Substantivity: a substance with lasting activity

Substantivity in hand hygiene

The CDC defines substantivity as “an attribute of certain active ingredients that adhere to the stratum corneum (i.e., remain on the skin after rinsing or drying) to provide an inhibitory effect on the growth of bacteria remaining on the skin.”  An antiseptic cleanser with substantivity is similar to the way sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays for an extended amount of time.

How does it keep my hands clean?

Now why would you need an antiseptic cleanser to stay on your skin?  In fact, why do you need an antiseptic at all if you can just wash your hands?  There are a couple reasons and more than a few situations. 

Washing your hands with soap and water only kills or cleans what is on the surface of your skin and hand sanitizer only kills germs or inhibits antimicrobial growth for a short period of time. 

Just think of all the contact...

This does not protect you from the grocery cart you just struggled to separate from the mob of carts at the entrance to the store.  Not to worry, there are “sanitizing wipes” available so you wipe down all of the areas you might come into contact with and toss the wipe into the trash.  Was the surface you disinfected wet for at least 15 seconds?  Or is that rule just for hands?  It smells awful.  Are the wipes even safe for skin?  


You don’t have time to worry about it.  You glance at your list and head down the aisle.  Oh, good!  Your kids’ favorite cereal is in stock.  You re-apply hand sanitizer because touching things is beginning to make you paranoid.  Little do you know there’s snot on the box of cereal you choose-an invisible smear from the toddler crying and begging his mom for it moments ago.  Ironically, it wasn’t a “healthy” cereal, so his mother placed it back on the shelf.  You place the box of cereal in your cart and your phone buzzes in your pocket. You swipe the screen to answer your phone, pressing the screen you just touched to your face.


The middle-aged man an aisle over just sneezed but thankfully he was wearing a mask!  He reaches up to adjust his mask (handy tissue that it is) and reaches down with the same hand to select a jar of green olives.  He grimaces, puts that jar down and chooses the black olives.  Moments later, you choose the green olives, place them in your cart and adjust your own mask. 

Maybe this situation doesn’t apply to you.  You make your selections from the fresh produce section.  Did you verify that the stock person was wearing gloves?  Yes, quell the panic.  But was the handle of her re-stocking cart clean?  

That does it.  All this “contact” is making you crazy.  You begin ordering “contact-free” groceries and have items delivered to your vehicle, all of which is produced, packaged, sorted, stacked, crated, loaded, delivered, unloaded, stocked, selected, scanned, bagged, and placed in your trunk by countless people. 

I am sure they all washed their hands. And the forklift.  And the pallet and the truck and the dock and the shelves and the carts and the bags.  Oh, and your trunk.  Better grab the wipes.  Wait.  Did you wash your hands before you grabbed the container last time?

 Let's take a deep breath now 

Germs are everywhere.  They always have been. When there is a threat that is unfamiliar or uncontrollable, it is scary.  The irony of it all is that often it is the familiar that goes unnoticed, and the common that can quietly do the most damage. Each time you carefully applied hand sanitizer, it did its job, killing most of the germs on your hands.  But it stopped working the second it dried.  It did not protect you from the next item you touched.  It did not moisturize your skin, maintaining that critical barrier. It did not keep the germs on your phone from transferring to your face.   It's like using a sunscreen you have to reapply every fifteen seconds.


Some situations call for substantivity that ensures your skin is protected and armed with sustained antimicrobial activity.  Sometimes you just need the assurance that what you’re doing to protect yourself and your family is actually working. 
It’s times like these you need the clean confidence of COMPEL.  

Click here to get access to 'What to look for in a hand cleanser.'

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