Keep Skin Healthy And Moisturized With All This Handwashing

Northwestern Medicine
Dermatology March 22, 2020

Attribute to: Jill K. Cotseones, DO, FAAD, medical and cosmetic dermatology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital

Although we are not new to the concept of washing our hands, the current COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reinforced the importance of clean hands. It seems there is the constant reminder to wash our hands frequently, and as the CDC released, for at least 20 seconds to help prevent the spread of the virus. Frequent handwashing and exposure to irritating soaps and solvents can leave hands feeling red, irritated, and dry – a term we call hand dermatitis or eczema.

Here are ten tips to remedy those dry, cracked hands:
1. Change your hand soap. The most important thing you can do is to try to limit your exposure to irritating soaps. By changing your hand soap to a gentle, fragrance-free, formaldehyde-free, dye-free cleanser, you are significantly decreasing your risk for irritation. Products containing fragrance and formaldehyde are frequent sources of allergic reactions that can also lead to flares of hand eczema.

2. Use lukewarm water instead of hot. Lukewarm water is not as irritating to the skin, while still effective in killing off germs.

3. Dab your hands dry with a towel – do not rub. Rubbing with a towel can cause further irritation of the skin.

4. Apply a fragrance-free, formaldehyde-free topical ointment or cream directly after washing your hands. Ointments and creams contain a higher oil content than lotions, which provide sustained moisture to the hands. Aim for using these products as many times per day as you can. I recommend Vanicream moisturizing cream or Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream.

5. Decrease the amount of time your hands are unnecessarily in water. Opt for using the dishwasher instead of washing the dishes in the sink, or buy a pair of cotton-lined gloves or vinyl gloves to help keep your hands dry. Try not let any water seep inside!

6. The greasier, the better! Petroleum products are the most healing, because they restore the broken down barrier of skin. Aim to use these at least in the morning and at bedtime and then a moisturizing cream in between. Vaseline, Aquaphor, CeraVe Healing Ointment, or Alba Un-Petroleum Sunflower Oil are great products.

7. Nighttime is the best time for recovery. Get a pair of cotton gloves and apply a thin layer of petroleum to the hands. Leave the cotton gloves on for as long as you can. Make sure to clean the cotton gloves inside out in the washing machine with fragrance-free detergent.

8. If you have underlying atopic dermatitis or eczema, quercetin may be beneficial. Quercetin is a potent anti-inflammatory antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and apples and has been shown in small studies to decrease inflammation in eczema; although more studies are be needed.

9. Invest in a humidifier. Dry, cold temperatures can take all of the moisture out of your skin and cause eczema to flare. The humidifier will help to restore the moisture in your environment.

10. See a board-certified dermatologist. If symptoms persist or worsen, or you suspect that you may have an underlying allergy to a product, we can set you up for allergy patch testing or prescribe topical medications that may be helpful.

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