Handwashing and sanitizer help prevent COVID-19 but they also dry out your skin. Here’s help for your hands.
We’re all washing our hands and using hand sanitizer more frequently these days. Some of us dozen and dozens of times each day. While these tactics help control the spread of COVID they can irritate, strip, and even damage your skin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. They also recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to kill the virus. If these steps are leaving your hands feeling tight, rough, or visibly dry, adopt a new hand-washing protocol.
- Soap: Wash with fragrance-free soap and water. Choose washing over hand sanitizer if you have a choice. Sanitizer can be harsh on dry skin. Don’t forget to remove rings and watches before washing or using hand sanitizer as soap and water trapped underneath can cause irritation.
- Water: Washing your hands in hot water doesn’t work better but it DOES damage your skin. Use lukewarm water to wash.
- Lather: Avoid scrubbing your skin with a brush or cloth vigorously, which can cause irritation. Lather hands, rubbing palms, backs of your hand, fingers, and fingernails. Air dry or use a clean towel to pat dry.
- Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer right after washing, while the skin is still damp. Reapply often. Oil-based lotions can help heal overly dry skin.
- Gloves: Use gloves to protect your hands – while cleaning, washing dishes or clothes, and whenever you use cleaning wipes, harsh soaps, or chemicals. At bedtime, coat dry hands with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) and wear cotton gloves overnight.
Know when to throw your hands up and seek professional care
If you develop burning, blisters, cracked skin that bleeds, red or itchy patches, or have a serious allergic reaction on your hands its best to seek dermatologic care. Call our office for an appointment before damaged skin increases your risk of infection.
It’s important to let Dr. Ha determine if your “really dry skin” is actually a form of hand eczema, which could require medication, not just more moisturizer.
The final word
Frequent and thorough hand washing is the simplest way to fight the spread of COIVD – and colds, flu, and other germs. Care for your hands with each wash to keep your skin healthy and happy.