Increased hand washing causing skin conditions

A dermatologist’s tips to keep your hands healthy.

Washing your hands thoroughly is crucial to limiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

However, failing to moisturise after washing your hands could increase your susceptibility to germs and other bacteria.

Dermatologist Dr Carrie Kovarik said many people skipped this important step in their hand-washing routine.

“Repeatedly washing your hands without moisturising them can lead to excessively dry and cracked skin,” Dr Kovarik said.

“This can cause open wounds in the skin that can allow in bacteria and other germs, making moisturising a really important step after hand washing, especially if you’re prone to dry skin or conditions like eczema.”

Dr Kovarik said it was important for people to continue to wash their hands frequently to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Even if your hands are dry, continue to wash them as doing so can remove harmful bacteria and viruses,” she said. 

“If nothing seems to be treating your dry skin, see a certified dermatologist, as you may require a prescription cream or ointment. 

“Dry skin can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as eczema, and a dermatologist can give you a proper diagnosis.”

Dr Kovarik’s tips to reduce your risk of cracked, dry skin.

  1. Wash your hands using lukewarm water. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure to get between your fingers and around your nails. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, visiting a public place, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  2. Moisturise immediately after washing your hands. Moisturising while your hands are still slightly damp helps lock in the moisture on your skin. Wash your hands, pat them dry and then rub a pea-sized amount of moisturiser over your hands. Make sure to get the product on to the tips of your fingers, as that area can be prone to dryness and cracking.
  3. Use moisturisers that contain mineral oil. Look for moisturising ointments and creams (the ones you squeeze out of a tube) as these are more effective than products you pump out of a bottle. Make sure they are fragrance and dye-free, as these are less irritating. If more relief is needed for dry skin, dab petroleum jelly on your hands before bed.
  4. When soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitiser followed by moisturiser. Since hand sanitiser can be drying, it’s important to moisturise afterwards to maintain hydration. However, make sure your hands dry completely before applying the moisturiser.