- Regular hand-cleaning is essential to prevent the spread of Covid-19
- Soaps and hand sanitisers can, however, irritate the skins of people with eczema
- An American expert recommends regular application of moisturiser to prevent skin drying out
Hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses, but for people with skin conditions like eczema, lathering up frequently can lead to dryness, cracking, itchiness, pain and even an infection.
If you're struggling to balance pandemic hand-washing and skin conditions, Dr Jonathan Silverberg, a dermatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., offers some advice.
- Regular washing is better than hand sanitiser: When you cleanse with soap and water, then immediately apply moisturiser, you can "offset much of the drying effects of hand-washing", Silverberg said in a news release from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He recommends carrying a pocket tube of moisturiser so you can apply it on the go.
- Avoid antiseptic and antibacterial soaps: You may not need them, as long as you scrub thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds and then rinse.
- Moisturise properly: After washing, pat your hands until they are mostly dry, using a paper towel or tissue. "Once mostly dry, [i.e., your skin is still a little damp], apply a generous amount of moisturiser to coat the entire surface of your hands and fingers," Silverberg said.
- Beware of gloves plus sanitiser: To avoid irritation from hand-washing, some people with skin conditions wear disposable gloves and then use sanitiser on them – an approach Silverberg does not recommend. "When we apply hand sanitiser on our bare skin, we can feel if we covered the entire surface of the hands and fingers," he said. "But when wearing gloves, we limit the ability to feel this and might miss some spots on the gloves and then accidentally carry some germs." It makes more sense to change gloves and/or wash or sanitise hands often, Silverberg said.
- Wear gloves when cleaning: Cleaning products are especially harsh on the skin. "People should always wear gloves when using antiseptic wipes and cleaning products," Silverberg said.
- Sterilise containers: If you carry bottles of soap and moisturiser with you, clean and sterilise the containers to remove harmful germs. And remember: Moisturiser should not be applied unless hands are clean, to prevent contaminating the product.
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