Hand Hygiene: Caring for Skin when Washing Hands More Frequently

Maintaining clean skin is an essential part of staying healthy and keeping loved ones safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each time someone doesn’t wash their hands before touching their face, handling food, or making contact with surfaces or other people, germs can more easily spread. This is why health officials are encouraging everyone to wash their hands often during the day, using clean water and soap for at least 20 seconds. However, all of that aggressive scouring of the hands for extended periods can cause skin dehydration, cracking, and inflammation. For anyone dealing with these problems in the Hollywood area, our dermatology specialists at Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills recommend taking these steps to protect your skin health:

  1. Use Oil-Based Hand Creams, Moisturizers, and Ointments

The common, unwanted skin reaction to excessive handwashing is called irritant contact dermatitis, and it occurs when the skin’s protective layer is disrupted. When you wash your hands, especially with soaps, some of the skin’s natural essential oils and moisture are stripped away.

People who have pre-existing skin conditions like eczema and rosacea are very prone to this problem. It’s important to keep washing, but to also continue moisturizing to replenish the skin. After you’ve washed and dried your hands, immediately apply moisturizer all over them while they are still slightly damp.

  1. Wash with Lukewarm Water

You don’t need to scald your skin in order to clean properly. Gentle, but thorough scrubbing with soap is effective. Remember, you’re not sterilizing your hands—you’re cleaning them.

  1. Buy Soaps for Sensitive Skin

To avoid irritation and allergies, it’s better to choose soaps that are unscented, are dye-free, and don’t have synthetic detergents and preservatives. Products containing soothing, nourishing ingredients like aloe vera are preferable.

  1. Don’t Rub Your Skin

Pat your hands gently dry rather than toweling them vigorously, and use a soft cloth to prevent them from becoming sore and raw. There’s no need to scour your freshly washed fingers with rough fabric.

  1. Try Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers are less effective at killing germs than soap and water, but they can also be less harsh on the skin when used occasionally. Apply them when appropriate to lessen the number of times you’re washing your hands. But be careful not to overdo this option, either, as sanitizers can cause stinging and burning sensations—especially if you’re raw from overly vigorous washing.

Talk to the Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills team for more pandemic skincare advice. To book a consultation in the Hollywood area, fill out a contact form or give us a call at 310-246-0495.

Written by Dr. Derek Jones

Dr. Derek Jones is a renowned Los Angeles and Beverly Hills area dermatologist practicing in cosmetic and general dermatology.