Carex has launched a range of new hygiene products, including an alcohol-based sanitising spray you can use on hands and surfaces – such as trolley handles – as well as an antibacterial body wash and hand cream, and soap bar.
It’s good to see innovation in this space, as we all try to protect ourselves and others from the new, more transmissible strain of COVID-19.
But anti-baccing yourself from head to toe isn’t really necessary and could actually be overkill.
We’ve taken a closer look at the new range to see how the claims stack up and what you need to know before you buy.
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Carex Antibacterial Hand & Surface Sanitiser Spray, £2.50
This two-in-one alcohol-based spray is marketed as a convenient way to keep things hygienic ‘on the go’. For example, when supermarket shopping: a spray for the trolley, a spray for you.
Carex says it’s safe for both hands and surfaces. This sets it apart from surface cleaners as they tend to contain harsher ingredients that can damage skin.
It has 70% ethanol as its active ingredient, which means it should be effective at killing germs – included enveloped viruses such as coronavirus – on hands and surfaces.
Dr Primrose Freestone, Associate Professor in Clinical Microbiology at the University of Leicester, cautions that sprays containing alcohol may not be suitable for some situations, such as in the kitchen, as alcohol is highly flammable.
The alcohol denat in this Carex spray means it should be quite lightweight on skin.
If you hate the texture of gels and the tacky feeling some can leave on your hands, it could be preferable. But there’s a risk that a spray formulation might evaporate more quickly than a gel, especially if you spread it over a large surface area in a short period.
Dr Freestone says: ‘Gels are more viscous than liquids and are retained on the hands longer than a liquid, which is more likely to drip off the hands. A gel potentially allows more of the hand to be sanitised because of its longer presence.’
So if you have a spray formula, it’s important to be judicious with covering your hands well and not spreading it too thinly (this goes for gel sanitisers, too).
Try not to apply it in a stiff breeze either, as it may simply get blown away.
A high alcohol content and spray formula can potentially be a bit drying compared with some gel formulas, but this spray does also contain glycerin, which is a moisturising agent.
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Do you need to spray surfaces when shopping or commuting?
Evolving science about COVID-19 transmission suggests that airborne transmission is probably a more significant risk than picking up the virus from fomites – surfaces and objects carrying disease.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to catch the disease from an infected surface, though. Good hand hygiene remains vital, especially with a faster spreading variant – and there are still plenty of unknowns.
It’s not going to hurt you to spray down a trolley or handle, and you may find it handy to have a multi-purpose product to hand when out and about. But if you’re vigilant with washing or sanitising your hands after shopping or commuting anyway, then it’s not really necessary.
If you are keen to do this, it’s worth remembering that many supermarkets have hand-sanitising stations at the store entrance with a selection of wipes, sprays and hand gel for you to use anyway.
You may also get through the relatively compact spray bottle quite quickly if you’re using enough on your hands to cover them properly, and spraying it on surfaces while out and about.
Carex Antibacterial Body Wash, Anti-Bac Hand Cream and soap bar
Carex has also launched a range of antibacterial products, including a body wash (£1.50), hand cream (£3.50) and soap bar (£1).
Lest we forget, antibacterial products are claiming to kill bacteria, not viruses. But even so, there’s psychological comfort in reaching for something that sounds a bit more protective than the average shower gel.
Carex says the body wash is ‘best used when the skin needs a little extra care’. But what does that mean?
Standard soap and water – and any normal shower gel – disrupts the lipid layer of coronavirus and inactivates the virus. And, as Dr Freestone says, it’s the physical act of washing this and other microbes off the skin that has the major disinfecting effect.
Dr Freestone says: ‘Adding an additional direct antibacterial agent to the soap kills more microbes as the washing removal takes place.’
But is this needed?
‘If there is a topical skin infection present it may help in its treatment, but for most people, soap and water cleansing will work well enough to keep their skin healthy,’ she says.
Not all skin bacteria are bad
Dr Lena Ciric, environmental microbiologist at UCL, cautions against overly enthusiastic general antibacterial use on the skin unless you’re fighting a specific infection: ‘If anything, we need to keep our skin microbiome intact (the many beneficial microorganisms which live on our skin) as it protects us from pathogens.’
It’s also not 100% clear where the Carex body wash falls on the spectrum of antibacterial and regular body wash.
When we asked what the active ingredient was, Carex told us: ‘There isn’t a specific active ingredient in Carex Antibacterial Body Wash that makes it antibacterial. Carex is primarily a cleansing wash and has additional antibacterial properties to help clean, care and protect you and your family.’
It added: ‘Carex Antibacterial Body Wash is formulated to be at a lower pH than most standard body washes. Our products have been developed to keep skin healthy and help maintain a healthy skin pH.’
The bottom line is, most of us don’t need a specific antibacterial soap or shower gel.
Carex Anti-Bac Hand Cream, £3.50
Hand cream is a useful extra to prevent and soothe dry skin and irritation associated with frequent hand washing and sanitising, but is the added ‘anti-bac’ element necessary?
The Carex hand cream contains benzalkonium chloride, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial ingredient.
Dr Freestone says that an antibacterial hand cream might be useful to prevent bacterial skin infections in sore or irritated skin, but in this case a prescription cream would probably be more appropriate.
Crucially, it’s important to note that a hand cream with ‘anti-bac’ isn’t a replacement for thorough hand washing or hand sanitising. Carex says it’s ‘best used as part of a healthy hand hygiene routine’.
Dr Freestone points out, too, that the ingredients in this Carex cream are targeted against bacteria, not viruses.
So, it may be helpful if you’re prone to chapped hands, but it’s worth being in the know about what it can actually do and what it can’t.
Proper hand hygiene remains key
Ultimately, proper hand hygiene remains the best way to protect yourself from this route of transmission.
Washing thoroughly with soap and water, or using hand sanitiser while you’re out and about, are established ways to keep yourself safe, along with wearing your face covering properly and maintaining social distancing.
Prices correct as of 28 January 2020