Handwashing During a Pandemic
posted: Aug. 31, 2021.
Taking care of your hands during the pandemic
Proper handwashing is essential. You’ve been washing your hands more this year to keep yourself free of germs and bacteria. However, you may have noticed your hands are dryer than usual. While frequent handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infections, it can also cause dryness and chapped skin, early wrinkles, rashes, and other skin-related issues. People who have pre-existing skin conditions, like eczema, are at risk of developing more severe symptoms.
As recently mentioned by Harvard Health Publishing, when your skin is intact, it serves as a protective barrier. When the top layer is exposed to hot water, oil stripping soaps and drying alcohol found in some hand sanitizers can break down the compounds and healthy fatty acids. The result is an impaired barrier, leading to irritation, discomfort, cracks or breaks in the skin, and increased risk of infection.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, dry skin increases your chances of picking up germs. Moisturized skin can better protect you because of the natural oils and wax it holds. When washing your hands or using sanitizer, it’s essential to follow up with a moisturizer to prevent excess dryness.
Here are some ways to keep your hands clean, healthy, and moisturized while frequently washing.
Wash with cool, lukewarm, or warm water. Hot water can dry your skin out because it strips away natural oils. You can use a moisturizing cleanser to help prevent dryness. Dr. Michael Borenstein at Gardens Dermatology recommends using a mild, fragrance-free soap if you have sensitive skin, eczema, or other related issues. Those who prefer natural or organic ingredients, look for soaps containing shea butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.
If you cannot wash your hands as frequently, keep an alcohol-based (60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol) sanitizer available. After applying the sanitizer, wait for your hands to dry, and then add your moisturizer. You can also use a moisturizing sanitizer. However, some moisturizing sanitizers may contain a lower alcohol level and may not be as effective in blocking germs.
Lightly pat your skin dry with a clean towel, instead of rubbing it. You can also let your hands air dry. Leave your skin slightly damp so it can absorb your moisturizer. Moist skin is better than dry skin because your moisturizer acts as a sealant, sealing in the water left on your hands.
When it comes to moisturizers, use ointments and creams, as opposed to lotions. Lotions are thinner in consistency and contain a higher water content, which causes moisture to escape from the skin. Look for creams and ointments that contain mineral oil, petroleum, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, olive or jojoba oil, and shea butter. Moisturizers that come in tubes are thicker, making them better for your skin than those that come in pumps. Keep one with you to help prevent your hands from drying.
Take it a step further. After applying a moisturizer, cover your hands with cotton gloves to increase absorption. You can leave them on for a few minutes or sleep with them overnight. It’s also helpful to wear gloves if you live in colder climates to protect them from harsh, windy weather. Lastly, before bed, make sure you apply a thick moisturizer to your hands. Using a humidifier at night can also help because it will increase moisture in the air.
For more information on healthy beautiful hands, please call Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center at 561-776-7041 or visit them online at gardensdermatology.com.