Handwashing: The Good and the Bad That You Need to Know

For the past several months, we’ve been told that we need to wash our hands several times a day. We wash or use hand sanitizers when we go out for short excursions to the grocery store or local take-out restaurant. We may wash or sanitize while there, and then again when we return home. This is the bare minimum that most people do during their day. While handwashing may be the order of the day to reduce the risks of the novel coronavirus, this habit can have a detrimental side effect, too, but no one talks about that. We’re going to do that here.

Washing your hands with lukewarm water for at least 30 seconds is necessary, according to health officials, to slough off potentially infectious germs. However, when we wash our hands a lot, there is a relatively significant risk that our skin will become dry. Dry skin can turn to cracked, irritated skin in certain circumstances. During our warm summer months when humidity is low, this could happen quickly.

Protecting Your Skin from Excessive Handwashing

Because it is necessary to wash our hands frequently throughout the day, it is beneficial to do what it takes to restore the natural barrier the skin needs to protect itself from outside particles. The easiest way to do this is with some type of hand cream. Is one better than another? It might be.

In normal circumstances, a light hand cream is usually sufficient to maintain the moisture of the skin and preserve its protective barrier of lipids. We are not living in normal circumstances, though, are we? Children and adults who are washing our hands repetitively need heavier hand creams or petrolatum products to prevent uncomfortable dryness and cracking that could lead to other unpleasant symptoms.

Petrolatum products are better known as Vaseline® and Aquaphor®. Based on fragrance alone, we would recommend the latter to reinforce the skins barrier and moisture. If your skin is healthy and you do less handwashing due to working from home, you may get by with a more luxurious hand cream that comes in a tub, not a tube. Pay attention to how your skin responds, though. Just because hand creams are meant to moisturize does not mean they do not contain additives that can dry the skin!

When to Get Help

Sometimes, the skin needs more help than what can be found on a store shelf. If you use harsh chemical cleaners, hand sanitizer, heavy-duty soaps, or just have sensitive skin, you may need to see a dermatologist. An appointment should be scheduled if your skin itches frequently, bleeds, is red with inflammation, or looks scaly.

If your skin does not look or feel as healthy or beautiful as you’d like, contact us. At our La Casita and Sonterra offices, we customize treatment to help each of our patients look and feel their best.

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