If you are like millions of other people right now, you are washing your hands and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer more than ever before due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is essential to help stop the spread of the virus, but this can result in extra dry skin and even hand dermatitis, a condition that appears as red, cracked, itchy, sore skin.
What’s Happening to My Hands?
Our skin acts as a protective barrier, and when exposed frequently to water, soaps, and alcohol, the fatty compounds that help condition the top layer of our skin can be diminished. The result is a damaged skin barrier. Not only can this lead to dry hands and breaks in the skin, it can also lead to an increased risk of skin infections.
What Can I Do to Take Care of My Hands?
When washing your hands, it is important to use the following steps:
- Wash your hands in lukewarm or cool water and use a moisturizing soap. Wash thoroughly between your fingers and around your nails for at least 20 seconds. Consider keeping your nails short to keep from trapping germs and debris. Take a look at this video from the CDC for how to properly wash your hands.
- When drying your hands, use a clean towel and pat them gently. Don’t roughly rub or wring your hands.
- When skin is slightly damp, apply a moisturizer to lock in the moisture and restore the skin’s natural barrier. Look for a moisturizer that contains mineral oil, glycerin, petrolatum, or ceramides.
In addition to washing your hands the right way, here are a few additional tips for taking care of your dry, chapped hands:
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in some situations instead of washing your hands. While this may not seem like a good idea because alcohol is drying, it is actually less drying than using soap and water. Look for hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol so it is effective at preventing the spread of germs.
- Wear lined rubber gloves when cleaning and doing wet work. This will help protect your hands from water and chemicals that can irritate your hands.
- Wear gloves when working outdoors. Leather gloves work well for everyday use, but wearing gloves when working outside helps protect your hands from the elements.
- Moisturize! Keep bottles of moisturizer handy in several locations such as your car, in your bedroom, at work, and by the sinks in your home. Apply it generously and frequently, especially after washing your hands.
- Pamper your hands at bedtime. At bedtime consider amping up your moisturizer game by using a heavy ointment or cream that will lock in moisture. Cover this layer of moisturizer with a pair of our new gel moisturizing gloves to seal in the moisturizer.