What is washing hands with soap and water 24/7 doing to our skin? How about using hand sanitizer? Frequent washing and sanitizing can leave your hands dry and raw. The outermost layer of our skin is made up of oils and wax that hold in natural moisture. Because of this, over-washing can irritate the skin and leave cracks that let in bacteria and increase the risk of infection. Soap suds and the alcohol in hand sanitizer also strip away the protective oils in this natural barrier.
Moisturizing your skin after washing is important for your health as well as hands that look soft, youthful, and supple. Dermatologists offer these tips on the best ways to prevent constant cleaning from taking a toll on your hands.
Wash gently, pat dry.
Cleanse with soap that is gentle and unscented to alleviate any irritation. Use water that is warm, not hot. Soaps that contain fragrance can irritate skin.
Rubbing to dry your hands can irritate the skin. Pat hands to dry after washing for at least 20 seconds and leave them a little damp. Immediately moisturizing with hand cream will seal in that last bit of water.
Moisturize with hand cream.
Using hand cream after washing your hands is a safe and clean way to moisturize skin. Unscented creams are better moisturizers for your hands than body lotion because their oil-based ingredients are more effective and nourishing after washing. Lotions are primarily water-based and the evaporating water can further dry out skin.
Your hand cream should not include allergens or irritants, such as retinol or other anti-aging serums. Use a rich cream that is fragrance-free. Don’t use a cream that is formulated for your face with sunscreen or an anti-aging cream. Keep a small travel size of cream with you to make sure it’s available for every hand wash or sanitizing.
Use bed-time treatments.
Nighttime is an excellent time to take advantage of downtime and give your hands extra healing. Before going to bed, try a glove-like moisturizing mask for hands that you’ll leave on for 20 minutes before washing off. Or apply a thick moisturizer (Vaseline is the most effective of all) and put on a pair of cotton gloves to increase absorption. Leave on for a couple of hours or even overnight. Turning on a humidifier at night also raises the humidity level in your bedroom and keeps your skin moist.
Go a step further.
People with sensitive skin or chronic skin conditions need to take extra precautions and avoid cracks on their hands. Wear gloves when using cleaning supplies that contain harsh chemicals such as Clorox wipes. Cover any cracks that appear on dry skin with petroleum jelly, a natural oil like almond or avocado oil, or Neosporin.