Hypochlorous Acid Is The Skin-Care Ingredient To Watch In 2023

How annoying is it having combination skin this time of year? Maybe you feel dry (winter nasal drip, so fun), and you’re simultaneously breaking out around your cheeks, jaw, or mouth. You don’t want to treat the pimples with an overly-drying spot treatment for fear that you’ll end up making the situation worse or crustier. But something's gotta give.
Chronic dryness with the occasional breakout is my personal skin-type POV, but I was recently introduced to a very if-you-know-you-know antibacterial ingredient that helped me handle dryness and acne in tandem — a multifunctional wound-healer that's on the rise in skin care. I'm talking about hypochlorous acid.

What is hypochlorous acid?

Similar to hyaluronic acid, hypochlorous acid is a natural substance made by your body. Though where the function of hyaluronic acid is to retain water to keep your skin hydrated, hypochlourous acid is a natural disinfectant, made by the white blood cells in our body to fight pathogens.
So what is its function in topical skin care? Some dermatologists use hypochlorous acid spray on the skin before and after a procedure that will disrupt the barrier — like an injection, laser, or peel — to lessen the chances of a wound, redness, or reaction. "In my medical clinic, I use it to prep the skin before in inject someone with Botox," explains dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD. "It's shown to be much less irritating and equally as effective as chlorhexidine, which is how we normally prep the skin before a procedure. Even post procedure, I find it soothing on the skin, while still being cleansing."
Unlike a disinfectant with alcohol, hypochlorous acid is a natural derivative, which makes it safe for all skin types and a range of skin concerns — eczema, cystic acne caused by clogged pores, post-procedure sensitivities — all of which are rooted in inflammation. "Hypochlorous acid is fantastic," adds NYC dermatologist Hamza D. Bhatti, DO, FAAD. "It works really well with eczema. When you have a break in the skin barrier from the scratching and itching, your antimicrobial properties are lower, so you're more prone to infections. This acts like an antibiotic." But, it's OTC.

How do I use it?

To this point, you'll really only find hypochlorous acid in a face mist form, which is nice because it's easy to apply and less concentrated than a cream or ointment. You can spray it on your skin in place or a face toner (after face wash and before any serum or moisturizer).
During a recent skin-care elimination forced by an allergic reaction to high-strength vitamin C, hypochlorous acid spray was my only form of skin care for about a week. I spritzed it on my face for three days straight and not only was it incredibly soothing, my red and rash-y skin healed fast. Disclaimer: There is a naturally-occurring smell of chlorine — it's a little bit like a swimming pool — but it's faint and harmless. Like the beloved SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic that smells like hotdog water, it's part of the experience.
If you're dealing with active acne, Dr. Bhatti recommends spraying your hypochlorous acid right on top. "It will help disinfect your pores," he explains. But again, you don't have to worry about over drying because there's no oil-stripping happening. I'd also recommend using it anytime you have a skin barrier disruption or flareup. A new piercing? Spray it. A itchy spot on your neck? Spray it. A nick at your cuticle? Spray it. A chin pimple? You know what to do. One off-label use I like: dampen your Beautyblender with a little hypochlorous acid spray to ensure you're not spreading bacteria as you blend your concealer or contour.

What should I buy?

As hypochlorous acid is still budding in general use and popularity, it's not super widely accessible at the moment. Though, according to Spate, a consumer trends platform, 'hypochlorous acid' alongside 'skincare' receives over 3,000 monthly searches, with a 23% increase since last year. That said, there's good evidence that demand is increasing, and we may see more brands formulating hypochlorous acid spray in the future. Until then, these are the ones to shop.

Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray

Even if you haven't heard of hypochlorous acid before now, you've likely seen the very popular Tower 28 SOS Spray, which has hypochlorous acid as its key ingredient (alongside saltwater). This was the spray that cleared my skin, and it has done the same for hundreds of satisfied reviewers with very impressive before/afters. Brand founder Amy Liu created it as a soothing face mist for sensitive skin — it's actually certified by the National Eczema Association and safe enough to use on a baby's diaper rash — but I know people with oily skin who use it to refresh their skin while disinfecting their pores. It comes in an XL bottle that I keep in my medicine cabinet.

Twenty/Twenty Beauty Easy On The Eyes Daily Hygiene Facial Spray

When I asked Dr. Yadav what OTC hypochlorous acid she recommends to her patients, she points to this one by Twenty/Twenty. "Eczema and rosacea can involve the skin around your eyes," explains Dr. Yadav. "Some people complain of dandruff on the eyelids, more frequent styles, and inflammation of the eyes. For all of that, it fits nicely to think about the eye area and a hypochlorous acid that's ophthalmologist tested."

OCuSOFT HypoChlor Hypochlorous Acid Solution 0.02%

If you're shopping a hypochlorous acid spray on Amazon or you're getting a recommendation by a dermatologist or doctor (eye or otherwise), you might be pointed towards OCuSoft HypoChlor Spray. Spate identifies OCuSoft as the market leader in the hypochlorous acid space. But again, as of now, there aren't a ton of competitors. Though, that will likely change in 2023. Until then, these are all good face sprays to consider.
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