We hear a lot about hand sanitizer these days: why we should use it, what the correct way to apply it is, and how often it’s really needed. But what we don’t hear too much about is the fact that not all hand sanitizers are created equal.

What does that mean?

Well, according to places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand sanitizer is only really effective if it contains 60 percent or more alcohol. (And non-alcohol based hand sanitizers? They’re not that great at all.) Those sanitizers with lower alcohol content, well, that’s kind of a misnomer, because they’re not going to be able to do much in the way of actual sanitizing — while they might restrict the growth of germs, they’re not going to kill them. Bottom line? Use something strong enough.

But, here’s the thing: there’s a catch.

Many of these strong sanitizers can dry your hands, especially if you’re using them on a regular basis. And most of us are now — we’re using it again and again throughout the day, and it’s not just a matter of drying out your hands and feeling a bit of discomfort. Those dry, cracked hands can actually be dangerous, because prolonged damage to your skin can actually cause the development of things like dermatitis, and when it gets really bad? It’s entirely possible to develop bacterial infections in those cracks.

And that’s why using hand sanitizer is only part of the precautions you’re going to have to take to keep you — and your loved ones — safe during these strange times. You’re also going to have to make sure you’re choosing the right one. Make sure it’s strong enough and gentle enough on your skin at the same time, and you’ll have the best chance at keeping germs and illness at arm’s length.

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