Know your hand wash! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 09, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 09, 2019

Know your hand wash!

We all know of products to take care of our body, our hair, or our face. But how much thought does one spare to care for their hands, other than the hygiene aspect? Your hands need some care too, especially when you think of the assault it will take this Baishakh. The heat, lugging around many heavy trinkets that you must have, and of course, just about every unsanitary thing that you need to touch.

There are innumerable hand care products these days- hand and nail creams, balms, hand cuticle cream, hand gel cleansers, hand manicure butter, hand sanitisers, and of course, the hand wash.

For being the most mobile and most used organs of our bodies, for their constant need and utility in our daily activities, hands are also the easiest route for thousands of harmful microorganisms to enter our body, and hence must be kept clean at all times. 

And thankfully, people these days are very health conscious- almost everybody cleans their hands regularly throughout the day, and most people opt for a hand wash rather than ordinary soap to keep their hands soft.

But, did you know that many hand washes, even those produced by world-famous brands, add chemicals that actually harm our skin cells?

So, before you go for your next month’s grocery shopping, make sure to purchase those hand washes that avoid the following:

Any sort of fragrance- Fragrances are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream where they pose health risks, including endocrine disruption, organ toxicity, allergies, asthma, neurotoxicity and cancer. Fragrances also frequently contain phthalates (which won’t be listed on labels), which are associated with hormone disruption, birth defects and developmental toxicity. Even “natural” fragrances aren’t safe to use because they can trigger allergies and can also contain phthalates

• Parabens- They mimic the behaviour of oestrogen in the body and are associated with endocrine disruption, cancer, and developmental toxicity. They are also toxic to the environment. To avoid parabens, avoid hand soap containing ingredients ending in –paraben

• Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) - Sodium Laureth Sulfate is used as a surfactant and emulsifier to add foaming properties in hand washes. The health concerns with this are organ system toxicity and irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs

• Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) - This causes irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs. When this ingredient is inhaled, it can cause coughing and a sore throat. Contact with the skin or eyes can cause redness or pain. Ingesting sodium lauryl sulphate can lead to nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea

• Triclosan- Triclosan is a substance that’s used as an antibacterial agent in hand washes. You’ve probably read that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) finally banned this nasty thing in September 2016 and gave manufacturers one year to re-formulate their product. That means you probably shouldn’t have to watch out for it too long, but if you didn’t know this, then this is to inform you that  it can accumulate over time in the body and cause hormonal imbalances and organ system toxicity.

• Synthetic Colours- Synthetic colours are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. They will be labelled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number

• Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) - It is linked to cancer, allergies and organ system toxicity.

So, before you buy any hand wash, make sure you read the label to know what ingredients are present. Try to go for the organic ones. But no matter how ‘safe’ companies may boast their product to be, it is best that you justify it yourself by thorough checking.

You can search with “The Environmental Working Group,” where they have created a huge database of cosmetics chemicals and ranked them, giving them a hazard score. On their site, you can enter specific chemical names to find information and look up a specific product and see its ingredients.

If you have the time and energy, you can even make your own hand wash at home! It’s very simple and needs the following ingredients:

1/2 cup castile soap liquid.

1/2 cup distilled water.

1 tbsp vitamin E oil (optional)

1 tbsp sweet almond oil or olive oil or jojoba oil

15 drops tea tree essential oil.

5 to 10 drops lavender essential oil.

And voila! You have your self-made organic hand wash.


The Global Hand washing Day is celebrated each year on 15 October, and was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, and is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands and create awareness.


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