Since the introduction of the Coronavirus, the number one suggestion for preventing the spread and keeping ourselves and others safe has been frequent hand washing.
The CDC recommends washing as often as possible and for a 20-second minimum, washing in between the fingers and the backs of hands to ensure all germs are properly removed.
In the absence of soap and water (or often in addition) we’re now using more antibacterial cleaners, wipes and hand gels than ever. We’re also spending more time indoors, often with forced air and not much humidity.
This combination of harsh cleaning agents and extreme exposures is leaving many of us with rough, dry hands. When hands get dramatically dry, they also have a tendency to crack, making us even more susceptible to germs and infection. Meaning that dry hands are not only uncomfortable, but they can be dangerous, too.
To understand how to prevent and treat extreme dryness while still adhering to the CDC’s recommendations for staying safe, we interviewed Dr. Ronald Moy of Moy Fincher Chipps Dermatology and Facial Plastics.
1. Switch to a Fragrance-Free Soap
Although it may smell nice in the moment, the “fragrance” ingredient can be highly allergenic for many people, causing mild to severe reactions such as redness and itching. These chemicals can also lead to dry skin in varying degrees.
2. Avoid (Some) Bar Soaps
Bar soaps often use binders with a high pH that can be drying, which is why skincare experts typically recommend avoiding bar soaps for your face. When washing frequently, these binders can also cause extra dryness on your hands. Even Sodium-Chloride, a salt derivative recognized as “safe” by the EWG, can be drying, as salt naturally absorbs moisture.
Make sure to look for simple, natural ingredients with extra moisturizers if you do choose to use bar soap.
3. Moisturize Frequently
The frequency of application is just as important as the type of moisturizer you use. Moisturizing immediately after washing hands can help to trap in extra moisture before it is lost. Applying frequently throughout the day and double layering with a heavier formula at nighttime can help to build and retain moisture.
4. Wear Gloves
This tip applies both to wearing gloves as protection from the cold and dryness when outside, and also wearing gloves to bed at night. Applying a thick layer of cream or ointment to hands and sealing in the moisture with gloves overnight is a great way to increase the effectiveness of the product itself.
5. Check Your Hand Sanitizer’s Ingredients
Hand sanitizer can dry out skin due to the alcohol content. If possible, look for a sanitizer that is not alcohol or petrolatum-based.
Stay Safe and Healthy With These Moisturizing Ingredients
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also suggests the following ingredients to be among the most moisturizing for dry hands. All of them score a low 1-3 rating on toxicity by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
- petrolatum (a.k.a. petroleum jelly)
- mineral oil
- shea butter
- dimethicone (a type of silicone)
- hyaluronic acid
- lactic acid (note: may sting when applied to broken skin)
While it is always important to consider ingredients when shopping for any product that goes on your skin, in this case it is equally important to consider the frequency of use. When in doubt, apply sparingly, and always look for products containing simple, natural ingredients.
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