With most people now heeding public health advice on COVID-19 prevention to wash hands frequently, there is a risk of people developing dry and damaged skin especially for people with pre-existing conditions such as eczema, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The AAD is therefore recommending the routine use of moisturiser after handwashing to avoid excessive dryness.
“Repeatedly washing your hands without moisturising them can lead to excessively dry and cracked skin,” says Dr Carrie L. Kovarik in an AAD advisory statement.
“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.”
The AAD is offering the following tips to the public:
- Moisturise immediately after washing hands. Moisturising while hands are still slightly damp helps lock in the moisture on your skin. Wash hands, pat them dry, and then rub a pea-sized amount of moisturiser over your hands. Make sure to get the product onto the tips of your fingers, as that area can be prone to dryness and cracking.
- Use moisturisers that contain mineral oil or petrolatum: Look for moisturising ointments and creams as these are more effective than products pumped out of a bottle. Make sure moisturisers are fragrance- and dye-free, as these are less irritating. If more relief is needed for dry skin, dab petroleum jelly on hands before bed.
- When soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitiser, followed by moisturiser. Since alcohol-based sanitisers can be drying, it’s important to moisturise afterwards to maintain hydration. However, after applying hand sanitiser, make sure your hands dry completely before applying the moisturizer.
- Don’t believe everything you hear or see online. Contrary to statements being made on social media, using moisturiser after washing your hands does not negate hand-washing efforts, and there is no evidence that using hand sanitiser makes you more vulnerable to infections or viruses.