Your skin is becoming dry due to excessive hand washing and alcohol-based sanitisers?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread globally, experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are encouraging everyone to enhance hygiene habits and wash their hands more frequently with soap and water.
Yet, though regular hand washing rinses away dirt and germs and prevents the spread of infection, it also strips the natural, protective oils from your skin, causing it to dry out, according to dermatologists.
When it’s necessary to wash your hands more frequently, these tips can help to keep your hands protected and moisturised.
Washing hands excessively can dry out skin, so make moisturising a part of your daily skin-care routine. Hand creams or ointments are better than body lotion because they are more nourishing. Lotions, which are primarily water-based, can further dry out the skin because the water evaporates. Creams are more effective because they’re often oil-based. Use a moisturising cream on your hands after every wash to help restore the natural moisture to the skin. Oils such as coconut oil may produce similar results. Studies say that applying coconut extract to human skin may enhance its protective barrier functions and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Wash with warm water:
Dermatologists recommend washing hands with lukewarm water with plenty of soap rather than hot water, as this can strip the hands of the natural oils needed to stay waterproofed.
Go for moisturising soap:
Since many kinds of soaps can strip your hands of essential oils and cause them to be dry and cracked, dermatologists recommend washing hands with soap that’s moisturising. Hand soap should also be gentle and fragrance-free. Look out for creamy consistency soaps with ingredients such as glycerine and lanolin.
Substitute hand sanitiser for soap:
Hand sanitiser is another option to limit hand washing until the skin recovers. If your hands are too chapped to wash, you can temporarily use hand sanitiser. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers, though they don’t get rid of all types of germs, can irritate hands less than soap.
In addition to applying a moisturiser to damp skin after washing, those whose skin is sensitive to chemicals should handle cleaning supplies while wearing gloves.
Night time is a good time to give your skin a rest. Apply abundant amounts of moisturising lotions or thick creams. Put a pair of cotton gloves or mittens over the hands. Covering hands overnight can help to keep the moisturiser in touch with the skin to improve its appearance and texture.
Exfoliation can help remove dead, dry and damaged skin. Create a naturally moisturising exfoliating scrub by mixing half a cup of granulated sugar with two tablespoons of olive oil. You can also add an essential oil like lavender, which adds a natural fragrance and can promote relaxation. Gently rub the scrub into your skin and then wash it off. You can also use a soothing moisturiser to ensure a freshly exfoliated skin.
In addition to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, milk also contains lactic acid, a natural exfoliate. Apply it to your skin for five to 10 minutes at a time to heal irritated skin.
Opt for oatmeal:
Raw or cooked oats can help to rejuvenate the skin. Mix powdered oatmeal with olive oil in a small basin. Soak your hands in the mixture. Rinse and pat the hands dry. You can also use creams that contain oatmeal to relieve dry skin.
Apply aloe vera:
This is a natural and safe skin moisturiser. Due to its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera is a common ingredient in many skin-care products. Apply aloe vera gel and cover your hands with gloves. Do this before going to bed and leave the gel on all night.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly