5 Natural Hand Sanitizers for Flu Season

As cold season approaches and runny noses abound, many people take extra precaution to avoid germs and viruses. It seems like a good idea to carry hand sanitizer on you for this reason—to eliminate bacteria when you can’t get to a sink (good old soap and water is the most effective option). But are conventional hand sanitizers really going to keep you healthy?

The answer is no: research has shown that conventional hand sanitizers are not truly effective at eliminating viruses, plus they can decrease your bacterial resistance with too much use. They have also been shown to contain toxic ingredients that cause other health complications.

Products that are labeled as antibacterial and antimicrobial are likely to contain the toxic ingredient triclosan, which is the case with nonalcoholic hand sanitizers. Triclosan, a petroleum-based, hormone-disrupting anti-bacterial agent, doesn’t actually protect against viruses or fungi or provide any disease protection beyond what soap and water can do. Colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria, so these antibacterial, triclosan-filled sanitizers certainly won’t help prevent colds from spreading. Triclosan is top of the list in global contaminants worldwide, particularly in waterways.

Other ingredients in hand sanitizers that are cause for concern include:

–        isopropyl alcohol, a petrochemical and neurotoxin (toxic to the nervous system) that can dry out skin;

–        benzalkonium chloride, associated with severe skin, eye and respiratory irritation and allergies;

–        parabens, linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, immunotoxictity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation; and

–        fragrances, which are comprised of dozens of non-regulated chemicals, many of which are highly toxic and contain phthalates (plastics that keep scent around longer). EWG rates fragrances with a high score of 8 out of 10 on the toxicity scale.

Hand sanitizers and gels seem convenient, but over-reliance and habitual use of these products could produce bacteria resistant to antibiotics, meaning that it even the most-powerful antibiotic treatments are not effective to these “super bugs”. Not to mention that if people use sanitizer over washing their hands with soap and water, the risk of spreading germs and contracting illnesses is greatly increased.

But when washing your hands just isn’t an option, there are better hand sanitizing alternatives out there. Alcohol-based sanitizers should be at least 60% alcohol to be effective, and non-alcohol should not contain toxic ingredients. Choose a natural product that includes plant-based ingredients and essential oils, like the brands below:

–        EO Hand Sanitizer Spray: made with organic, non-GMO ethanol (alcohol) plus lavender and Echinacea. Costs $1.99 for .33oz

–        Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer Spray: always fair-trade, organic and non-GMO, Dr. Bronner’s offers an organic ethanol and lavender-based spray. Costs $4.99 for 2oz

–        CleanWell Hand Sanitizer Spray: alcohol-free, benzalkonium chloride free, and biodegradable, made with aloe leaf, thyme and oregano oils (as well as orange and vanilla options), and plant-based emulsifiers. Costs $2-4 for 1oz

–        Method Hand Sanitizer Gel: ethanol based, plant-derived thickeners and moisturizers, aloe and essential oils. Costs $2.29 for 2oz **contains some questionable ingredients: carbomers, synthetic fragrances, synthetic solvent, isopropyl alcohol

–        Or, make your own! Using vodka (as the distilling alcohol), essential oils, and witch hazel