June 01, 2020

My hands are very dry due to so much hand washing. How can I protect my skin?

Q: My hands are very dry from so much hand-washing recently. How can I protect my skin?

Hand-washing with soap and warm water is one of the best defenses against spreading the COVID-19 virus, and it's common and even expected that the skin will become dry or irritated from the appropriately increased frequency of hand-washing. To lessen dry skin development, make sure to:

  • Use a hypoallergenic soap that is free of perfumes or other potential irritants.
  • Wash with comfortably warm water.
  • Rinse all soap off the hands after lathering — particularly off the wrist area and between fingers — as soap residue left on skin can be irritating.
  • Gently pat your hands dry with a frequently washed towel or a paper towel. Don't let hands air-dry, as this increases evaporation of moisture from the skin.
  • Apply and rub in a layer of hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion or cream. For extra moisturization, wait a minute or so after the first application, then apply again. If needed, apply a layer of ointment on top of moisturized hands. The skin doesn't absorb the ointment, but it slows the natural evaporation of moisture from the skin.

For more-detailed information on steps to manage a flare-up of a skin condition — such as dermatitis or eczema — visit Mayo Clinic Connect at: https://connect.MayoClinic.org. Once there, click "Pages" and look for "Aging & Health: Take Charge," the new Mayo Clinic Health Letter online forum.

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