Health officials have repeatedly stressed that good hand hygiene is crucial in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus, aka COVID-19. And luckily, most Americans have taken that advice to heart.
People are now washing their hands much more than they have in the past, which is definitely a good thing. But, with all that hand washing can come a not-so-great side effect: dry hands.
“Water contact actually dries the skin. This is true especially when one washes their hands with soap, which strips the skin of its normal oils,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Therefore frequent hand washing can be associated with dry skin.” If the dryness goes on too long unchecked, people can even develop cracks in the skin, and even painful secondary infections, Goldenberg says.
Luckily, there is a solution in the form of hand moisturizer. “In the event that the skin does get dried out from cleansing, using a moisturizer can help repair the skin barrier and minimize any damage,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City–based dermatologist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This is especially important during cold season because a disrupted barrier can increase your risk of skin infections and spread of microorganisms.”
If you have extremely dry hands, Goldenberg recommends moisturizing “as frequently as possible” and “after each hand washing, if possible.”
So, what kind should you use? Here’s what the experts recommend:
Zeichner recommends looking for petrolatum-based moisturizers like this one. “Petrolatum forms a protective, but breathable seal over the hands to keep hydration in and infections and irritants out,” he explains. Vaseline’s body balm comes in an easy-to-use, no-mess stick formula. “It can be packed and brought with you even on an airplane and will not leave you feeling greasy or sticky,” Zeichner says. “However, it delivers the same triple-purified petrolatum you need to protect your skin.”
Goldenberg recommends using this moisturizer if you have “more extreme” dry skin and, in particular, using it at night. “For patients with extremely dry hands or those with eczema or psoriasis, applying Aquaphor before bed and wearing white cotton gloves can also help,” he says. Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment is preservative and fragrance-free, making it ideal for people with sensitive skin.
If you’re planning to apply moisturizer often, Goldenberg says Cetaphil is a good option. This lotion contains shea butter, a natural fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree that is known for its moisturizing properties. It’s also non-greasy, so you can start touching things again right after you apply it.
This is another good option for regular use, Goldenberg says. CeraVe “works well” when you’re applying it throughout the day, he adds. This lotion is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain your skin's natural moisture, and free of fragrance and oil. It’s also hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and non-irritating, making it a good choice if you have sensitive skin.
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