Tips for Managing Skin that’s Dry from Frequent Handwashing and SanitizingPosted on July 31, 2020
Everyone is advised to wash our hands frequently and thoroughly to protect ourselves from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and cold or lukewarm water for at least 20 seconds to rid our hands of germs. When we’re out and about, without access to soap and water, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good alternative. Whether using soap and water or hand sanitizer, we’re advised to clean the fronts and backs of our hands, between our fingers, and around our nails.
That’s good advice to protect yourself from disease, but what about protecting the skin on your hands from the dryness that frequent handwashing and sanitizing can cause?
How Frequent Handwashing and Sanitizing Can Lead to Dry and Cracked Skin
Soap and water wash away germs, but they can also strip your skin of the natural, protective oils that act as a shield on the surface of the skin and help it retain moisture. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be even harsher on the skin, as they have a powerful drying effect.
However, dry skin is not a good enough reason to wash your hands less frequently. The science behind the disease-prevention effects of handwashing is strong. But you also need to take good care of the skin on your hands. Dryness can lead to rashes, itching, flaking, and even cracks in the skin. These effects are not only uncomfortable, they can leave you vulnerable to superficial skin infections.
How to Wash Your Hands to Avoid Dryness
Use a mild, moisturizing soap. Any type of soap will remove germs if you wash your hands thoroughly. That includes dish soap, moisturizing soap, and “natural” soap. The ingredients in moisturizing soap, such as glycerin, lanolin, and hyaluronic acid, help to counteract the drying effect of washing. Soaps with natural moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, or jojoba oil can also help reduce skin dryness. Liquid soaps can be less drying than bar soap.
Added chemicals and fragrances in some soaps can irritate the skin. If you have sensitive skin, eczema, or a history of allergies to any cosmetic products, take special care to choose a mild soap without irritating ingredients.
Wash hands with cold or lukewarm water. Hot water is no more effective in removing germs than cold water, and it is much harder on your skin.
Pat your hands dry with a clean towel. Don’t rub or scrub at your hands to dry them. Just dab to get the excess moisture off, as rubbing can further irritate skin that is already at a disadvantage from the washing.
Moisturize Immediately After Every Handwashing
Right after you wash your hands, while they are still slightly damp, apply a thick moisturizer to your skin.
Creams and ointments are better than lotions for moisturizing, and moisturizers that come in a tube or jar are better than those that come in a pump bottle. Effective ingredients to look for include mineral oil, petrolatum, lanolin, or glycerin. Some prefer to use natural moisturizing oils, such as coconut oil or shea butter. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, look for a fragrance-free hand cream that doesn’t include chemicals that might irritate your skin.
Moisturizers restore the protective barrier that natural oils in your skin would normally provide without frequent hand-washing. Despite the name, moisturizers don’t add moisture to your skin. Instead, they help your skin retain water. They also soothe irritated skin and restore a smooth texture to skin that is rough or flaky from dryness.
Try Extra Nighttime Treatments
If the skin on your hands is still dry or irritated, even with gentle washing and regular applications of moisturizer, you might try an extra treatment at night. Before you go to bed, apply moisturizing cream or ointment — petroleum jelly is a good choice — and cover your hands with cotton gloves. The gloves help keep the product on your skin and provide an extra layer of moisture retention.
Learn More About Skin Rejuvenation In a Personal Consultation
Dr. David Kim and Dr. Eugene Kim at Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery have developed an impeccable reputation for stunning, natural-looking plastic surgery results and skin rejuvenation treatments. Contact our practice today at (310) 746-5475 or send an online request to schedule a consultation.