If you weren’t a regularly handwashing before 2020, you certainly are now. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to move through the world, political figures and public health officials have remained steadfast in their advice to stop the spread: Wash your hands.
But while washing hands can sound like an easy task, it often comes with its own set of challenges – especially for people with preexisting skin conditions. Regular handwashing can exacerbate eczema and psoriasis, and excessive dryness can lead to infection. If you’re worried about how this habit may affect your skin, consider adopting these tips to keep your hands clean and healthy.
If you have eczema, washing your hands often can lead to extreme dry and cracked skin. The habit can also exacerbate already existing eczema symptoms, which may cause additional itchiness, pain, and possible infection. The best way to handle eczema while keeping your hands germ free is to be proactive about your condition. Use moisturizers directly after washing, and favor washing with soap and water over hand sanitizer, which has alcohol and can be excessively drying. Additionally, avoid antiseptic and antibacterial washes, which can be very harsh on the skin.
If your skin does crack, covering these cuts with bandaids or a liquid adhesive can help mitigate eczema symptoms. If your skin is sensitive to harsh chemicals, only handle cleaning supplies while wearing gloves.
For some people, these measures may not be enough to prevent a severe eczema flare-up. If a dryness crack becomes infected, you will need a prescription medication to address it. Similarly, if your eczema flare-up becomes serious, you may need a prescription topical medication to help reduce the inflammation.
Like eczema, psoriasis patients will need to exercise extreme caution while washing their hands. Those with preexisting skin conditions are at a higher risk of skin damage, and because psoriasis is an autoimmune rash, the effects of an illness or injury may be more intense than in a person without the condition.
Those with psoriasis who want to wash their hands safely should prioritize soap with moisturizers. Avoid alcoholic sanitizers, and thoroughly dry your hands between washing and moisturizing. Germs are transferred more easily between wet hands, and water itself can impair the skin barrier for people experiencing psoriasis flare-ups.
If your psoriasis outbreak becomes very uncomfortable, invest in a heavy-duty moisturizer to use in the evenings. Consider applying the formula to your hands overnight while wearing cotton gloves. This can significantly improve your skin’s moisture retention while mitigating uncomfortable psoriasis symptoms.
For those without preexisting skin conditions, dryness can still present a big challenge. Soap and warm water strip the skin of natural oils, which can result in dry, cracked hands. While the experience may be only uncomfortable at first, excessive dryness can cause cracks. The best way to avoid this outcome is to be proactive in your hand protection. For most, this means investing in a moisturizer.
It’s important to make a strategic choice when buying hand moisturizer. For most people, both with and without pre-existing skin conditions, we recommend buying two moisturizers: one lighter formula to use directly after washing hands, and one heavier formula to help repair skin overnight.