Diligent hand washing is always important, now more than ever. Unfortunately, frequent hand washing comes with an unpleasant effect—dry, flaky, cracked skin, the result of physical damage to the skin.
Your skin is your body’s barrier from everyday exposure to outside elements. It is comprised of two layers, the epidermis and dermis. The epidermis, the outermost layer, is covered in lipids and oils, fatty compounds that act as a shield and maintain moisture in your skin. While soap does a great job at washing away surface debris, it is also stripping this outer layer of essential natural oils.
To avoid damage to your skin resulting from dryness, it is important to keep your hands well moisturized. Wash your hands in warm water, pat dry, and immediately apply a hand moisturizer. Hand creams, ointments, and balms are thicker and can help restore the skin’s surface barrier, while hand lotions should be applied throughout the day to maintain moisture balance. For an intensive moisture treatment, lather on hand cream and put on cloth gloves before bedtime. This will trap in the moisture and allow your skin to fully absorb the lotion while you are sleeping. If you are prone to dermatitis or have sensitive skin, try opting for a fragrance-free hand lotion, as fragrances are a common contact allergen.
Hand washing is not something you can avoid, but you can create the habit of moisturizing immediately after every wash— your hands will thank you.