As the spread of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to evolve, there is an increased emphasis on the importance of good hand hygiene.

05 March 2020

In our line of work, at Renew Skin Clinic, hand hygiene is so important and it’s something that all our staff are well versed in. Good hand hygiene is the best way to protect yourself from picking up germs while going about your daily life. However, for those of you who have sensitive or dry skin, increased handwashing and application of hand sanitisers can cause not just discomfort but pain too.

This week on the Renew Skin Clinic blog, we want to share with you how you can maintain good hand hygiene, protect yourself from picking up germs and keep your skin safe too.

The skin is a finely-balanced system, it needs the right amount of hydration, pH levels and temperature to keep it in peak condition. These factors are also coupled with the right nutrients which nourish the skin internally. Like any system, when one element goes out of sync, it affects the whole system. This can happen with those of us who experience extreme drying and cracking of the skin on the hands each winter. It can also happen when we change our hand hygiene routine.

We’re going to assume that most of our readers practice regular handwashing as part of their normal daily routine. However, in the current climate, we are being reminded to be even more vigilant, which means that we are applying lots more hand sanitiser and washing more often. While this is good advice, as it keeps your hands clean, when your hands start drying out to the point that they crack, then you leave yourself at risk, as those tiny cuts can let contaminants into your system.

While some of us may experience dry skin as a result of increased handwashing, others experience a more painful condition called irritant contact dermatitis.  This condition can cause symptoms including dryness, irritation, cracking of the skin and bleeding and can occur as cleaning agents break down the protective lipid barrier on the skin.

Choosing Your Cleansing Product

Some soaps may be more irritating or drying on your skin than others. Fragrances and preservatives in these products can cause allergic reactions in some people. Studies among nurses have found that although many people expected to find alcohol-based sanitisers drying on their skin, it had a less drying effect than soap.

Opt for a hand cleansing product that doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry and tight after one use. If it does, this will only compound over time and irritate your skin. It doesn’t matter what type of formulation you opt for, as long as you use correct handwashing procedures, a cream wash, gel wash, or bar of soap will all work equally well to keep your hands clean.

Get the Other Handwashing Conditions Right

It’s not only the product you use that can irritate your skin. If you’re experiencing dry, cracking skin on your hands, don’t use overly hot water when washing your hands. It isn’t necessary to boil your hands; warm water will be as effective and won’t dry out your skin.

How you dry your hands is also important. It has been shown that not drying your hands can increase the transmission of bacteria. Ensure that you use a clean, dry towel to dry your hands thoroughly, including between your fingers, where cracking often occurs. Where paper towels are available, these are more hygienic than air dryers. However, if they are poor quality, this can also lead to skin irritation.

Moisturise

Perhaps the most important step to keep your skin soft and protected from contact dermatitis is to always moisturise after washing your hands. If you are experiencing contact dermatitis, then a steroid cream and rich emollient might be necessary to help repair the skin and restore adequate moisture levels.

If your skin is dry but not cracked or weeping, choose a rich moisturiser which will lock in the moisture and help prevent your skin dryness from becoming worse. Make this an essential part of washing your hands, you’re not finished until you’ve moisturised.

Don’t Overdo It

Whatever you do, don’t double up! There is no need to wash your hands and then apply hand sanitiser too. This is a sure way to dry out your skin and cause irritation. It’s also completely unnecessary.

Remember, everyone’s skin is different. Some of us will have no problem with extra hand hygiene measures, while it can spell disaster for others. If you are concerned about the skin on your hands becoming dried out and sore, we will be happy to advise on skincare products that can protect your skin health. You can contact any of our 4 clinics around Leinster.

Also, if you’re concerned about what you can do to keep yourself and your family safe from the Coronavirus, please visit the HSE website where you can the most up to date, factual information. There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet so please choose your information sources carefully.

Stay safe,

from all at Renew Skin Clinic