When the pandemic hit with a vengeance last March, people found themselves scrambling for items that had suddenly become essential, including hand sanitizer. While face masks and PPE may be relatively new concepts for the average American, hand sanitizer was something that was far more commonplace, but in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, had suddenly become a valuable and extremely difficult to find commodity.

Thankfully the days of empty store shelves and bottles of hand sanitizer selling for astronomic prices are long behind us. It didn’t take long for manufacturers to kick into gear and meet the growing demand for hand sanitizer, which is typically comprised of alcohol and a moisturizing agent, with a touch of fragrance or essential oil often added to replace the medicinal waft with a more pleasant scent. While alcohol is the key ingredient in hand sanitizer, giving the now familiar gel its germ-killing abilities, its repeated use can irritate and even crack the skin, which made a softening substance an important part of the equation, particularly today when frequent hand sanitizing has become a part of everyday life just about everywhere.

With the Centers for Disease Control recommending the use of hand sanitizers with no less than 60 percent alcohol, aloe vera has proven itself to be the moisturizer of choice when it comes to hand sanitizing, its unique properties enhancing both the product’s effectiveness and the user experience. In addition to helping skin retain moisture, aloe vera’s gel texture and body add thickness which makes for a smoother application that takes a few extra seconds to apply, giving the alcohol in the product more contact time on the skin which enhances its effectiveness as a germ killer. Aloe vera also forms a protective layer on the skin, leaving hands smoother and softer, factors that will likely encourage more frequent use.

While hand sanitizer has become commonplace only recently, aloe vera gel has been used for both health and cosmetic purposes for centuries, with both Alexander the Great and Cleopatra said to have availed themselves of its benefits. Derived from the aloe vera plant, a succulent that originated in the Arabian peninsula and stores water in its long spiky leaves, aloe vera gel contains powerful antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. It is an extremely effective moisturizer that is also used to treat burns, insect bites, minor cuts, and other skin problems and is believed to bring another benefit to the table when it comes to hand sanitizers. While an unopened bottle of isopropyl alcohol has a shelf life of approximately two to three years from its manufacture date, that number decreases once the bottle has been opened and as the product begins to evaporate over time, its lesser concentration reduces its germ and bacteria-killing abilities. According to the Texas-based Aloe Laboratories, the addition of aloe vera actually slows alcohol’s rate of evaporation, extending the life span of a bottle of hand sanitizer’s and its all-important germ-killing abilities.

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