acting like an envelop. From the envelop spikes emanate giving the appearance of a crown. (Corona is Latin for crown.) So, the lipid membrane is the Achilles heel of the virus. It is easily destroyed by soap or sanitizers. This easily inactivates it before it finds a host.
As a result, we are being asked to wash our hands often with soap or sanitizers for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose.
Soap or sanitizers? Which is best?
Let’s look at our skin first. The skin has a thin protective layer that is referred to as the acid mantle. It is a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of human skin acting as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin. The pH of our skin is between 4.5 and 6.2. So, the skin’s natural pH is mildly acidic. It is important to maintain the acid mantle, as a damaged acid mantle can lead to dehydration, oily skin, acne, and sensitivity.
Repeated and frequent use of hand sanitizer has the potential to cause irritation to your hands over time damage through dryness, irritation, itching, scaliness, and even cracking and bleeding. Excessively washing your hands and using hand sanitizers will deplete the skin’s natural protective barrier. This array of symptoms is referred to as irritant contact dermatitis.
The alcohol base that makes these products effective can be irritating to the skin. Alcohol strips the skin barrier of essential proteins and lipids, resulting in irritation and leaving hands feeling dry and sore. Another type of skin reaction, allergic contact dermatitis, is rare and represents an allergy to some ingredient in a hand hygiene product.
Drying and cracking invite trouble as skin is the first line of defence. The skin normally acts as a barrier to keep moisture in and harmful agents out. Too much washing with a sanitizer could raise risk from other viruses. You can even get so dry and flaky that you start to have fissures or cracks in the skin where it hurts and burns when things enter. That could be a portal for bacteria to set in and cause an infection as well.
Also, sanitizers don’t clean off food residue. You may think that the sanitizer is the answer to anything visible or invisible that can soil your hands, but it’s not the case. Things like fats and sugar deposits don’t vanish from your hands because you added sanitizer. You need soap suds and water to wash them away.
Some medical experts have started to warn that the overuse of alcohol-based hand sanitizers to protect against the coronavirus could inversely raise the risk of infection via skin disorders. Overdoing the sanitizers may remove benign bacteria on the skin that normally fend off the viruses.
Antibacterial soap doesn’t work on viruses and the FDA banned 19 active ingredients in antibacterial soaps and body washes, including triclosan and triclocarban—the two most commonly used ingredients.
Soap is a surfactant, so it works well for destroying germs and viruses. The hand soap I use is super-mild and sudsy. It has wheat germ oil and algae extract to moisturize; soy protein to condition; aloe, marshmallow, and linden flower extracts to soothe; and rosemary and arnica extracts to energize. It is also pH balanced to not harm the acid mantle of our skin.
So, since we are being asked to wash our hands frequently these days, I recommend protecting your acid mantle with soap and washing for 20 seconds to dismantle the lipid membrane of the virus.
To your good health,