These days, we're all washing our hands a LOT more than we used to. We are all doing the best we can to protect ourselves from coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control suggests that people should scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds to stop the spread of germs effectively. Though frequent hand washing is a reliable way to ward off illness, it can lead to and exacerbate dry skin issues. As a result, our hands are taking a beating!Frequent, bordering on obsessive, hand washing has become the "norm" for many of us as we work to prevent the spread of COVID. I've been getting a lot of questions about how people can prevent their hands from chronic dryness and even cracking. I'm seeing this situation growing worse everyday and thought I'd share some tricks I've learned over the years to keep my hands hydrated and happy.
Why is handwashing so harsh on our skin?
The outermost layer of our skin is composed of oils and wax, and it acts as both a shield from the outside and a guard that maintains natural moisture in the skin. This natural barrier is broken down by the suds created by soap while washing hands, which does not discriminate between unwanted oil, germs, debris and natural oils in the skin. Not applying hand cream can lead to dryness, redness, itching, flaking, discomfort and in severe cases, cracks in the skin. Those with preexisting dermatologic conditions like eczema can experience worsening symptoms.
How should we wash our hands to avoid skin dryness?
Apply enough mild, fragrance-free soap to remove dirt, but avoid using so much that it creates a thick lather—this washes away natural oils. Wash with warm, not hot water, for at least 20 seconds, patting your hands dry with a towel. Once your hands are dry, apply a moisturizer immediately. Keep small travel sizes of creams in purse, gym bag, and at your work desk to make sure it is within reach.
How to prevent and treat dry hands
Moisturize All Day
Begin first thing in the morning. After you shower or wash your face, apply a thick layer of cream and massage it in. Keep a bottle of lotion, a jar of your favorite cream or tin of Skin Doctor with you at all times. Apply a little after you wash your hands. If you're working in an environment, like a restaurant or hospital, where you're washing your hands every few minutes, this isn't practical. In that case, apply a heavy moisturizer each time you go on break. Moisturizing multiple times each day will go a long way towards keeping your skin well hydrated.
Moisturize Every Night
As we sleep, our bodies go into what I call "healing and repair mode". They take this downtime to cleanse away toxins, repair injuries and build new tissues. We can really get a lot of important work done on our skin while we sleep. I like to scrub my hands with sugar scrub (my favorite right now is our new Detox Lemon Drop scent) and, while my skin is still moist, apply a thick layer of moisture. I choose Skin Doctor salve every night because I put my hands through so much every day. If you prefer something a little lighter, try one of our Ultrarich Body Creams like Chamomile Dream to calm your nervous system and ease you into restful sleep. If you want to really treat yourself to a heavenly ritual, reach for that Youth in Bloom Amber & Myrrh Firming Body Cream and inhale the scent as you massage it into your hands. Our hands do more during the day than we realize and are filled with nerves that relax the rest of our bodies as we massage them. If your hands are sore from hard work (or play!), massage in some of the Deep Freeze Sore Muscle Rub.
It may sound crazy, but stress causes the body to release chemicals like cortisol and creates other changes in the body that can make eczema, psoriasis and other dry-skin related problems worse. As you massage your hands, breathe deeply, slowly in through your nose and out your mouth. Consciously relax your shoulders down away from your ears. Let your eyebrows slide apart, softening the furrow between them. Soften your mouth, gently lifting the corners just slightly. Let your jaw loosen until your teeth are separated, not clenched. Relax your tongue and let if fall away from the roof of your mouth.
My husband and I like to read in bed at night (because we're kinda nerdy- you probably know that already!) and I love to massage one of his hands with Skin Doctor as we relax after our busy day. This small act of kindness is deeply nurturing.
Try a Hand Mask
Seriously! I always say that, to have younger looking hands, you need to treat them with the same anti-aging and hydrating products you use on your face. Obviously, you aren't going to use your acne treatments on your hands, but exfoliating, hydrating, brightening and anti-aging products work wonders to keep your hands looking smooth and soft.
My favorite ritual includes double masking. I exfoliate and brighten the backs of my hands with a 10 minute treatment of the Coconut Lactic Peel, rinse and follow with a thick layer of the Honey Avocado Rescue Mask to replace lost moisture. Try it and let me know how lovely your hands look afterwards!
Calming Red, Irritated Skin and Eczema
Sometimes, the skin on your hands may go way beyond dry and dehydrated. A few weeks ago, I was in the checkout line at my local pet store and noticed the cashier's red, swollen, cracking hands. She said she'd had a bad reaction to the hand sanitizer she's required to use everyday at work. We call this contact dermatitis- simply put, inflammation of the skin after it comes in contact with something. Sometimes Skin Doctor salve is just the thing for upset skin, but it does contain some antibacterial essential oils that may cause further irritation to very sensitive skin.
The skin's protective lipid barrier, the "acid mantel", can be broken down by overuse of antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizer, chemical exposure, synthetic fragrances or even frequent hand washing. When this happens, the skin is especially vulnerable and reactive. It can become red, painful, itchy and even bleed a little.
I recommend using our Zinc Rescue Cream to calm the skin and provide a protective moisture barrier as the skin heals. Zinc oxide is a natural chalk-like mineral that's mined and ground into a fine powder. On the skin, zinc acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. We blend it into nourishing plant oils like olive, meadowfoam and calendula, thickening it with a little local beeswax that heals and locks in moisture. Our customers use this wonder cream for everything from eczema to diaper rash and even as a treatment for radiated skin.
Tips for Gorgeous Gardening Hands
Yes, you can garden and have lovely, soft hands too! I love to garden and feel the soft earth and the coolness of the plants in my hands. Unfortunately, all that dirt sucks the oil right out of my skin, leaving my hands dry and itching, laced with small scrapes and cuts from weeding and trimming and transplanting my plants. I've learned that pre-moisturizing with a heavy salve like Skin Doctor or any other heavy moisturizer, not only creates a moisture barrier that lasts through a few hours of gardening, but it also makes all the dirt wash off easier!
Before gardening, apply a heavy layer of Skin Doctor salve or other thick moisture cream to your hands and really massage it in for a few minutes.
Keep Those Nails Clean!
My grandmother taught me another great trick: To keep dirt from getting under your fingernails, scrape your nails on a bar of soap until the soap is packed under each nail. It feels strange, but it works wonderfully!
After Gardening: Once you're done gardening, wash your hands well with sugar scrub or gentle soap and a little nail brush. I prefer using a sugar scrub. The oil in our sugar scrubs bonds with dirt and it washes off without stripping my hands dry. Brush all the soap from under your nails and they're sparkling clean. It's so much easier to wash soap from under your nails than dirt! Pat your skin dry and massage in some more Skin Doctor salve or your favorite hand cream. If you have any little cuts or scrapes (I always get a few), use a few drops of the Skin Doctor First Aid Oil to kill any germs and help them heal faster.