Your Shield Against Germs with Hypochlorous Acid

Two seemingly conflicting things that are both true: first, your white blood cells naturally produce hypochlorous acid and, second, its formed when chlorine dissolves in water.

But there are some key differences between hypochlorous acid (a.k.a. HOCl) and straight-up bleach, explains American skin care chemist Gloria Lu of Chemist Confessions and co-author of ”Skincare Decoded.” “Commercial bleach is typically a five to six percent sodium hypochlorite — the ‘salt’ form of hypochlorous acid — at a very basic pH of around 12,” she says.

(Quick science-class recap if you need it: The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral and 14 being the most basic. Pure water has a completely neutral pH of 7, while skin is slightly acidic at around 4.7.)

In skin care, hypochlorous acid is used at an incredibly low concentration — typically between 0.01 and 0.02 percent at a pH of around 3.5 to 6. “Diluting bleach can give you some level of hypochlorous acid so long as the solution is pH adjusted and salt is added to help stabilize it — but this is definitely not something you should do at home.” Please put down the Clorox.

Hypochlorous Acid

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Hypochlorous Acid Formula?

Because hypochlorous acid acts like a disinfectant, aestheticians often use it to clean skin before cosmetic treatments that cause punctures like Botox, fillers and micro-needling. They may even recommend taking it home to spritz on your face as you heal.

Hypochlorous acid formulas — most often sold as face mists — are also marketed for acne, eczema, psoriasis, redness, sunburns, bug bites, cuts, rashes, and more due to the ingredient’s potential to kill bacteria, support healing, and fight inflammation. “If you reduce inflammation, you help the skin heal,” says Marie Bertrand, a.k.a. @theskinscientist, a microbiologist and founder of the SkinScience laser clinic in Calgary. She points out that although hypochlorous doesn't "treat" skin conditions—a drug claim that Health Canada regulates—it can still be useful. “I’ve seen it work over and over for people who pick their acne. But is it going to fully make it go away? No.”

Who Shouldn’t Use Hypochlorous Acid?

Despite its association with household cleaners like bleach, hypochlorous acid is well tolerated at the right concentration and should be safe for anyone to use. “It’s not going to dry out the skin,” says Bertrand. “I’ve had people use it every day, twice a day, and I’ve never seen any problems. Of course, there are always going to be 99 percent of patients who do well with something and 1 percent who don’t, but I’ve never seen it myself, and I’ve sold thousands of bottles over the past two years.”

How Often Should I Use A Hypochlorous Acid Formula?

You can use it as much as you want on your body, spraying it on eczema flare-ups, cuts and scrapes and even on skin to prevent bacne and folliculitis if you don’t have time to shower after a workout.

For your face, stick to once or twice per day on bare, cleansed skin and let the spray dry before applying other skin care products like moisturizers and sunscreen — and you’ll want to be especially careful about your antioxidants (keep reading!).

Does Hypochlorous Acid Deactivate Vitamin C?

It sure does. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it neutralizes unstable free radicals (caused by pollution, UV rays, a bad diet, etc.) in the skin by giving them electrons. Hypochlorous acid is an oxidant, which means it oxidizes other substances by taking away their electrons. If you pat on your vitamin C serum, then spray your face with hypochlorous acid, they’ll basically cancel each other out, says Bertrand. “If you like to use a vitamin C serum in the mornings, I’ll usually recommend using HOCl at night.”


While both hypochlorous acid and bleach are formed from chlorine, their composition and pH levels differ significantly. Hypochlorous acid, utilized in skincare at low concentrations and adjusted pH levels, offers benefits without the harshness of bleach. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for safe and effective skincare practices.