Even as more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we must continue to take the recommended precautions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. And as we know, good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to combat the spread not only of COVID-19, but the common cold and the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends people wash their hands for 20 seconds to thoroughly rid your hands of germs. That’s a long time for you to scrub on your skin and keep them in water. Soap and water are known to strip your hands of natural oils that protect your skin — this lead can lead to dry skin.
While hand hygiene is the most important thing we can do right now, it is no secret that frequent washing can dry skin out. This can leave your skin cracked, bleeding and downright unpleasant in general.
So how do we take care of our skin as we continue to wash our hands vigorously? What steps can we take to make sure we don’t end up with dry or cracked skin?
Rush dermatologist Kevin Cavanaugh, MD, recommends these 5 tips for protecting your skin as our hand hygiene ramps up.
1. Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!
“It is important that you make sure to moisturize after each hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer,” Cavanaugh told us.
Think of this as one more step in your hand-washing routine. You’ve sang happy birthday at least two times, you’ve fully dried your hands after and "BAM!" its time to for you to pull out your travel sized hand cream and give your hands some extra love.
2. Say no to lotions and yes to hand creams.
Lotions? Hand creams? Is there really a difference? It turns out there is! While lotions may smell like spring flowers, they don’t do a great job at repairing your dried-out skin. Cavanaugh recommends hand creams and better yet ointments like Vaseline.
“Lotions are water based and evaporate more quickly, this means they do not repair the barrier function of the skin,” he explained.
Good ointments to use include Vaseline (petrolatum) or CeraVe Healing Ointment. Our preferred creams include CeraVe or Cetaphil.
3. Be prepared, even when you’re on the go!
While social distancing is in effect as we combat this outbreak, you still may find yourself out of the house. If you find yourself out of the house, there is a good chance you are going to want to wash or sanitize your hands while in a public space. Good skin care shouldn’t end when you walk out the front door, that’s why getting a pocket size hand cream or ointment is a good idea.
Cavanaugh recommends Norwegian Hand Cream from Neutrogena, saying it is a wonderful non-greasy option.
While lotions may smell like spring flowers, they don’t do a great job at repairing your dried-out skin.
4. Make sure to treat the cracks in your skin.
While cracks in you skin may not break your mothers back, they are terribly annoying and can be quite painful. Cracks can also cause bleeding, which no one wants. So what is the best way of treating cracked skin?
“Applying a liquid bandage such as New-Skin, to these areas up to twice daily. This will seal the cracks and prevent worsening,” Cavanaugh suggests.
Liquid bandages are perfect for areas like the hand where a regular bandage may not be applicable. We are constantly using our hands and there is no need to worry about a bandage falling off or not being useful when you can apply a liquid bandage.
5. Do some deep skin rejuvenation.
Using hand creams and ointments after washing your hands is a great way to keep the surface of your skin smooth and healthy. But what about below the surface?
Cavanaugh told us the best way to keep the deeper skin healthy is to apply a liberal amount of ointment and let it sit and sink in.
But how do you let it sink in without it getting wiped off or rubbed in?
The answer is easier than one might think. Cavanaugh suggests buying a pair of cotton gloves, applying the ointment to your hands and then wearing the gloves as it sinks in. The gloves must be cotton, as Cavanaugh reminded us that rubber or latex gloves would not work.
The best time to do this is right before bed, apply your ointment, don your gloves and drift off for a good night’s rest. If you aren’t comfortable sleeping in gloves, you can always give yourself a “spa” day at home full of hand rejuvenation during this time of social distancing.
Skin care is worth the effort
Dry and uncomfortable skin shouldn’t be an excuse for not washing your hands. This is especially true as COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S. Hand-washing is your No. 1 defense against novel coronavirus. Instead of taking that away, you should boost that defense up by following these simple techniques for keeping healthy skin.
It may seem like a few extra steps to your daily routine, but in the end, taking care of your skin will be worth it in the long run. There may be doubters you say it can’t be done but it’s a proven fact: you can have healthy skin and be a frequent hand-washer!