Skin condition associated with intensive use of alcoholic gels for hand disinfection: a combination of biophysical and sensorial data

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Although hand hygiene is an important and inexpensive measure to prevent nosocomial infections in clinical settings, the compliance of healthcare workers remains low. In Europe, alcoholic hand disinfection is first choice, but there exists a limited user acceptability due to estimated adverse effects on skin condition. This study was designed to investigate skin tolerance to alcohol-based disinfecting gels and changes in skin condition depending on humectant concentration, alcohol grades, as well as type of alcohol used. A comparison of 6 alcohol-based gels was made based on a randomized double-blind study under in use conditions for 1 day. Skin condition was evaluated by measuring transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum hydration, apparent skin pH, redness and degree of scaliness. With respect to user acceptability, all gels were sensorially evaluated using a questionnaire. We saw that none of the alcohol-based gels, applied under in use conditions, altered TEWL or caused irritation. All gels hydrated the skin, proportionally to their glycerine content, and decreased skin pH. Elevated ethanol concentrations resulted in increased scaliness. Sensorial assessment revealed less appreciation for isopropanol. From this study, it was concluded that gels containing an elevated glycerine concentration and 70% (v/v) ethanol are preferred.

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