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Antibacterial products created in Okinawa

The spread of COVID-19 has led to a “new normal” with the increased use of antibacterial products. For some people, however, there are concerns that overuse of chemicals on their hands may lead to rough skin. In this article we introduce Okinawa-made antibacterial products that are both effective at sanitizing and moisturizing.

Providing effective protection, while being gentle on the skin

The COVID-19 pandemic has made repeated sanitizing and disinfection part of our everyday lives. Initially there were concerns about shortages of alcohol-based disinfectants, and Okinawa’s awamori industries were able to respond to the demand. There are 47 awamori (a distilled alcoholic beverage) producers in Okinawa Prefecture, with 24 producing awamori with an alcohol content high enough that it can be used as an antibacterial disinfectant. (As of December 2020)

Indica rice
Black Jiuqu

Some people have suffered from rough skin after using other alcohol-based disinfectants. Awamori, made from Thai rice and black koji mold, has a softer, moisturizing effect. Awamori that has an alcohol concentration of 65% to 80% has this antibacterial property. Each awamori distillery has their own distinctive labels on their bottles. For travelers, the distilleries have introduced portable 100ml bottles of 69% alcohol that can be taken as carry-on.

Rubbing alcohol

If you’d like to experience what the global beauty industry is calling the power of rice, while also providing antibacterial protection, you can create your own Okinawan disinfectant spray. Mix awamori with glycerin, purified water, and your choice of essential oil for fragrance.

Awamori disinfectant1
Awamori disinfectant2
Awamori disinfectant3

Embrace the “new normal” with the spirit of Okinawa

As well as awamori, there are other antibacterial products created with Okinawan ingredients. Shell ginger, Alpinia zerumbet, an iconic Okinawan plant, contains catechin that has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. After 13 years of research, ECOMAP has introduced Propina Shower (75%), an antibacterial spray using the power of Okinawan shell ginger. The spray has the fragrant aroma of shell ginger.

Propinia75

Ethanol (alcohol) can be produced synthetically from petrochemicals, or biologically from the fermentation of plant sugars. Plant-based ethanol is thought to be easier on the skin, with a moistening feel. SmaEco produces plant-based oils for cosmetics. Their refreshing gel and moist milk use ethanol derived from sugarcane fermentation. The gel uses Okinawan mozuku seaweed extracts and the moist milk uses Okinawan tamanu oil along with 70% alcohol. These additive-free products don’t contain synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, mineral oils, surfactants, or paraben preservatives.

Okinawan tamanu oil along with 70% alcohol

Hoshin, the company that promotes health foods from locally sourced ingredients, has created a sanitizing spray with the citrus scent of Okinawan shekwasha. Hyaluronic acid provides the moisturizing effect, while the locally grown fruit gives it a refreshing fragrance.

Shikuwasa scent disinfectant spray

As we adjust to a new normal with frequent sterilization and disinfection, why not choose products that are highly effective while being gentle on the body and mind. These special items really do contain the spirit of Okinawa.

Please Note

  • Depending on the alcohol content and volume, there may be restrictions on bringing in or taking out products. These will vary with country / district, as does tax exemption. Please check your local regulations before purchase.

Posted on January 5th, 2021
Text by Kei Itaya
Magazine editor, writer, newspaper journalist in Tokyo and NYC for more than 15 years. Returned to her hometown of Okinawa in 2019.

Useful links

Okinawa Distillers Association 

ECOMAP *Only in Japanese

SmaEco *Only in Japanese

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