By now the importance of washing our hands before and after every activity has been drummed into us. We’ve seen the memes, the sing-alongs and the animated images depicting the correct way and time needed to wash our hands properly.


As handwashing took off as one effective way to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, so did hand sanitizers. While both hand soaps and hand sanitizers have disappeared off shelves, there’s a difference between the two. Washing your hands with soap and water is preferred as a method to get rid of germs. However, when soap and water isn’t available, hand sanitizer becomes the next best thing.


Diane Eales, who holds a cosmetic science diploma and is the Marketing and Development Manager for Bramley Cosmetics exclusive to PEP Stores, explains how hand sanitizer works, how to use it and how to take care of dry and cracked hands.


How does hand sanitizer work?

Some viruses have an envelope around them, and alcohol is effective at killing these viruses. The alcohol dissolves this envelope, it unfolds and inactivates the virus’s lipids and proteins. The alcohol needs to be mixed with a small amount of water as pure alcohol would dry too quickly and not denature the proteins.


When buying hand sanitizer what are the ingredients you should be looking out for to make it effective?

You need to have a minimum percentage of 60% alcohol to kill the coronavirus.  There are good hand sanitizers on the market that are made up of other ingredients and these are effective against different types of bacteria but the alcohol is the preferred effective ingredient for coronavirus.

Look for Alcohol Denatured, Ethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol before water (aqua). Although the alcohol is the active ingredient it would be wise to look for an emollient or humectant (ingredient) that will also help moisturise the skin, for example Aloe Vera.


What is appropriate application of hand sanitizer?

Place a small amount on the hands, rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of both hands, including between your fingers and up around your fingertips and nails. Rub hands together for 30 seconds to allow your hands to completely dry. Don’t touch food or anything until your hands are dry.


Do not use hand sanitizer on open wounds. Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for washing your hands. Hand sanitizer’s effectiveness is also dependant on how much dirt and oil you have on your hands. Hand sanitizer will not remove dirt and oil, you need to still wash your hands.


When should you be using hand sanitizer?

When your hands are not overly dirty and greasy. We are in uncertain times and therefore we need to use hand sanitiser as often as we can, but it is not a substitute for washing your hands.  Depending on the formulation of the hand sanitizer, washing your hands could be kinder to your skin health.


What happens to your hands when you overuse hand sanitizer?

Depending on the formulation of the hand sanitizer it could strip the skin of natural oils, this could result in skin irritation and sensitivity as well as dehydration.  It could compromise your natural skin barrier, and this can make the skin vulnerable to cracking and infection. Nails could become brittle and cuticles hardened.


Is it necessary to be using hand sanitizer during the lock down, or is it better to use soap and water?

You need to be using a combination of both. Soap and water is not always available and you need to hand sanitize as much as possible but soap and water will kill viruses and remove them from the skin.


If your hands are already suffering from dryness, what can you do to improve their feel?

You need to improve your skin barrier. Moisturise, moisturise and moisturise some more.  Whenever you wash your hands pat them dry – do not rub and moisturise.  A good hand and nail cream or tissue oil that contains ceramides would be best. These ceramides help with forming the protective layer of the skin and HOLD MOISTURE.


Are there any moisturisers you’d recommend for dealing with dry and cracked hands or is any moisturiser good?

Bramley’s* unique ingredient Bio-pharm oil contains ceramides therefore these products are perfect for caring for dry skin.  Bio-pharm oil is in most of the Bramley products.  The hand and nail cream would be best to use on the go in the day.  The tissue oil absorbs quickly and therefore could be used during the day by using a very small amount.  For dry hands it would be beneficial to use the rich body butter at night or the tissue oil or mix the two.  Try giving yourself a quick hand massage with the tissue oil this would also help lessen your anxiety that everyone is feeling as well as possibly put you in a better mood.


*Editors note: Bramley’s is exclusively available at PEP Stores, which are closed during the 21 day national lockdown. If you don’t have a tissue oil at home, use any moisturiser or even some Vaseline to keep your hands soft and cared for.

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