Pandemic of dry hands thanks to the Swine Flu, hand washing and hand sanitizers - your hands are going to need special attention this year! I've never seen so many patients with severely dry hands in all my years as a dermatologist. Folks with chapped hands started coming into my office during the early fall, well before the weather turned cold here in Northern California. It's the hand sanitizer craze! People with the worst chapped hands invariably were just around someone sick and used "a ton" of hand sanitizer trying not to get sick themselves.
Hand washing and hand sanitizers cause dry hands, called irritant hand dermatitis.
Dry hands and hand sanitizer sales are both going like gangbusters. Every ones using the darn hand sanitizers. All the time and everyplace they touch something public or shake someone's hand they squirt hand sanitizer all over their hands. My own medical office has a bottle at the check in counter and another at the checkout counter. There's also one in every exam room.
Because hand sanitizers typically contain at least 60% alcohol, they strip your hand's natural oils and dry out your skin....
You're going to need savvy hand skin care skills to make it through this years cold and flu season without dry, itchy chapped hands. Dermatologist and Skin Wellness Expert Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Here's what I'm telling my patients:
Dermatologists Skin Care Advice for Preventing Dry Hands for Hand Sanitizer Users
Use the thicker skin on the palm side of your hands as your 'public' side to touch dirty things, and if that is the only side that has touched public items then consider only apply hand sanitizer to this side. I taught my kids this when they were little. Think of your hands as having a 'public' side and a 'private' side.
- The 'public' side (palm and palm side of the fingers) touches shopping carts, escalator hand rails, public ink pens etc.
- The 'private' side on the back needs to stay clean and it's what you use to scratch your nose, rub your eyes etc., unless your hands are freshly washed.
Try to keep your germ contact on the thick 'public' side because the tough thick skin there is better able to tolerate hand sanitizers and repleted washing. Only apply hand sanitizer to this 'public side' unless you've potentially gotten germs on the back 'private' side too, like when you shake someone's hand or are within someone's 'respiration droplet zone'.
Take really good care of your hand skin in between hand sanitizer applications. This means use only gentle soaps to wash and apply a good moisturizer immediately after drying your hands as often as possible. More specifically:
Use a hypoallergenic and non-drying hand soap to wash your hands.
Use gentle, non drying soaps and lather only the dirty 'public' side of your hands unless the back 'private' side is dirty or has come into contact with germs. Be sure to rinse your hands really well because soap residue is drying and will irritate your skin. I have the perfect gentle, glycerin rich hand cleanser. It's foaming so that it rinses off easily. This is important because retained soap residue will continue to pull out natural oils from your skin to compound your chapping hand problem. Click here to see my All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap. Remember, you need to rinse soap off your skin entirely or it continues to pull skin oils out and damage skin proteins needed for healthy hands.
Use a hypoallergenic and non-greasy but deeply healing hand cream after washing your hands.
This is really important! Moisturize your hands with a good quality hand cream immediately after toweling dry. Apply the cream to your entire hand, but especially the back 'private' side where the skin is thinner and more likely to chap. Wipe off the excess cream from the palm side to keep from getting it on everything and having a slippery grip. Most hand creams are greasy and hard to use during the day. Mine is not. Yep, it's the best hand cream and I love it. It's my Dry Skin Hand Cream. This is the hand cream that I use all day long and my hands stay pretty hydrated in spite of washing and hand sanitizing them constantly.
Use the best healing ointment to heal chapped hands.
If your hands start chapping, give them a big hydrating boost at night. Soak them in warm water for 5 minutes, towel dry then apply a generous layer of some heavy and greasy ointment with lanolin like Bag Balm (if you're not allergic to wool) and cover them with cotton gloves overnight. If your wool allergic try pure shea butter (available in the skin care section of your natural food store).
Protect chapped hands by wearing gloves.
If you have chapped hands you need to wear rubber gloves when your touching irritating things like dish soap, bleach solutions, house cleaners and even some foods like tomatoes, citrus etc. A good rule of thumb (no pun intended) is that for contact with things that would be too harsh to apply to your facial skin, you need gloves to touch with chapped hands. Surprising and inconvenient, but think about what you ask your hands to do; you use them like they are gloved to touch harsh chemicals. Normally they can handle it because healthy hand skin is a pretty good barrier, but chapped skin is broken. Harsh chemicals get through chapped skin, irritating it like putting lemon juice on a cut. Your chapped hands just won't heal unless you protect them and you need to keep using the gloves until the skin is entirely back to normal plus a week or two. This is pretty inconvenient so it's best to just take really good care of your hands before they become chapped by washing with gentle soaps, regularly moisturizing and not over using the hand sanitizers.
I've put together all the best hand care products to heal chapped hands in my Dry Hand Skin Repair Kit!
My Dry Skin Hand Repair Kit heals hands that are severely chapped and it includes
- My Foaming Natural Hand Soap
- Bag Balm
- Dry Skin Hand Cream
- Cotton Gloves
- Fingertip file for splitting and fingertip fissured skin (an option)
Every day I depend on my Survival Kit for Busy Hands - like yours and mine! It includes my All Natural Foaming Hand Cleanser and my beloved Dry Skin Hand Cream.
Another great option is my botanical combination of products called my Naturally Busy Hand Care Kit. This partners the same Natural Foaming Hand Soap with my Natural Lotion. I keep this in my bathroom because my husband and I use the lotion as our general body lotion to prevent dry skin.
Photo attribution: CC BY 2.0