How to Avoid Dry Skin When Washing Your Hands so Frequently

Valley View dermatologist

As we continue to practice social distancing by staying at home, regular and frequent hand washing will also play an important role in helping to keep us safe from COVID-19. Even as hand washing works to minimize our risk for contracting COVID, so much excessive handwashing can’t help but make our hands feel a little raw. If frequent hand washing has left the skin on your hands feeling cracked and dry, our team of Salem skin doctors have a few tips you can use that will allow you to continue washing your hands as needed to protect yourself from COVID while providing your skin the chance to heal.

How to Regularly Wash Your Hands While Avoiding Dry Skin

Despite the problems with dry skin, hand washing still remains an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19. To keep you and your family healthy, while still protecting the health of your hands, here are a few tips our Salem skin doctors recommend.

  • Wash your hands with lukewarm water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to both use soap and to wash every part of your hands, including around your nails and between your fingers, and your forearms just above the wrist.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, but don’t dry them completely. You can let your hands air dry slightly to prevent the removal of any excess moisture. While your hands remain a little damp, apply an ointment or hand cream.
  • Apply a small, pea-sized amount of ointment or hand cream to your skin. When applying the cream or lotion, make sure to work some of the moisturizers into the nails and fingertips. Our Salem skin care doctors recommends using and ointment or hand cream that:
    • Contains petrolatum or mineral oil
    • Comes in a tube rather than a bottle with a pump
    • Is “dye-free” or “fragrance-free”

These types of moisturizers tend to cause less irritation to dry skin.

  • When using a hand sanitizer, apply an ointment or hand cream immediately after the sanitizer has dried. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of a hand sanitizer because the alcohol they contain can kill up to 99 percent of germs. However, rubbing alcohol onto your skin will also cause your hands to feel dry and chapped as a result.
  • Make sure to get your health news from a reliable source. A lot of disinformation is being circulated right now that requires patients stay vigilant about the source of their medical news. Always make sure to double check with a reliable and professional source any information you may read on social media or on blogs about the best options for maintaining your health.

What the Science Says

You may have read or heard on social media different things about keeping your hands clean. Here’s what the science says about regular hand washing.

  • No evidence exists that shows using hand sanitizer makes it easier for your hands to collect germs. In fact, it’s dry skin that makes your hands more susceptible to contracting germs. If you experience dry skin due to persistent hand washing, we recommend you follow the steps above and start using a lotion or ointment to keep your hands from drying out.
  • Hand washing works to lower your risk for illness, but excess or frequent hand washing can dry out your skin. To prevent this from occurring, we recommend following the tips listed above.
  • When skin is moist, it provides better protection against germs.