Dermat speaks: How to fix dryness caused by excessive hand washing

Written by Urvi DalalMay 01, 2020

It is scary the rate at which the virus is spreading all over the world. While staying home and social distancing are two ways to curb the spread, regular hand washing is in fact the most effective way to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

The World Health Organisation claims that you need to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds every hour to completely get rid of all the germs, viruses and impurities. But washing your hands that frequently can lead to excessive hand dryness, also known as dermatitis.

Since now is not the time to go easy on the handwashing, we brought in the experts (read: dermatologists) to help you figure out what causes the dryness and how to deal with it and care for your hands.

Use of harsh soaps

Most hand soaps and sanitisers we use are alkaline in nature, and their excessive usage can sap moisture from your skin, making your hands dry and dull. “This leads to various problems such as sensitivity, eczema or extremely dry and parched skin,” says dermatologist Dr. A. K. Rai.

Loss of normal skin lipids

Another problem that arises when we wash our hands too often is that there is a loss of skin lipids. Skin lipids are nothing but the skin’s natural fats that act as a natural protective barrier to retain moisture and keep impurities from entering into your system.

Dr. Gunjan Gupta of Skin Concepts says, “Though these soaps and sanitisers are good to maintain hygiene, one drawback is that the excessive washing can lead to dryness, itchy and flaky skin. It can unmask the underlying tendency for hand eczema due to loss of normal skin lipids.”

Increased household chores

Thanks to the nationwide lockdown, we’re all left doing household chores that our maids usually took care of. This means mopping the floors, washing dishes and doing laundry every single day. The use of detergents and household disinfectants in these activities too affects our skin, further damaging our hands. Not only do these chemical-laden solutions cause dryness, but skin irritation too.

While all of the above is inevitable, you can do a few things to prevent damage to your precious hands.

Use a gentle, moisturising handwash

Dr. T.A. Rana of Skin Laser Clinic says, “The skin on our hands reacts to certain harsh detergents, leading to hand eczema and atopic dermatitis.” Therefore, it is advisable to use a mild and moisturising handwash such as the Dove Deeply Nourishing Hand Wash. It contains one-fourth moisturising cream to moisturise and protect your hands. It also contains stearic acid, which is a lipid naturally found in the skin that helps preserve the moisture barrier of all the skin lipids.

You can also look for glycerine-based soaps that are particularly good at retaining moisture and repairing damaged skin.

Pat your hands dry

Do you have a habit of vigorously rubbing your hands against a towel to dry them? Well, that’s something that needs to stop. Always pat your hands dry and be gentle while you are at it. Aggressively rubbing your hands only ends up drying them out further and irritating the skin, making it flaky and itchy.

Follow it up with a moisturiser

Now, while your hands are still slightly damp, Dermatologist Dr. Ketan Shah, advises applying a rich moisturiser to your hands. This will help to seal in the moisture and protect your hands from getting dry and flaky.

The Vaseline Intensive Care Healthy Hand Stronger Nails Hand Cream, Healthy Hands Stronger Nails contains Vaseline jelly and is enriched with glycerine and stearic acid to moisturise and protect, keeping your hands free from dryness.

Wear gloves when doing household chores

Since the detergents and disinfectants in your cleaning products damage your skin, it is best to prevent them from coming in contact with your skin in the first place. Wear rubber gloves while doing dishes or mopping the floor. This little precaution will not only keep your hands moisturised, but prevent your nails from breaking and chipping as well.