Many people see hand sanitizers as the cornerstone of disease prevention. They have been used by some as an adjunct to hand washing, and religiously by others. While hand sanitizer brands like Purell have enjoyed booming sales during the flu season however, a study at Columbia University showed that after giving inner city families free antibacterial soap, detergent, and other cleaning supplies for a period of time, the families showed no reduction in respiratory illness.
Hand sanitizers work by depleting the top layer of oil on the skin. Instead of eradicating all bad bacteria though, it prevents some good bacteria already present in our skin from surfacing. After continued use, whatever bad bacteria the sanitizer does eliminate will start to mutate and eventually become immune to antibacterial agents. This means the bad bacteria on the hand can even increase!
For these reasons, I always suggest cleaning your hands the old fashioned way with soap and water. It is the best way to prevent the transmission of disease. Hand sanitizers are full of alcohol and can cause bacteria to build up a resistance to antibiotics, which is not healthy. Also, because it is riddled with chemicals, it even has the potential to age the skin quicker. Sure those compact hand sanitizers are easy to carry around, but I would not recommend sacrificing good health for convenience!