Does Alcohol in Hand Sanitizer Absorb into Skin?

by Fernando Martinez

In the wake of the ravaging coronavirus, hand sanitizer has become a buzzword. Even cave dwellers should know, at least, a thing or two about these products. Despite the burgeoning sensitization, one question seems poorly answered – that is, “Does alcohol in hand sanitizers absorb into the skin?

If you found this article, you’re most likely asking the same question. No worries, we will explain what you need to know about hand sanitizers and skin absorption.

Among others, this article discusses, primarily, the chances of hand sanitizers penetrating your skin as well as its possible effects.

But before we discuss these concerns, remember:

Consider Hand Washing First

Although hand sanitizers are more practical, experts claim washing hands with soap and water is safer.

Health experts and organizations – Including WHO, FDA, and CDC – unanimously endorse handwashing as the safest preventive technique against germs spread.

However, the recommended handwashing with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after every suspicious surface contact is widely unrealistic.

Too often, there are no faucets – and/or soaps – around when you need to disinfect your hands.

Hence, it may be fair to name hand sanitizer as most efficient against dreaded diseases, like coronavirus.

Hand sanitizer usually come in compact sizes, which makes them mobile and perfect for on-the-go.

For sure safety, health bodies recommend ONLY alcohol-based hand rubs with not less than 60 percent alcohol concentration –but not more than 90 percent. Anything less, or more, may not provide effective protection.

Does alcohol in hand sanitizer absorb into the skin?

As we investigate the ingredients of some skincare products and their effect on our system, it’s okay to also wonder about hand sanitizer’s effect – in this case, internally.

If you use hand sanitizers regularly, this should be a concern.

Studies have found a trace amount of alcohol in the bloodstream of hand sanitizer users. This may happen for some reasons.

With up to 60-90 percent alcohol concentration, medical experts say such high concentration may force a small amount through the skin – particularly with regular applications.

Also, although rare, the alcohol content of sanitizers can be inhaled as it evaporates.

A survey at the University of Florida sampled 11 participants. The subjects applied hand rubs every five minutes for 10 hours daily. On the third day, the research authors recorded alcohol metabolites in participants, typical of alcohol consumption.

However, the researchers conclude that the result may be due to the excessive amount of sanitizer used by participants and too-frequent application.

Are you skeptical about hand sanitizers absorbing into your skin?

While some alcohol may absorbed into your bloodstream, it’s usually too negligible to worry about. These crucial points will help you stay safe.

Hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are safe for use, provided they contain the recommended isopropanol or ethanol – nothing else guarantees your safety.

For application, follow the recommended usage direction.

While concern or fears about an unhealthy exposure to hand sanitizers is valid, consumers do not need to panic.

How do you know if you’re using a safe hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizers are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs regulated by FDA. Hand sanitizers that meet FDA’s OTC drug review conditions or that are manufactured under the conditions in FDA’s Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19), should be the only hand sanitizers you should purchase.

Importantly, when shopping for hand sanitizer, avoid products on the FDA list of recalled products.

If you find it on FDA’s list, discard safely.

The recalled products are typically hand sanitizers with 1-propanol or methanol contamination.

At any point, you discover your sanitizer contains these properties, halt usage and discard appropriately – according to FDA’s guideline.

Does Alcohol in Hand Sanitizer Absorb into Skin?

Protecting Yourself From Hand Sanitizer Poisoning

If you use recommended hand sanitizers and as directed, you’re safe. Although the ingredients may penetrate your skin, the amount absorbed is not significant to cause harm or toxicity. However, hand sanitizers should never be consumed orally as the higher dose could potential cause harm.  

However, ensure to keep hand sanitizers out of reach for young children.

Note that ethanol and isopropanol-based sanitizer can hurt your kids if ingested. For adolescents, they should be educated on the possible dangers of ingestion.

For safety, here are some helpful tips:

First, buy from brands that contain at least 60 percent alcohol concentration – remember only ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) and isopropyl (alcohol or isopropanol) are recommended.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid hand sanitizers with 1-propanol or methanol ingredients
  • Check the FDA’s list of prohibited hand sanitizers and avoid buying or using them. If you have one already, dispose of them immediately.
  • Do not ingest hand sanitizers
  • At most, two pumps should do per application.
  • Do not rub eyes with hand-sanitizer wet hands
  • Do not allow children apply sanitizers unsupervised
  • Store appropriately such as cool, dry places.
  • Share this new knowledge with friends and family.

When to seek help?

There are cases when you may need to call the local poison control centers for help. Typical instances include:

  • When a kid ingests a significant amount of hand sanitizers
  • When you feel concerns about haven consumed methanol-based sanitizers
  • When one develops a burning sensation or irritation after hand sanitizer use
  • When hand sanitizer enters the eyes

The Poison Center attends to any call about poisoning or suspicious exposures. So, feel free to call and discuss your concerns. These centers have highly trained and experienced poisoning specialists, including, pharmacists, nurses, and even physicians.


So, does alcohol in hand sanitizer absorb into the skin?

Yes, but it isn’t a concern if you follow the recommend use and purchase from trusted sellers.

During topical application, users are exposed to but a small amount of alcohol in the system. Experts say although a regular and excessive application may leave little alcohol in the bloodstream, it’s usually too minute to cause any significant concern when applied under recommended limits by adults.

Not sure which product ticks the right safety boxes and give you peace of mind, consider MOXĒ Premium Hand Sanitizers. Our hand sanitizer is FDA-complaint and rigorously tested for consumer safety. 

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