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Why The Type of Alcohol In Your Hand Sanitizer Matters

by Erin Fabio on Aug 31, 2020

By now, hand sanitizers have probably become an integral part of your daily life, constantly spritzing before and after you do mostly everything. From the moment we step out the door, we’re lathering our skin in our trusty hand sani. But, do you really know what ingredients go into your hand sanitizer? Something you’re routinely rubbing into your precious skin should contain ingredients that you know are safe to use. Effective hand sanitizers are alcohol based, but as production of hand sanitizers has skyrocketed, we’ve learned there are a lot of manufacturers using not-so-good-for-you to toxic ingredients. Don’t fret luvs, we’re here to help! We’ve outlined the different alcohols, which ones are safe to use, and which are included in OLIKA’s ingredients. 

Hand holding a pipet dropper

Types of alcohols: Know who’s who

  • Isopropyl alcohol: Otherwise known as rubbing alcohol, is one of the most common types of alcohol. It’s used for cleaning and disinfecting lots of things, from removing ink and marker stains to polishing jewelry. It really does live up to it’s household name. It’s not super toxic so it is safe for skin use in small amounts, but definitely not approved for drinking. It’s also very dehydrating and is not as effective when mixed with hydrating ingredients like aloe. 
  • Ethanol: Also known as ethyl alcohol, is our key effective disinfecting ingredient in OLIKA Hydrating Hand Sanitizer! Here’s where it gets interesting - there is denatured ethanol and non denatured ethanol. Non denatured ethanol is safe for drinking and found in beer, wine and liquor. Denatured ethanol has a bitter (but safe for topical use) ingredient added to deter people from drinking it. Think of it like that bitter nail polish you used to use to keep yourself from biting your nails. 
  • Methanol: Also referred to as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, is one of the most dangerous kinds for both skin usage and if it’s ingested. When absorbed through the skin or swallowed, it’s extremely toxic. Methanol has been known to lead to major complications such as blindness, seizures, damage to the nervous system, hospitalizations and in extreme cases, death. It’s commonly used as a lab solvent, fuel additive, and antifreeze. Definitely be sure to keep it away from your body! 

Methanol vs. Ethanol: knowing the differences 
Not only do these two have similar names, but their molecular structure is super similar too. The only difference between them is one carbon, with methanol containing one and ethanol containing two. Although their structures and names may be similar, don’t be fooled! This is pretty much the only similarity between them. Methanol is processed by our bodies in a vastly different way than ethanol, which is actually safe to ingest. On the other hand, if we were to ingest methanol, it is metabolized into formaldehyde and formic acid, which is toxic and even fatal. Since their molecular structure is so similar, when ethanol is made it is common to find tiny trace amounts of methanol. A trace amount is defined as 0.5% or 0.2% mL/L, but don’t worry, this tiny trace amount is safe to use on your skin and is found in most all products with ethanol. Methanol is what we have been seeing in the news lately -- manufacturers have been using methanol in hand sanitizers which is very toxic and, as a result, they are being recalled. The issue with the Menthol we are seeing in the news is that it is being used to replace ethanol at levels of 65-70%. 

Alcohol in Hand Sanitizer
Although there are multiple types of alcohols that could be used in hand sanitizers, there’s really only one kind that should be used. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled two brands of methanol hand sanitizer due to their high presence of methanol and warned consumers against buying over a dozen other brands that tested positive for methanol due to its toxicity and adverse health effects. The CDC recommends staying away from hand sanitizers made from methanol and urges consumers to stick with ethyl alcohol hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol (like OLIKA with 65% ethyl alcohol!). 

OLIKA and its ingredients 
At OLIKA, we believe that anything that touches your beautiful hands should only include ingredients you know and can trust. That’s why we’re all about transparency! Our hand sani’s are now made from denatured ethyl alcohol. By using denatured alcohol, the ethanol ingredient is no longer safe to drink, but it is still non-toxic and totally safe for your precious hands. We do not use methanol in any products, but like we said before, sometimes there are still trace amounts of methanol in any ethanol product. Don't fret, we have tested for methanol and have only a trace amount of 0.001% - much less than even the safe trace amount - so you can always trust our products and their ingredients. 

We want you to always be sure you know exactly what your products are made of, especially when we’re talking about your skin. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sanitizing! 


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