The current global pandemic and government guidelines have made us all aware of the importance of regular and sustained handwashing in order to protect our health. Many of us are also now reaching for the anti-bacterial hand sanitiser more than we usually would and filling our new found free time cleaning the house, exposing our skin to strong cleaning products. The importance of handwashing to help to protect us during this time can’t be underestimated, however your hands may be left feeling dry, sore and cracked. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect your skin and soothe your dry hands.
Moisturising your hands is the best way to alleviate dry skin and soothe cracked hands. There are so many types of hand cream on the market so it can be hard to know what the best hand cream to use is. When buying a hand moisturiser, there are a few things to look out for. You will want your hand cream to contain emollients, occlusives and humectants which work in slightly different ways to protect and nourish the skin.
Emollients soften the skin and provide a protective layer to the skin, covering small cracks in the hands. Emollients are ingredients such as shea butter, aloe vera and vitamin E. Occlusives are oil based and work to prevent moisture loss from the skin. Common occlusives are beeswax and argan oil. Humectants increase the water content in the skin by pulling moisture from the air and from the deeper layers of the skin. Humectants include glycerin and urea, a natural substance found in the skin that helps bind moisture to the skin.
You should moisturise your hands a couple of times throughout the day, particularly if they are feeling dry following a hand wash. Applying a thick layer of moisturiser and a pair of cotton gloves before going to bed can help to replenish moisture lost throughout the day.
How to protect your hands when cleaning
When cleaning, whether it be simply washing up or using strong cleaning products to clean the oven or the bathroom, it is really important to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Cleaning products can dry out the hands and can irritate the skin. If your hands are already dry from more frequent hand washing, your skin can be more sensitive than usual to these products and can lead to a reaction. Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema which is caused by contact with a particular substance or irritant, commonly soaps, detergents or water, damaging the outer layer of the skin. Contact dermatitis usually clears up on its own when the substance causing the problem is identified and avoided. By protecting your hands using rubber gloves when washing up or cleaning you can avoid contact with potentially irritating substances.
How to protect your hands when gardening
With the lovely spring weather we are having and the current restrictions in place, many of us will be spending our free time gardening. The hands are exposed to an array of damaging factors when gardening including blisters, stings, cuts and sun damage. Soil can also make the hands dry, as soil will try to draw out moisture from anywhere it can. It is therefore important to protect the hands by wearing gloves when working in the garden so as to not irritate hands which may already be cracked and sore.
If you are out in the garden for long periods of time, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to protect all of your skin, not only your hands. For more information about why sunscreen is so important and which sun creams are best to use, read our blog on Everything you need to know about suncream.
How to protect your hands if you have a skin condition
A variety of skin conditions can affect the hands including eczema (particularly contact dermatitis) and palma psoriasis. If you suffer from one of these conditions your hands may be particularly sore at the moment. If your skin condition is causing you pain or problems, speak to a consultant dermatologist who can assess your condition and discuss treatment options with you to improve your symptoms.
Dr Adam Friedmann
Qualifications: MB BS 1997 University of London
Dr Friedmann is a UK-trained Dermatologist who trained at King’s College School of Medicine, London. He has worked at many of London’s teaching hospitals including King’s College, St Georges, Hammersmith, Barts and the London and the Royal Free Hospitals.
Dr Friedmann is Chief Medical Officer of The Dermatology Partnership and Clinical Director of the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic.