What is Hypochlorous Acid , Woman spraying facial mist on her face, summertime skin care concept

What Is Hypochlorous Acid—and Why Should You Be Adding It to Your Skincare Routine Right Now?

It offers tons of benefits for your skin, and is also an EPA-registered disinfectant that works against COVID-19.

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You might be familiar with salicylic acid for acne, glycolic acid for exfoliation, and hyaluronic acid for hydration, but what about the buzzy ingredient, hypochlorous acid? While the ingredient isn't exactly new, it's gained traction during the pandemic, thanks to its disinfecting properties.

And the hype is real: Not only does hypochlorous acid act as an anti-inflammatory for skin conditions and wound care, but it also has been proven effective against COVID-19. Curious to learn more about hypochlorous acid? Read on for what experts have to say about the versatile, good-for-your-skin ingredient.

What Is Hypochlorous Acid?

"Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is a natural-occurring molecule in the body created by our white blood cells to fend off infection, bacteria, and injury to the skin," says Joel Schlessinger, MD, dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, and President of LovelySkin.com. It works by supplying cells with oxygen to help the body's natural healing processes, explains Diane Madfes, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Made up of hydrogen, oxygen, and chlorine (HOCl), it is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, notes Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC. So, it's no surprise that this versatile ingredient with its healing properties has application in skincare (more on that shortly) and in the health care industry.

How Can Hypochlorous Acid Benefit Your Skin?

Quick skin conditions lesson: "Skin that is susceptible to skin conditions, like eczema or acne, harbors more bacteria and therefore is prone to more infections," says Dr. Friedler. The anti-inflammatory effects of hypochlorous acid make it useful for fighting breakouts, soothing skin, and repairing the damage. HOCl breaks up the bacteria groupings, which can lead to fewer flare-ups and offer healing, she adds.

If you have sensitive skin and are cautious about introducing new ingredients into your routine, you don't have to worry about HOCl. Because hypochlorous acid is naturally occurring in the body, it is non-irritating and an ideal treatment for all skin types, points out Dr. Schlessinger. Not to mention, it can address itchiness and reduce redness and flaking of the skin due to eczema, psoriasis, or acne, adds Dr. Friedler.

Since hypochlorous acid kills bacteria that lead to infections (like staph infections), it also speeds up the healing process, says Dr. Madfes. In dermatology, it's most commonly used post-procedure, such as after microdermabrasion, chemical peels, or laser treatments.

How Does Hypochlorous Acid Work Against COVID-19?

What makes hypochlorous acid different than other skincare ingredients is it is ultra-powerful at destroying bacteria and viruses, notes Dr. Schlessinger. In fact, a review published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery shows it is an effective disinfectant against the coronavirus. "A unique property of hypochlorous acid is its ability to enter the cell wall of a virus and react with the cell metabolism, so the cell starts to die," says Jeanne Breen, MD, infectious disease physician, and researcher. SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19 is known as an envelope virus because it has a protective outer shell. Hypochlorous acid attacks that envelope, entering the cell, then deactivating the proteins necessary for the virus to survive, explains Dr. Breen.

On top of skincare application, hypochlorous acid is being used in hospital settings for wound care and as a disinfectant. The EPA recently added HOCl to its list of disinfectants effective at killing COVID-19. It is also one of the ingredients in bleach but is a safer alternative, and common in many at-home cleaning products. (ICYDK, Hypochlorous acid is made by electrically charging salt, water, and vinegar—a process called electrolysis—which is how companies are able to harness its disinfecting properties.)

If you're looking for a household cleaner featuring the acid, the Force of Nature Starter Kit goes through the electrolysis process right on your countertop—it kills 99.9% of germs, doesn't need to be wiped away, and is safe to use around children, says Dr. Breen.

Ways To Use Hypochlorous Acid

While it's trending in the consumer market, hypochlorous acid was already a mainstay in the medical field. There are many hypochlorous acid products used by doctors in hospital settings to keep surgery sites clean, points out Dr. Schlessinger. It's used as a disinfectant and as an irrigant in surgery—meaning, as a solution to clean cuts, burns, or open wounds. Because of its Covid-19 disinfecting properties, it is being used by healthcare workers, especially when working around the mouth and nose, says Dr. Madfes.

Want to add HOCl to your current skincare routine as an extra layer of protection from Covid-19? While there are cleansers, serums, and creams featuring the acid available through your dermatologist, there are a few over-the-counter facial sprays you can snap up, too. Facial sprays are portable, convenient, help cleanse skin while on the go, and can combat maskne—acne from wearing masks. "I recommend patients spray their skin and their reusable masks with a mist, like Lasercyn Dermal Spray, while they're in their vehicle as a quick way to disinfect while you're out in public," advises Dr. Schlessinger. You could also try the sensitive skin-friendly brand Tower 28's Beauty SOS Save.Our.Skin Daily Rescue Facial Spray or budget-minded Briotech's Topical Skin Spray.

And while hypochlorous acid has been proven to be effective against coronavirus, know that doesn't mean skincare products are an alternative to the CDC's advice of washing your hands, wearing face masks in public or abiding by social distancing measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. Think of HOCl as a backup line of defense. But if a face mist can help, it's worth carrying ~one more thing~ around in your bag, along with your hand sanitizer and face mask case.

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