Skip to Content

Hand Sanitizer For Acne: Does It Actually Work? (EXPLAINED)

Don’t use hand sanitizer for your acne. Not even if it’s an emergency. I’ll give you the short answers to all your hand-sanitizer and skin care related questions right now: No. It won’t work. It’ll dry out your skin. It’ll sting. Don’t do it.

Table of Contents

Does Hand Sanitizer Get Rid Of Acne?

Hand sanitizer does not get rid of acne. And it doesn’t work as a once-in-a-while substitute for any of your acne products.

This misnomer stems from the fact that hand sanitizer does kill bacteria. While it’s true that bacteria is in part responsible for causing acne, products that actually prevent acne travel into your pores to wash away bacteria, oil, dead skin, and more. All those ingredients combined are what create pimples and zits.

Hand sanitizer isn’t formulated to unclog your pores and deal with oil and dead skin. It’ll kill the bacteria on the surface of your skin without doing anything else that might be beneficial.

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Acne Bacteria?

Hand sanitizer does kill bacteria and acne-causing bacteria, but it ends there.

Actually preventing acne takes more than just killing acne-causing bacteria. You  need to use a good men’s face wash to dissolve acne-causing oil; a great toner to exfoliate away acne-causing dead skin; and an acne-preventing moisturizer to hydrate your skin.

Hand sanitizer doesn’t stack up to any of those products, and it certainly doesn’t belong in your skin care routine.

What Happens If You Use Hand Sanitizer On Your Face?

If you use hand sanitizer on your face, your skin is going to become unbearably dry. Hand sanitizer is usually over 60% alcohol, and alcohol is a terrible offender when it comes to causing dry skin.

Even if you use a moisturizer afterwards, you shouldn’t use hand sanitizer on your face for the same reasons that you shouldn’t exfoliate your skin too often. Drying out your skin that often can cause long-term irritation, infections, and health issues.

But the real kicker is the simple fact that hand sanitizer isn’t designed to be used on your face. It’s in the name. The skin on your hands is thicker and contains different glands than the skin on your face. You shouldn’t mix products between the two.

Does Hand Sanitizer Open Pores?

Hand sanitizer neither opens nor closes your pores. It’ll just sting and redden your skin.

The true secret to shrinking pores is by using daily face washes that are designed for oily skin and large pores.  The two problems are often intertwined. More oil leads to larger pores that are better at secreting more oil.

Like we mentioned earlier, hand sanitizer dries you out. Often, when your skin gets too dry, it freaks out and produces more sebum (oil) to hydrate your skin. So hand sanitizer is not a short- or long-term solution for oily skin and large pores.

Can Hand Sanitizer Cause Breakouts?

Hand sanitizer can trigger eczema breakouts and even make your acne worse.

We just mentioned that the drying properties of hand sanitizer can trigger your sebaceous glands. That means your skin is ramping up oil production, which in turn causes clogged pores that lead to pimples and zits.

If you’ve already made the mistake of using hand sanitizer on your face and are looking for solutions, here’s how to exfoliate with eczema.

Can You Use Hand Sanitizer On Acne Scars?

Hand sanitizer does not repair skin damage, so it won’t work on your acne scars.

Instead, start using one of the best facial scrubs for men in conjunction with one of the best lotions for men. Exfoliants help boost your skin cell turnover, and lots of lotions and moisturizers contain skin-repairing ingredients that can help you fade scars.

Hand sanitizer will only irritate the skin on your face, causing more redness and making scars more noticeable.

Does Hand Sanitizer Get Rid Of Black Heads?

Hand sanitizer will not help you get rid of your black heads. It doesn’t travel any deeper than the surface of your skin, so it won’t dissolve the ingredients that cause black heads or unclog your pores.

I would recommend literally any other facial product over hand sanitizer. I know it’s exciting to think you’ve discovered a “life hack” by spot treating your pimples with hand sanitizer, but I promise, it’ll only make things worse.

If you’re desperate for a hand sanitizer “life hack,” use it on your armpits if you forget deodorant on a trip. Use it to remove fingerprints from your phone screen. Disinfect that gross public toilet with a few squirts of hand sanitizer. But don’t let it anywhere near your face.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.