“Go sanitise!” is now the first instinct we get immediately after touching an item around us. Otherwise, we would almost actually feel the germs crawling all over our hands, increasing the risk of catching THE deadly infection. Unfortunately, while the life-saving benefits of handwashing and sanitisers are clear, many are also familiar with the damaging effect of very frequent hand hygiene practices – dry skin.
To keep our hands away from the Covid-19 virus, the CDC recommends frequent 20-second hand washing or a sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol, which may cause skin dryness.1 The oils and wax that make up the outermost layer of our skin helps to retain the natural moisture in our skin. Antimicrobial agents in sanitisers and soaps may eliminate ’99.99%’ of germs all within a few seconds, but it also breaks down the lipid shield of our skin. Eventually, if nothing is done to keep it hydrated, our skin may be more prone to flaking, itching, cracking or even bleeding. Ironically, this may compromise the integrity of our skin, which is the first line of defence against pathogens, thus increasing our risk for an infection. Moreover, those with sensitive skin or pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema are more susceptible to these harmful effects of dry skin and may even trigger a flare-up of their skin condition.1-2
If that is not alarming enough, know that dry skin may cause our skin to look aged, whereas proper hydration can reduce wrinkles.3
The solution is simple, affordable and convenient – moisturising.
Tips For Balanced Hand Hygiene 1
- Wash or sanitize your hands effectively
- Dry them and apply a moisturiser that is suitable for your skin type. For instance, select creams or ointments for dehydrated skin and cracked skin.
- Keep small travel sizes of moisturizer in your bag, pocket and workplace to ensure that one is always within reach.
- Moisturize daily before sleep for better hydration.
What To Look Out For In Sanitisers And Hand Soaps? 4
- Effective anti-microbial agent, eg. at least 60% alcohol
- Moisturizing agents such as aloe vera, vitamin E, essential oils
- For dry/ sensitive skin, use hand soaps with a gentle formulation
What To Look Out For In Moisturisers? 4
- Hyaluronic acid and dimethicone improves skin hydration
- Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, and urea are humectants that help attract water to your skin
- Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum prevent water loss from the skin and lock in moisture
- Other moisturising agents: shea butter, vitamin E, essential oils, ceramides
- For sensitive skin, use a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free moisturiser. Perfume and antibacterial agents may be unnecessarily harsh as they may irritate the skin further or strip off the protective lipid layer of your skin
- For eczema flare-ups, use any of the above moisturisers as comfortable, preferably thick creams/ ointments.
- Dry Skin Relief from Covid-19 Handwashing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (Web accessed June 2021). Weblink: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/coronavirus-handwashing#:~:text=Because%20the%20Centers%20for%20Disease,sanitizer%20can%20be%20very%20drying.
- COVID-19: How to care for dry hands after washing them so much. J Murcia. (Web accessed June 2021). Weblink: https://www.uclahealth.org/covid-19-how-to-care-for-dry-hands-after-washing-them-so-much
- Will Dry Skin Cause Wrinkles? Northstar Dermatology. (Web accessed June 2021). Weblink: https://www.northstardermatology.com/blog/will-dry-skin-cause-wrinkles#:~:text=The%20truth%20behind%20the%20myth&text=A%20widely%20accepted%20myth%20is,appear%20more%20plump%20and%20moist
- Choosing the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin. WC Fries. (Web accessed June 2021). Weblink: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/moisturizers#1