Preventing & Treating Dry Skin from Coronavirus Hand Washing
Following the health guidelines for avoiding the coronavirus, most of us are washing our hands far more than we ever have in our entire life. But while hand washing is clearly essential to preventing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and other bacteria, so much handwashing can also dry out your skin.
And, in the ultimate irony, dried-out skin actually increases a person’s risk of contracting germs through breaks in the skin. Excessive hand washing – or hand sanitizing with alcohol solutions – results in water loss from the skin’s cells, causing dryness and cracking, in addition to a decreased ability of the skin to repair itself.
However this does NOT mean you should stop washing you hands!
In this article Detroit area board certified hand surgeon Dr. Rehman explains 5 things you can do, to prevent dry, cracking or itching skin during the coronavirus pandemic – while still maintaining the best methods of sanitizing your hands to prevent contagion.
#1. Wash your hands with lukewarm (not hot) water.
We all know from the endless Covid-19 warnings and media coverage that the best means of hand sterilization to avoid coronavirus is to wash with soap and water for 20 seconds or more – always washing in between the fingers and around and under the fingernails.
However, the water you use doesn’t have to be “burning hot” to kill the coronavirus. Scientists have confirmed that lukewarm water used with soap is sufficient to kill Covid-19 – and warm water will not dry out the skin as much as very hot water.
#2. Moisturize immediately after you wash your hands.
Hand doctors advise keeping a container of lotion next to the sink(s) to moisturize immediately after you wash your hands. Doing so while your hands are still damp, actually serves to “lock in” the skin’s moisture – preventing cracking and dryness.
#3. Use an oil based hand moisturizer.
Hand doctors understand that any skin care products are hard to get ahold of during the Covid-19 pandemic – so really using any type of moisturizer is better than no moisturizer at all. However, if at all possible, try to regularly use moisturizers that contain mineral oil or petroleum on your hands.
Moisturizing ointments and creams that are sold in a tube or jar are typically more likely to be petroleum or oil based. While “pump bottle” lotions are less likely to contain the oils that provide superior skin barriers.
Remember, if at all possible, to use fragrance-free and dye-free moisturizers, too. These have less chance of irritating to the skin.
No lotion? Apply a dab of petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline)! This can be very effective not only after hand washing, but before going to bed as well.
#4. Resort to Hand Sanitizer ONLY IF Soap & Water is NOT available.
The coronavirus is best destroyed by plain old soap and water – so hand doctors and immunologists alike recommend only using hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.
If you must use hand sanitizer, the CDC reports that only sanitizers made with 60% or more alcohol are effective at killing the Covid-19 virus.
Additionally, alcohol based hand sanitizers cause even more drying and cracking of the hands than soap. So, after using hand sanitizer also apply moisturizer immediately, whenever possible, after your hand sanitizer completely dries.
#5. Consult a doctor for cracked, bleeding or itching skin.
If coronavirus hand washing has dried out your hands to the point of bleeding or excessive itching, Dr. Rehman can consult with you via video consultation, and offer prescription products to protect and heal your hands.
And, people with pre-existing or underlying skin conditions, such as eczema or dermatitis, may be particularly prone to skin problems resulting from increased hand washing or sanitizing. These patients should stay in touch with their treating doctor to ensure their condition does not become worse.
Detroit Area Hand Doctor
Keep in mind that, even if your hands are getting dry, it is essential to continue to wash them, in order to destroy and remove the coronavirus and other bacteria and germs.
Try to follow the tips above, as often as is possible, to help reduce dry or cracked skin. And, if these steps are not sufficient to remedy your dry skin issues, schedule a video consultation with a board-certified hand doctor, Dr. Uzma Rehman.
In many cases she will be able to offer a prescription cream or ointment that will resolve the problem.