Natural hand sanitizers are an effective and environmentally friendly way to keep your hands clean. The good news for natural beauty enthusiasts is they can be made from natural ingredients, meaning they will match your values while providing protection from germs and bacteria and still being gentle to the planet.
Now, some beauty enthusiasts might be looking to make organic hand sanitizers and will be wondering if this is possible. Unfortunately, there are ingredients used in natural hand sanitizers that are not available as ‘organic’ which means you won’t be able to achieve a 100% organic hand sanitizer.
However, if you spend some time identifying the ingredients used in hand sanitizers that are available as organic, you simply need to swap out the natural ingredients and replace them with organic ingredients you’ve found. The process is quite simple and whilst this won’t give you a 100% organic hand sanitizer, it will enable you to make a natural hand sanitizer that is as organic as you can make it and it will be effective, safe to use, good for the environment, kind for the planet and gentle to the skin.
In this guide, we describe what natural hand sanitizers are and how they work. We provide details on how to make your own antibacterial hand sanitizers and tap into a fast-growing market segment.
What is a hand sanitizer?
Hand sanitizers are a type of rinse-free, fast-drying hand cleanser that cleanse the skin of dirt, impurities and bacteria. Hand sanitizers protect us from germs, bacteria and harmful substances that can exist on dirty surfaces, including viruses. Hand sanitizers dry quickly and can be spritzed onto the skin and rubbed in for a quick-drying, no fuss cleanse; perfect for on-the-go hand cleaning.
Hand sanitizers can be used after washing hands with soap and water for extra reassurance, but it is not advised to use these rinse-free cleansers in place of typical handwashing procedures as they do not work against all pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms).
How do hand sanitizers work?
Hand sanitizer sprays are simply formulated, consisting of water, alcohol (usually ethanol or isopropyl alcohol) and glycerin, and sometimes contain essential oils.
There are two types of alcohol commonly used in alcohol-based hand cleansers. These are ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, and both the CDC and the FDA suggest that antibacterial hand cleansers should contain at least 60% ethanol to be effective.
Both alcohols can be bought either in hardware stores or pharmacies, depending on your country, as well as online.Denatured ethanol (made by adding additives to make it unsuitable for consumption) will have much lower taxes than ‘regular’ ethanol, which can be consumed. This makes denatured ethanol a lot cheaper to buy
Some viruses are made up of an outer lipid bilayer that envelopes and protects the virus’s genetic material. The bilayer’s components have affinity with the alcohol structure making it easy for the alcohol to surround the water-lipid interface, bond to the internal phase and destabilize the internal proteins, thus inactivating the virus.
This antimicrobial mechanism is similar to that for bacteria. This means that alcohols can have both antiviral and antibacterial activity.
Some viruses do not have an outer lipid membrane, in which case this mechanism will not work. This is why hand sanitizers are not recommended as a replacement for handwashing as only handwashing with soap and water will kill non-enveloped viruses.
Why do you need to add water to hand sanitizer formulations?
It is a common misconception that the higher the alcohol concentration used, the more effective the product will be. In fact, higher than recommended concentrations are paradoxically less potent since, as explained above, alcohol kills viruses through coagulation/denaturation of proteins. This can only occur within the presence of water.
Alcohols are also very volatile, meaning they evaporate easily at low temperatures. The addition of water slows down the evaporation, increasing the contact time between
the product and the skin/bacteria, increasing the efficacy.
An increased ethanol concentration can also lead to skin irritation.
Can I make my own hand sanitizer at home and will it be effective?
Making a hand sanitizer is more simple than you may realize. Depending on what type of alcohol you use, a simple formulation can be followed using a minimum of three ingredients (four if you want to enhance the scent of your product with fragrant and therapeutic essential oils).
Preservatives aren’t needed, due to the low content of water in hand sanitizers, and solubilizers are not needed because of the high alcohol content.
The even greater news is that you can create your very own natural hand sanitizer in the Natural Cosmetic Formulation Club’s Hand Sanitizer Sprays class!
In this class you will discover all there is to know about hand sanitizers as well as getting your hands on three formulation variations!
Learn how to make a floral Rose and Geranium Hand Spray, a sweet citrus Lavender and Sweet Orange Hand Spray and a citrusy herbal Aloe Vera and Lemongrass Hand Spray!
What regulations are there for hand sanitizers?
Hand sanitizers are either classified as a cosmetic or a biocidal product/drug, depending on the claims you make about the product and the regulations in your country.
For example, if you say your hand sanitizer’s main function was to moisturize or physically cleanse the skin, with its secondary function being antibacterial, this would follow the cosmetics regulation. If you claimed your hand sanitizer ‘kills viruses or bacteria’, this would classify the product under the Biocidal Products Regulation in the EU and UK.
You must thoroughly research which regulations apply to you (and your hand sanitizer) and ensure you abide by them.
Luckily, there is a section in the Hand Sanitizer Sprays class that helps you navigate the various regulations of different countries. If you’re a member of the Natural Cosmetic Formulation Club, you can access this class right now.
What else do I need to know when creating homemade hand sanitizers?
When making hand sanitizers, you may want to consider what equipment you may need, as well as your manufacturing method. Alcohol must be stored in a flameproof cupboard, and can ignite at very low temperatures.
How you package and store your hand sanitizers will need to be thought about, as well as their optimum pH level and shelf-life.
These are all covered in our Hand Sanitizer Sprays class in the Formulations Lab section of the Natural Cosmetic Formulation Club.
Not a Member?
Check out our Natural Cosmetic Formulation Club page here to find out how you can join the Club, get access to the class on Hand Sanitizers and discover more exciting material that’s released on a regular basis!
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