This time last year you were probably Googling 'last minute holidays' rather than 'best hand sanitisers'. But now, faced with a second wave of Coronavirus, this germ-nuking gel has never been more essential.
Do hand sanitisers really disinfect your hands?
While washing your hands with soap and water remains your best line of defence, anti-bacterial gels come to the rescue between washes or when you don't have access to a sink.
Still, to effectively disinfect your hands you need to make sure it contains the right ingredients, at the correct value.
When you're buying a hand sanitiser, scan the label for one of these three ingredients: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride.
All indicate that the formula contains alcohol, which should be at a threshold of 60 per cent or higher, say Public Health England guidelines. If your bottle contains any less alcohol than that, it may reduce the growth of germs but not actually kill them.
There's one more thing to bear in mind if you're digging out your bottle from the back of your bathroom cabinet. 'The active ingredients are only guaranteed effective until the expiration date,' says Dr. Andrew Alexis, MD, chair of Mount Sinai's department of dermatology.
The new wave of skin-friendly hand sanitisers
There's no doubt that hand sanitiser is another weapon in our arsenal against Coronavirus.
But some facts apply across the board. With such a high alcohol content, most reek of chemicals and can be exceptionally drying to hands. Hence, sales of hand creams have sky rocketed in recent months. What's more, despite slipping effortlessly into your routine, hand sanitisers feel more practical than luxe.
But that's all set to change now that more beauty brands have pivoted their business to produce anti-bac gels, spritzes and lotions. All meet safety criteria but temper gnarlier ingredients with gentle humectants and essential oils for a sensory treat.
Take This Works, for example. It has dropped a hand sanitiser with its signature Stress Check scent to relieve feelings of tension and anxiety.
Best Hand Sanitiser Gel: This Works Stress Check Clean Hands Gel, £15, Lookfantastic
70 per cent alcohol kills germs, while dry patches will eat up the hyaluronic acid. The addition of lavender, neroli and camomile essential oils help you take deep, relaxing breaths.
And if you're worried about how much single-use plastic you're ploughing through (we all should be - this year one billion single use hand sanitisers are expected to be bought in the UK alone), consider the sustainable option. Beauty Kitchen's refillable hand sanitiser saves 11 single-use plastic bottles.
Best Sustainable Hand Sanitiser: Beauty Kitchen Hand Sanitiser Spray, £7.50
Protect hands with this refillable organic formula and simultaneously reduce your single-use plastic consumption.
With that in mind, scroll down for our pick of hand sanitisers that are pure upside to use...
The 16 best hand sanitisers for your handbag and home
Unsurprising for this hard-working apothecary brand, its anti-bacterial gel kills approx 99.9% of bacteria and is scented with an energising blend of mandarin rind, rosemary leaf and cedar wood. Another bonus: the brown glass bottle protects against UV rays so fewer preservatives are needed in the heavenly-scented formula.
Keep hands germ-free with this three-piece bundle from cult K-Beauty brand Tonymoly. Hydrating aloe vera water offsets the alcohol in the formula so you get a powerful barrier against both germs and irritated skin.
Cowshed's luxury hand sanitiser comes in two sizes - one for your handbag and this one for your bathroom. As well as cleansing hands after they come into contact with surfaces, a spa-like blend of grapefruit and lavender soothes the senses.
A purse-friendly option if you get through a lot of hand sanitiser. It's anything but basic, though, as the glycerin helps to keep your skin's protective barrier in tact and lock in moisture.
If traditional hand sanitisers are too drying for your hands, look no further than La Roche-Posay. As with its skincare, the brand has formulated its anti-bac gel with gentle humectants and anti-inflammatory mineral water so it won't rile even the most sensitive skin.
Available in various fruity scents – we love the mango – this won't strip the skin of moisture and is a surefire way to get your teenager to regularly apply hand sanitiser.
Old-school aromatherapy meets modern tech in this formula as the 63% alcohol content is bolstered by anti-viral rosemary and lavender essential oils.
The impressive 80% concentration of alcohol will put your mind at rest and can be used on hands as well as surfaces.
This all-natural hand sanitising spray uses alcohol, alongside purifying witch hazel and essential oils (think lemongrass, lavender and thyme) to leave skin squeaky clean and smelling fresh.
There's not much this dual-action hand sanitiser and hand cream doesn't do. Skin is kept free of bacteria and blanketed by the brand's Luxury Black Orchid Hand Cream. Oh, and the tube features a compact mirror and a handy compartment to hold your rings in while you use it. One word: genius.
Despite the significant 70 per cent alcohol this no-rinse hand soap doesn't compromise on caring for skin and lifting the senses with cooling essential oils like peppermint and pine.
If it's value you're after, this bundle of five should top your shopping list. It works out at £2 per bottle, and the formula is not only effective but smells amazing thanks to orange and bergamot.
Of course this protects, but it's also one of the most pleasurable anti-bac sprays to use courtesy of skin-strengthening emu oil (a rich source of essential fatty acids) so hands never feel tight or uncomfortable.
Obviously a hand sanitiser created by a candle company is going to smell divine. But this still manages to be as luxurious as it is practical with 70% alcohol.
This combines the best of both worlds: a spray-on sanitiser for keeping hands clean on the go and floral and musky notes that wouldn't look out of place in a luxury hand cream.
Staying true to its organic roots, Susanne Kaufmann uses 62 per cent alcohol derived from vegetables to produce this sanitising spray. More like a tonic she'd serve up in her spa in the Bregenzer Forest, it also contains arnica and silk proteins to keep skin happy and healthy.
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Fiona Embleton has been a beauty editor for over 10 years, writing and editing beauty copy and testing over 10,000 products. She has previously worked for magazines like Marie Claire, Stylist, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography and catwalk trends.