If you’ve ever had neurotoxin or filler injections at a doctor’s office, you may have had your skin cleaned with hypochlorous acid before your treatment. New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD says it’s the main ingredient she uses for this purpose, as it is much gentler on skin—even in the most sensitive patients—than common alternatives like rubbing alcohol. However, the under-the-radar ingredient is now getting its 15 minutes of fame (and potentially many more) as word spreads about its benefits in both skin care and health care, as it can help protect against the dreaded COVID-19 virus AND maskne. Here’s what to know.
What is hypochlorous acid?
“Hypocholorous acid (HOCl) is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory substance naturally created by our white blood cells to prevent infection, bacteria and injury to the skin,” says Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “Similar to hyaluronic acid, hypocholorous acid is a naturally occurring substance made in the body’s immune system, making it appropriate for even the most sensitive skin.” However, it also possesses the ability to destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses without being toxic to humans, so it’s been manufactured as a disinfectant cleaning agent as well. “It may smell mildly like chlorine when it’s sprayed, but the scent shouldn’t linger for long.”
How can it help prevent both acne and COVID-19 simultaneously?
It’s not every day we hear about an ingredient we can use to not only disinfect our germy belongings (it’s also used in the food industry, in pools, etc), but also protect and treat our skin. “Products containing hypocholorous acid can be helpful for patients who are caring for sensitive skin after ablative procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peels or laser treatments, and it can also be helpful in preventing infection in surgical sites,” says Dr. Schlessinger, who recommends it for his patients who have recurrent staph infections or tend to be immune-challenged. “Additionally, the EPA has hypocholorous acid listed in their official list of ingredients that can effectively kill harmful viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19). I personally use it to disinfect my personal items, such as phones and other germ-magnets!”
Depending on the concentration and formulation, Dr. Day says it can also help with symptoms like itch that are seen in patients with psoriasis and eczema. “I use it in my office as a toner for patients with acne because it can kill acne-causing bacteria, and as a spray for patients with psoriasis, eczema, perioral dermatitis, bug bites, and more. It does not sting or burn on application and it is also a great hand sanitizer without the dryness of alcohol.”
As mask mandates make a comeback this month, Dr. Schlessinger says hypocholorous acid sprays can be extra useful for anyone prone to maskne. “I recommend my patients spray their skin and facial masks with a hypocholorous acid spray like Lasercyn Dermal Spray once they return from being out in public. It contains a 0.009-percent concentration of pure, stabilized hypochlorous acid to properly disinfect your skin and mask—and prevent maskne—and it’s quick and easy to use in one simple step,” he explains. Dr. Day is also a fan of Lasercyn, and says though irritation is possible while using any product, she has not seen any from this spray specifically. “Epicyn and Levacyn are two other hypocholorous acid products, but these are only available by prescription.”
Another product we like is Stamina Cosmetics by DR MBK Maskne Calming Mist ($37), which cools on contact to refresh skin throughout the day, and was created by Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Karasik-Blyumin, MD. “Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have noticed many of my patients suffering with maskne and how it negatively impacted their quality of life,” says the doctor. “In my dermatology clinic, I have realized that there is a safe and effective ingredient, hypochlorous acid, that can be used to improve maskne. At that point I decided to develop an accessible skin-care line that can overcome this challenging skin condition, Stamina Cosmetics. This cosmetic line is envisioned to help with skin resilience.”
“It is important to note that sophisticated formulas in low-concentration bleach-based products like CLn Body Wash are also effective at destroying the COVID-19 virus, as well as also often prescribed in helping manage skin conditions like eczema,” adds Dr. Schlessinger. “I use it for my patients, and I love the shampoo too, as the hair and scalp are the most neglected part of our body when it comes to infections and germs.”
I’ve read that hypochlorous acid is more potent than bleach, so how is it that you can spray products containing the ingredient directly on your face?
“While hypochlorous acid is a major component in the makeup of bleach, it acts as a much milder, yet highly effective, acid,” Dr. Schlessinger explains. Because it isn’t bleach and doesn’t have the caustic effects of bleach, Dr. Day says it’s safe for use on all areas of the body, including around the eyes and mouth. “I would not recommend spraying it into the eyes, but I commonly have patients using it on the face around the eyes.”
Does it also work as hand sanitizer?
Yes, and it can be especially helpful for those with skin sensitivities. “It’s a good alternative to irritating alcohol-based hand sanitizers, particularly if you have very sensitive skin, chapped hands or are allergic to traditional hand sanitizers,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Try the Lasercyn Gel or the CLn product alternatively as a leave-on hand-sanitizer.”