You may be washing your hands often and with good reason—the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has emphasized that handwashing is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While hand hygiene is imperative, handwashing and hand sanitizer can strip skin of the natural oils and proteins that make up our skin barrier. Weakening this barrier can lead to dry, cracked, sensitive skin that can also put us at more risk of bacterial infection. The key to treating or preventing dry, scaly, cracked hands is to add moisturizing to your handwashing routine.
Ideally you should wash your hands with a mild, fragrance-free soap in warm water for at least 20 seconds. When you are done washing, dry your hands with a clean towel. Alternatively, if you are using a hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol and rub your hands together, including in between your fingers, until your hands are dry. Immediately after either of these hand washing methods, moisturize your hands. Adding moisturizer to your handwashing regimen before there are signs of dryness will help prevent more severe skin breakdown.
How to Choose a Hand Moisturizer
- Look for fragrance-free products. Fragrances can be irritating to the skin.
- Select ointments or thick creams. These options work better than lotions to repair and strengthen the skin barrier. Lotions are primarily water-based, which can lead to further drying out the skin when that water evaporates. Ointments and creams are often oil-based, helping to trap moisture into the skin. Petrolatum jelly (Vaseline) is both very effective and an affordable choice. Unfortunately, drinking water won’t prevent dry skin.
Tips for Applying Moisturizer
- Apply moisturizer at bedtime to help repair your skin barrier while you’re sleeping.
- Wear cotton gloves or socks over your hands at night after you have applied a thick coat of ointment or cream can help make the moisturizer sink into your skin for more lasting results.
When to Seek Care for Dry Skin
The following symptoms may indicate a more severe problem. Seek consultation from a dermatologist if you are experiencing:
- Drainage from opened areas
- Tenderness that worsens
- Skin discoloration
To schedule a video visit with Dr. Panko, call 206-860-5596.