French dermatologists warn over hand gel and sun

Some French dermatologists are warning that the high percentage of alcohol in hydroalcoholic gel could, when combined with sunlight, cause skin burns or leave marks on the skin.

It is known that the gel dries skin but that dryness in combination with the sun could create a risk of burn or irritation.

If you wear a sun cream this should not happen, said health and hospital hygiene doctor at Bordeaux University Hospital, Pierre Parneix.

The general advice is to moisturise your hands regularly if you notice that the gel tends to make your skin dry.

Dermatologists also advise washing your hands with soap and water if you want to wash your hands when at the beach or when exposed to the sun.

The problem comes from the composition of the gel which should contain around 60-70% of alcohol.

Dermatologist and member of the National Union of Dermatologist-Venereologists (SNDV), Catherine Oliverès-Ghouti said: “[A gel] is composed of about 70% alcohol. It is a photosensitizing substance: if you expose your hands smeared with hydroalcoholic solution on the beach, for example, you risk what is called dermatitis charms, a characteristic burn caused by the reaction of the alcohol on the skin with the sun. To put it plainly, you first develop a burn, the skin is red and irritated, then the spot takes on a brown pigmentation that can last for years.”

When buying hand gel, it is advised to choose one which contains at least 60% of alcohol, and glycerin to protect the hands, and no perfume. The scented or ‘original’ gels are often more aggressive for the skin.

Mme Oliverès-Ghouti also said: “It is not necessary to use hydroalcoholic gel at the beach: there, you don't touch any elevator buttons or door handles, just your own things and the sand.”

The dermatologist organisation, la Société Française de Dermatologie, has issued a list of recommendations for using hand gels at the beach or when you stay in the sun.

It stresses that hydroalcoholic gels are disinfectant solutions against bacteria, viruses, not hand washing products.

If the solution is thick, it is often because it contains glycerin to fight skin dryness.

You should not use it on wet hands, as it loses effectiveness by lowering the alcohol content of the product, and hydrogen peroxide in the solution exposed to water can cause an “exothermic” reaction, which can create a sensation of heat and irritation.

The Société Française de Dermatologie recommends to wash your hands with soap if you can, use hydroalcoholic gels only on dry hands, and avoid products with perfume or hydrogen peroxide.

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