There's Disinfectant for Your Face!

Find out how hypochlorous acid can help you…

Leading products for facial sterilisation

Prior to having any aesthetic procedure that breaks the surface of the skin, it’s of course essential that your practitioner disinfects the area to minimise the risk of infection. But did you know, some of the products they use can also really benefit your general skincare routine and help tackle skin conditions such as acne and rosacea? Excitement has been growing around an ingredient called hypochlorous acid (HOCI). While the disinfectant powers of the acid have been known and used for a long time, it’s only really been hyped up in the aesthetics world fairly recently.

Dr Sophie Shotter, aesthetic practitioner, Kent & London

How hypochlorous acid works

Used for years in the ear-piercing world, aesthetic practitioner Dr Sophie Shotter explains that HOCI is a part of your body’s natural response to infection. “It’s basically a powerful antimicrobial agent that helps control the bacteria levels or microorganisms on the skin,” she says, adding, “We know it isn’t toxic to human skin, which means it’s great to use before and after an aesthetic treatment to keep the area clean, reducing the chance of infection.” The acid is produced by the white blood cells in the body to combat infection and can kill bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores. To create the products that are used, Dr Shotter explains that HOCI is made from a solution of chlorine and water, which forms sodium chloride. “Special chemical processes then convert this to HOCI,” she says.

Dr Shotter adds that HOCI is significantly more effective than other skin disinfection methods. “The gold standard was previously chlorhexidine, which kills around 92% of bacteria in 30 seconds. Alcohol is much less effective than this,” she notes, highlighting, “The HOCI product I use kills more than 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores in 15 seconds. It’s also shown to be non-toxic and non-irritant to human skin cells.”

Amazingly, studies have found that it can help to inactivate a number of viruses, including coronaviruses, in less than one minute!

One study in particular said, ‘It is easy to use, is inexpensive, has a good safety profile, and can be used to disinfect large areas quickly and with a broad range of bactericidal and virucidal effects’.

Benefits to your skin

As well as reducing the chance of infection following injectable treatment, studies indicate that HOCI can help heal small wounds, as well as treat mild acne, dermatitis, diabetic foot ulcers and scars. Dr Shotter has found it beneficial for rosacea patients too. Focusing specifically on two of the most common skincare complaints – acne and rosacea – Dr Shotter details how HOCI can help.

“Acne can be fungal and bacterial,” says Dr Shotter, explaining, “The sebum in your clogged pores can be a breeding ground for bacteria, furthering the spread of acne.” By using HOCI, Dr Shotter says you’ll be helping to regulate the bacteria levels in your skin, thus reducing the chance of exasperating the acne.

Another big component of acne is that it’s inflammatory, meaning spots can appear swollen and red, which is often distressing for many sufferers. “In my experience, HOCI will soothe the skin and speed up healing, calming down the acne’s angry appearance,” says Dr Shotter.

She points out that the same principle applies for rosacea, which is characterised as redness across the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin. Sometimes sufferers can experience a burning or stinging feeling when using water or skincare products on the affected areas, so the soothing sensation of HOCI can really help.

Adding hypochlorous acid to your routine

“The easiest way to incorporate HOCI into your skincare routine is to use it as you would a toner after you have cleansed twice a day,” advises Dr Shotter. There are a few brands of HOCI available, and they will usually either come in a spray bottle, allowing you to spritz the product directly onto your face, or can be applied with a cotton pad.

Dr Shotter also recommends using HOCI straight after a workout. “Sweat can be a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria, so it’s worth keeping a bottle of HOCI in your gym bag and giving your skin a good wipe down afterwards. Of course, when you get home you should still wash your face properly with a good quality cleanser,” she says.

Expected results

Studies have found successful results when used to treat acne, with one noting good to excellent clinical improvement in 39 patients presenting with 10-50 inflammatory acne lesions.

In her experience, Dr Shotter has found that improvement in the appearance of acne and rosacea can be fairly quick. “With skincare, I always say don’t judge results until you’ve finished two cycles of a product,” she says, noting, “Most products will last two to three months, but I have seen a difference in some people’s skin after just a month!”

Of course, results will often depend on the severity of the skin condition to start with, and some people will need additional, targeted treatment to see real improvement.

Dr Shotter notes, “For example, if someone has really bad acne then we may also prescribe antibiotics or advise the use of vitamin A and/or salicylic acid.” However, she points out, while some ingredients such as salicylic acid can dry the skin out, HOCI doesn’t have such an impact, so can be regarded as an added benefit without any side effects.

You may ask, can you overuse HOCI? Dr Shotter says she’s not aware of any studies that have indicated this, but in principal you could. “Using it too much could decrease the biomass of the microbiome, weakening our skin’s immune defences,” she explains.

The only other downside, laughs Dr Shotter, is HOCI can smell a bit like a swimming pool! It’s also important to note that there are different ways of producing HOCI, so some brands may be more effective than others. Other than that, she says that HOCI is super simple to use, suitable for all skin types and affordable to buy.

Products available

Dr Shotter uses Clinisept+ while other HOCI products available in the UK include NatraSan and Thoclor. HOCI can be purchased through your aesthetic practitioner, with the consumer version of Clinisept+, called Clinisoothe+ Skin Purifier, directly available from the manufacturer or retailers such Boots. 

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