We’re all washing our hands much more frequently these days, and the constant scrubbing and sanitising can be a recipe for dry, irritated skin.
We know the importance of washing our hands. Whether we’re doing it several times a day because of the work we do or for basic hygiene, handwashing plays an important role in helping each of us avoid getting sick and spreading infection to others.
The good news is that we can properly cleanse our hands of germs while also maintaining the health and appearance of our skin.
When washing use a gentle soap, the FDA have proved that there is no real benefit to using antibacterial hand washes over a mild soap/ wash. (This is not so in a clinical environment) You can feel comfortable knowing that as long as you follow the guidelines (use warm water, lather your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, wash the tops and bottoms of your hands and between your fingers), your cleansing regimen will be effective.
Avoid leaving soap on your hands (preferably take jewellery off prior to washing your hands. Dry your hands thoroughly – back of hands and in between fingers.
While essential for keeping clean, both water and soap can negatively affect the skin barrier, the outermost layer of skin cells composed of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. The skin barrier maintains your skin’s hydration and health and, when damaged, can lead to your hands appearing red, flaky, cracked and dry.
It is important that hands are soap free and dry of moisture before putting on surgical gloves. If there is soap still on the skin or they are damp – the surgical glove will now trap the moisture / soap in to the skin creating a negative environment for the skin resulting in a dermatitis (occlusive dermatitis).
When it comes to moisturising, use something as simple as a light cream or lotion. During the day, you’ll want to use a water-based moisturiser on your hands to avoid the greasy feeling oil-based products might provide. After applying and massaging the cream in, you can wipe off the excess.
At night, use a heavier, oil-based moisturiser, especially if you have very dry, cracked skin or if you suffer from eczema. Look for products with soothing ingredients such as shea butter, vitamin E or almond oil. And for added barrier repair, you can also wear white cotton gloves over your moisturiser overnight or for a couple of hours while enjoying some downtime.
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As always, don’t forget to wear sunscreen on your hands—and all exposed skin—every day, particularly if you’re spending any time outdoors. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays and prevent sun spots from forming on those hands you’re taking great care to keep healthy.
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