Dry skin from constant hand washing? A dermatologist’s top tips

May 10, 2020
We've all been advised to wash our hands more often amid the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Getty.

With coronavirus still dominating the headlines, we’re all taking measures to prevent the virus from spreading very seriously. Hand washing remains the number one way to keep yourself healthy and stop the spread of Covid-19. This means regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

But constant washing and sanitising can cause dry skin. Thankfully dermatologist Dr Saxon Smith has shared his top tips for taking care of your hands when you’re washing them constantly.

Why is hand washing so harsh on our skin?

Smith says overwashing strips the skin of its natural moisturising factors (NMF) — elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected — causing dryness. Those with existing skin conditions like eczema can experience worsening symptoms.

Older people are also more likely to develop dry skin, but Smith adds this problem can develop in anyone who is frequently washing their hands. “As we age, our skin does not hold its natural moisturising factors as well, which means they’re more easily stripped leading to drier hands,” Smith says.

How should we wash our hands to avoid skin dryness?

Whether your skin is dry or you’re just taking preventative measures, Smith recommends using a soap-free hand wash rather than a traditional soap. “Soap-free washes are designed to be less irritant on the skin,” he says.

While it may be tempting to use antibacterial soap, Smith recommends avoiding it altogether as it tends to be a lot harsher on the skin, adding there’s no evidence to suggest antibacterial soap works any better. Not to mention, antibacterials don’t usually work against viruses.

Using too much hand sanitiser dries your hands out too. Smith recommends using hand sanitiser only as a backup when soap and water aren’t available. Smith adds it’s especially important to get into the habit of moisturising after washing. Apply a think layer of moisturiser while your skin is still slightly damp. Don’t be afraid to apply moisturiser as many times as you need to throughout the day. To go one step further, lather on some moisturise right before bed and wear gloves overnight to lock in the moisture.

If your dry hands don’t improve with these simple tips or if you show any other symptoms, like cracked or weeping skin, Smith says you may need to visit a GP or dermatologist, who may prescribe you with a cream or ointment.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Are you suffering from dry hands? What home remedies do you use?

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