Looking for Natural Hand Sanitizer: What’s Best for You?
Updated: Mar 24
As I started this post and as often happens, I began by exploring one thing and quickly landed on a different path altogether.
Pre-Coronavirus, hand sanitizer was something I carried periodically but not consistently, and in the midst of being confronted with the new standard of “wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your face”, I had to consciously change my habits to remember to put on hand sanitizer first before freshening up my eyeliner.
Initially, I thought no big deal. I have a ton of hand sanitizer lying around my apartment from gift bags and event giveaways, but as it goes with nature’s laws, once I started looking for said sanitizer, I could not find it anywhere. Coupling this with the run on hand sanitizer at every store and pharmacy, it quickly became obvious a few alternative options would be in order.
Inevitably, my first question turned to “where are all our black-owned hand sanitizer companies?”
Gratefully, I have been pleased to find there are quite a few!
Big props to our colleagues at TravelNoire, The Black Detour, and Blackbusiness.com who have all pulled together a great set of resources if you are in the market for hand sanitizers, and other natural cleaning products to protect your home, that also support businesses owned by our community (I particularly look forward to checking out selfēSteam Nola the next time I am in New Orleans where my family is from!). Beyond being black-owned, one of the things I love most is finding that nearly all of these companies are focused on and committed to providing natural alternatives to mass-market hand sanitizer brands, which led me to ask…what does natural hand-sanitizer really mean?
As more black women continue to make the transition to living a more natural-focused and plant-based lifestyle, I turned my attention to learning what are some of the things that make a great natural hand-sanitizer.
Here's a brief cheat sheet of what I found:
1. By in large, the main ingredient in most hand sanitizer is either isopropyl alcohol (i.e. rubbing alcohol) or ethanol alcohol (i.e. the same grain alcohol used as the base for many of the liquors and spirits we often associate with making cocktails). To be effective, the key is that any hand sanitizer you use must be made with at least 60% alcohol or equivalent.
2. Be careful with Glycerin and Carbomers! Consistently found in mass-market hand sanitizer brands, Glycerin is a non-toxic compound that can be sourced either synthetically or naturally, plant-based or from animal fat. Particularly if you are vegan or not in favor of using animal products, be sure to triple check this ingredient. In all cases, I prefer plant-based Glycerin. On the other hand, Carbomers are 100% synthetic, 100% of the time. Carbomers can contain impurities from the manufacturing process and can have an adverse impact on the environment.
3. Did I mention dry skin? I am sure I am not the only one seeing my hands, cuticles, and nails take a beating from all the added handwashing and sanitizing. For hand sanitizers that are a bit more forgiving, look for ingredients such as aloe vera, and added moisture from witch hazel and coconut oil. You can also check out these natural alternatives to glycerin.
4. To really take it up a notch, it turns out that therapeutic grade essential oils are EVERYTHING, from eucalyptus to lavender (my personal favorite). Essential oils range from having antibacterial and antimicrobial properties such as tea tree oil, to rosemary oil which serves as a natural preservative that will keep your natural hand sanitizer fresh for up to six months. With several options to choose from, here you may want to do a bit more probing on your own to find which combination of therapeutic grade essential oils works for you.
Last, but not least, and a challenge I have now set for myself, is to consider making your own natural hand sanitizer at home.
There are several recipes out there, and I found this one from Our Oily House to be quick and checks all the points from natural ingredients to using essential oils.
While going the homemade route may pose some challenges at the moment if you do not already have each of these ingredients at home, it is a great plan to get in place as we begin to regain a sense of normalcy. Plus, while practicing your homemade recipe, you can relive your college days with a bottle of “overproof” or Everclear 151 (75% alcohol by volume). Just a few ways to keep it light in times of adversity.
Drink responsibly, be safe and stay healthy!