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How to Care for Your Hands

Apr 16, 2020

Washing our hands is one of the effective ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19, particularly after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. However, frequent handwashing can lead to red, itchy or even cracked skin.

"We've seen a huge uptick in Utah of dry skin as concern about COVID-19 has arisen," says Aaron Secrest, MD, PhD, a University of Utah Health dermatologist. "Utah is not an ideal state for people's skin, even at the best of times, with the climate, high altitude, very little humidity, and a lot of outdoor activities."

Here's how Secrest suggests you wash and care for your hands, not only during this crisis, but every day:

  • Wash your hands with soap and lukewarm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Moisturize your damp hands immediately after with a cream moisturizer, the type you squeeze out of a tube. Pat your hands dry, then rub a pea-sized amount of moisturizer over your hands such as Eucerin, Cetaphil or CeraVe.
  • Avoid lotions you pump out of a bottle. Pump lotions are loaded with alcohol that dry out skin, Secrest says.
  • Choose fragrance or dye-free moisturizers. They are less irriating for your skin.
  • When soap and water aren't readily available, use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Be sure to apply moisturizer immediately afterward since alcohol can dry out the skin.
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can soothe dry and cracked skin.
  • Before bed, apply cream; then wear cotton gloves that will protect your hands while you are sleeping.

If symptoms of dry skin persist or are worrisome, consult a dermatologist virtually.

Did you know?

Using moisturizer after washing your hands does NOT negate your handwashing efforts, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In addition, there is NO evidence that using hand sanitizer makes you more vulnerable to infections or viruses.

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