Read This If You've Been Using Hand Sanitizer

Folks, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...

Whether I'm writing to you about hospital visits, prescription drug costs, retirement, or even travel, I've warned about the dangers of relying on others when you should be looking out for yourself.

After all, the only person who has your best interests at heart is you.

Now, I'm saying it once again. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") recently alerted consumers to the presence of high levels of toxic methanol, or wood alcohol, in certain hand sanitizers. Methanol can cause dermatitis when rubbed on the skin... and blindness or even death if ingested.

That's right... on top of COVID-19 uncertainty and recession fears, now we're supposed to worry about whether our hand sanitizers are going to poison us.

But this shouldn't come as a surprise... In response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and the sudden skyrocketing demand for bottles of hand sanitizer in every home, office, pocket, and purse – the FDA relaxed the rules for making hand sanitizer, allowing an additional 1,500 manufacturers to join the market. Suddenly, everyone from your local brewery to the college student down the street was allowed to start making and selling bottles of the stuff.

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I've written before about the dangers of over-sanitizing... and why you shouldn't use these products as a substitute for washing your hands. When it comes down to it, handwashing is far more effective at keeping your hands clean from viruses and bacteria. In addition to germs, handwashing removes grease, dirt, and pesticides from your skin. So I always recommend washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water as your go-to cleansing method whenever possible.

But as society starts to reopen, you might be finding yourself away from home more often during the pandemic. If washing your hands isn't an immediate option, there are a few ways you can make sure you're sanitizing as safely as possible...

1. Don't DIY: While it might seem tempting to make your own hand sanitizer using whatever you have in the liquor cabinet, it's better to leave it to products that have been tested for safety and effectiveness. Homemade hand sanitizers can cause skin irritation or even chemical burns. There's no way to guarantee that homemade sanitizers have the correct percentage of alcohol in them... and ingredients like essential oils in some recipes can cause skin sensitivity.

2. Beware of bogus claims: In April, the FDA issued its first warning letter to a hand sanitizer company for making unproven pandemic-related claims. The company, Prefense, said its product was "like wearing an invisible glove" and could protect users for "10 hand washes" with one application. Of course, there's no evidence to support those claims... but as the pandemic drags on, Prefense won't be the last company to make false or misleading statements about its products. Don't let companies like this profit off your fear... if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Follow up with handwashing as soon as possible: In the case of COVID, hand sanitizer is better than nothing... but there's no substitute for good old-fashioned soap and water. As soon as you can, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a clean towel. You can find my full list of handwashing tips here.

Remember, it's easy to panic over reports of spiking COVID-19 cases as quarantine is lifted... But don't buy into the hysteria and forgo common sense. Do your research and pay attention to what products you're purchasing. And most important of all... wash your hands.

What We're Reading

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 9, 2020