Excessive Hand Washing? Here’s How to Keep Your Skin Healthy
One of the key prevention measures against contracting the novel coronavirus that experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging everyone to do is something your mother always told you: wash your hands!
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That’s because hand washing has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of transmitting both viral and bacterial borne diseases such as COVID-19. Ever since Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, discovered in 1847 the correlation between the spread of diseases and viruses by dirty hands, washing them has been a staple practice in hospitals worldwide.
“Whether it be the rapidly escalating corona pandemic or just any given winter, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of infections. Unfortunately, the very soaps and even wringing of hands underwater will also break down the barrier we are trying to protect,” warned Dr. Adam Friedman, professor of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
But diligently complying with the recommendations and washing our hands time and time again has left our skin drier than ever. Fortunately, these efficient tips provided by skin specialists will help us prevent the adverse effects excessive hand washing can have on our skin and maintain it healthy.
Wash with warm water
According to Dr. Daniela Kroshinsky, director of pediatric dermatology and inpatient dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the best way to wash your hands without affecting the skin is with lukewarm water and soap, for about 20 seconds (possibly while singing Happy Birthday twice).
“Very hot will eventually dry things out and doesn’t improve efficacy,” Kroshinsky added.
Use moisturizing soap
Speaking of soap, many products found on the market today can strip the skin and make it dry and cracked. To prevent this, Lucy Xu, skin specialist and founder of London Premier Laser and Skin Clinics, recommends washing your hands with moisturizing soap such as this one.
“For example, a soap with a creamy consistency. You should also look out for soaps with ingredients such as glycerin and lanolin. Also, try to avoid soap bars,” said Xu.
Dermatologists also advise people to stay away from bar soaps because they have a high PH which will only make the skin drier.
Don’t forget about moisturizer cream
Another thing that can help you maintain healthy skin is a moisturizer, because it keeps water sealed into the skin. According to Renée Rouleau, skincare expert and aesthetician, “the reason is that water acts like a magnet and it will attract water out from the deepest layers of the skin and evaporate into the dry air. The result is even tighter, drier skin. To prevent this from happening, be sure to immediately apply hand cream afterward. Even a light layer will do”.
Instead of lotions, use creams and ointments such as CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream which helps protect and restore the skin barrier or Vanicream Moisturizing Cream, which is not only for your hands but also face and body.
Look for topical moisturizers with the following ingredients that help protect the skin:
Occlusive: lanolin acid, stearic acid, capric triglycerides, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum
Humectants: lactate, urea, glycerin, honey, sorbitol
Emollients: dimethicone, isopropyl myristate
Now that we’ve got the moisturizing part covered, let’s upgrade the routine a little bit by adding something else into the equation: gloves. According to Friedman, there are three steps to obtain a healthy and glowing skin: soak your hands in water for almost 5 minutes, use moisturizer and then, in order to enhance the moisturizing effect, wear gloves for 1-2 hours.
“This will ensure that the surface moisture gets where it needs to go,” Friedman said.
Another option would be to apply the moisturizer and wear these cotton gloves for 6 to 8 hours during the night. This is particularly recommended for those with chapped or extremely dried skin.
Use skin balm
If you have more sensitive skin, suffer from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis and can’t seem to get rid of the dryness and the cracks, skin specialists recommend using skin balm such as vaseline. It can be applied directly onto affected areas. For deep fissures that can occur on the fingers, opt for liquid Band-Aid to accelerate the healing.
“This will both soothe the area as well as protect it from further damage, especially if you find you are outside a lot as the elements will also add to the damage,” Xu said.
What are you doing to prevent your skin from getting dry? If you have any recommendations, feel free to share them with us!