A tough-sounding acid that is a superhero in the fight against COVID-19 and gentle enough to use on your face to treat acne? It may sound like a comic book legend, but it’s real and ready for your medicine cabinet.
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The buzz around hypochlorous acid (HOCl) has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year, given its verified potency as a disinfectant against COVID-19.
The hard core cleanser, however, is also gaining brand status as an ultra-sensitive skin care product. For the story behind this miracle product, we turn to dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD.
What is hypochlorous acid?
Let’s start with a basic fact: HOCl exists in your body. It is created by white blood cells as a defense system against infections, bacteria, and general irritation.
HOCl attacks invading pathogens, destroying cell walls before destroying unhealthy invaders. Antimicrobial acid is deadly effective in fulfilling its protective mission. (Think of it as your own internal Batman.)
“It’s your body’s natural response to bacteria, and it’s very efficient at its job,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
So how does it end up being mass produced for cleaning products and skin care products? Well, a long time ago, chemists cracked the code to make HOCl using electrolysis to break down a simple salt water solution.
More recently, however, advances in manufacturing have made it possible to manufacture HOCl in larger quantities with a longer shelf life – a key to more widespread use.
How hypochlorous acid benefits your skin
Skin is incredibly resilient and durable – a necessity given its role as an outer barrier protecting your internal functioning. This frontline role, however, leaves your skin vulnerable to cuts, scrapes, and all the nasty things it tries to keep out.
Dr Khetarpal says that HOCl offers a little boost to your besieged skin by working on:
- Fight the bacteria that cause clogged pores and acne.
- Accelerates wound healing and repairs damage.
- Fight inflammation and conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
The best part, however? HOCl is non-toxic and handles that tough job while being incredibly gentle on your skin. This sweetness is a by-product of the fact that it is naturally produced by your body’s immune system.
“It’s ideal for sensitive skin,” notes Dr. Khetarpal. “It will not give you the dryness, burning or irritation of other products [such as alcohol]. “
Ways to Incorporate Hypochlorous Acid Into Your Routine
When it comes to home use, HOCl generally delivers its benefits by squirting. Sprays containing the cleaning agent are widely available. Most are marketed for use on the face, with an emphasis on treating acne and eczema.
HOCl can also be found in other forms, including creams and serums.
Products containing HOCl can be incorporated into a daily skin care routine to kill bacteria, says Dr. Khetarpal. The sprays can also be used as a rapid and mobile defense against COVID-19.
However, HOCl is not a substitute for a basic wash and scrub. Rather, think of it as an additional line of defense.
Are there any dangers in using hypochlorous acid?
HOCl is touted as being 100 times more potent than bleach in fighting bacteria. (Yes, it’s so potent.) So knowing that, is it really good to spray the acid on your face without worrying about melting your skin?
“There really is no risk,” says Dr Khetarpal. “It’s safe to use. “
Dr. Khetarpal advises you to make sure to verify that a product containing HOCl is billed for skin care before using it on yourself. If you have sensitive skin, avoid scented HOCl products.
Avoid ingesting HOCl and keep it out of your eyes, says Dr. Khetarpal. Always follow the directions on the product, too.