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Are hand sanitizers bad for nails?

Michelle’s concern…I’m freaked out about getting the piggy flu so I use a hand sanitizer like 10 times a day. Now my nails look like crap. Is there a connection?

The Left Brain responds:

Yes, Michelle, hand sanitizers are effective against germs but they can have a negative effect on your skin and nails.

Sanitizer insanity

One of the Beauty Brains’ favorite resources is North Carolina dermatologist Dr. Zoe Draelos. In a recent article in the Dermatology Times, Dr. Draelos talks about the damage that waterless sanitizers can do to your hands. In fact, she claims that they are the biggest cause of increased brittle nails. That’s because nails need some level of water content to allow the keratin protein to flex and bend when deformed. But the alcohol in these products strips nails of moisture, thus leaving them more susceptible to breakage. And the danger isn’t limited to sanitizers – over applying highly fragranced hand lotions can cause the same problem.

Nourishing nails

Dr. Draelos suggests hydrating nails with lotions that contain urea and lactic acid. These two ingredients soften the nail somewhat and allow it to absorb more water. Be careful not to over-apply these products because too much can actually weaken the nail and make the problem worse. She concludes the article with these six tips:

  • Reduce waterless hand sanitizers
  • Don’t over apply hand lotions
  • Wear gloves when using cleaning products that contain solvents like Formula 409 or Windex
  • Don’t soak your nails
  • Use protective nail polish
  • Moisturize nails at night with urea or lactic acid cream


Do you have any nourishing nail tips? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

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