The single most important thing we can do to help delay the spread of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus that’s sweeping across the world, is to wash our hands. Guidelines suggest we wash them for at least 20 seconds, with soap and warm water, before we touch our faces or eat, as well as using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water isn’t available.
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While we’re more than happy to abide by these rules – it’s the least we can do in the face of a crisis – it is leaving the skin on our hands rather dry. Combined with the cold weather and central heating, it’s a recipe for cracked and dry skin.
“Washing your hands repeatedly, especially in the winter months can really take its toll and dry out your skin, as the natural oils are stripped away. This can be further aggravated by the cold air outside and drying effects of central heating and is particularly problematic for those with pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema,” explains consultant dermatologist, Dr Daniel Glass from The Dermatology Clinic London.
Sara Waterman, leading Aesthetician and Skincare Expert at Young LDN, agrees; “Over time excessively washing your hands and using hand sanitisers will deplete the skin’s natural protective barrier. This in turn, can leave the hands feeling dry and sore.”
Here’s exactly how you should care for chapped, cracked skin while still staying safe and washing your hands regularly and thoroughly…
SWITCH TO FRAGRANCE-FREE SOAP
Some soaps and hand sanitisers aggravate the skin due to the chemicals used which include foaming agents and detergents, so it’s important to reduce as many non-essential allergens as possible. “It is increasingly important to ensure that we moisturise regularly and try to opt for soaps and moisturisers which are fragrance-free and contain the fewest potential allergens,” explains Dr Glass.
USE A PARAFFIN MOISTURISER
While there are many different kinds of moisturisers, the best ones to use on extremely dry skin are those which contain paraffin wax. “There are many different lipid bases and solvents used in moisturisers. One of the more effective moisturisers is probably white soft paraffin (petrolatum), which occludes the skin well decreasing water loss,” says Dr Glass. Pure paraffin wax is greasy and messy to use, but there are a number of moisturisers on the market that contain paraffin amongst their ingredients, like Cetraben Cream, Cetaphil Hand Cream and CereVe Hand Cream.
MAKE A HAND MASK
It’s easy to make an intensive moisturising mask for your hands at home. All you’ll need is a rich cream, ideally one containing paraffin wax, and a pair of latex or non-latex gloves, or some cling film. Massage cream into the problem areas, and cover with the gloves or film. Leave for half an hour before removing and massaging in the excess.
DON’T STOP WASHING YOUR HANDS
If your hands are sore and your skin dry, it can be tempting for forgo the full 20-second hand wash, but it’s never been so important to maintain high standards of hand hygiene. “In times when excessive risk of infection is present, dry chapped hands are a better choice,” says Sara.