COVID-19: How to Treat Dry Hands From Washing

02 May 2020

COVID-19 Prevention Tips: How to Wash Hands and Treat Dry Hands


By now, most you are probably familiar with the symptoms and complications of Covid-19. The global outbreak and continuing spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) have led to a death toll of 34, 000 to date (accurate as of 30th March 2020). Unless a vaccine or anti-viral is developed to eradicate Covid-19, the spread of Covid-19 looks likely to continue for a long while before it plateaus.


I’ve previously shared about how to improve your immunity against Covid-19 in this blogpost How to Improve Your Immunity Against Covid-19 (Wuhan Coronavirus). This post will focus on reducing the spread through hand hygiene. Other measures such as social distancing and mask wearing are of course as important.


With the global spread of Covid-19, masures aimed at preventing the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being taken very seriously. One effective and very affordable measure that you can take at home and work to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is the simple act of washing your hands.


How to properly wash your hands with soap and water- 8 steps in 20s seconds. Image credit: Ministry of Health, Singapore


Although patients who are infected with Covid-19 display symptoms such as cough, fever and tiredness; patients may seem well before they turn ill. During this “well period” or incubation period, the virus may be transmitted to another person. Proper hand washing has been found to reduce the bacterial and viral load on your hands; which in turn reduces the risk of transmitting microorganisms to someone else or another object. Singapore’s Ministry of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US have also reinforced the importance of hand washing for at least 20 seconds and to avoid touching your face to stop the spread of COVID-19.


In this blogpost I’ll be discussing:

• Hand washing VS using alcohol sanitisers; 

• Why do hand washing and use of sanitisers cause dry hands?

 • How to prevent and treat dry hands from washing 

• How to choose a moisturiser for your hand

 • What to do if the dryness of your hands persist



 Hand washing vs sanistisers: Which is safer to prevent the spread of COVID-19?


Washing your hands with water and soap is the best way to get rid of all types of germs and chemicals. Alcohol based sanitisers, on the other hand, can inactive some germs, but not all, when used correctly. However, you may not use an adequate volume of sanitiser or; you might wipe it off before it has dried. Also, if your hands are dirty, sanitisers are unable to remove debris.


Washing your hands with soap and water is preferred. However, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Many studies have shown that alcohol based sanitisers with at 60-95% alcohol content are more effective at killing germs than sanitisers with less or no alcohol content.


The skin barrier is made up of lipids and oils in the stratum corneum. When this layer is disrupted e.g. by frequent hand washing, dry hand, inflammation and infections can result.


Why does frequent hand washing and use of sanitisers dry my hands?

The top layer of our skin contains a layer of oils and fats like ceramides that make up skin’s natural protective barrier. This lipid barrier reduces transepidermal water loss and protects against damage from the environment germs.


Frequent hand washing and use of sanistisers are a cause of irritant contact dermatitis. The lipids, oils and proteins that protect our skin are damaged, disrupting the skin’s protective barrier. If you have dry skin or conditions like hand eczema (atopic dermatitis), you are more likely to be predisposed to dryness, irritation and increased sensitivity of the hands.



What can I do to prevent and treat dry hands with hand washing?

If your hands are dry and inflamed, taking preventive and corrective steps are important. Your hands will continue to be irritated with continued hand washing and you might get a skin infection.


Here are some tips to prevent and treat dry hands with hand washing:

Rinse with warm water. Avoid hot water because it would further irritate and dry your skin

 • Pat your hands dry with a towel instead of rubbing; rubbing causes abrasions

• Leave your hands slightly damp and then moisturise

• Dry air also dries your skin so consider using a humidifier (personally, I make do with a diffuser)


Hand creams are my bedside staple; my hands are very dry because I wash my hands countless times a day (job hazard + I’m a clean freak).  They’re my little daily luxury and I choose ones that contain essential oils instead of fragrances for scents. Which brands of hand creams are your favourites?


How to choose a moisturiser for your hand?


• Choose a cream based moisturiser, because they contain oil or lipids that form an occlusive, protective seal over the skin to block out water loss and infections.

Avoid allergens in your hand moisturiser e.g. retinoids, fragrances

• Look for ingredients that fortify the skin barrier (e.g. ceramides) and occlusives that lock in moisture (e.g. shea butter, dimethicones, petroleum)


Related blogpost:

Ceramides in Skincare: A Relief for Sensitive and Dry Skin 


What can you do if you have severe or persistant hand dryness? Consider Profhilo.


What if the dryness in your hands persists?

If the dryness of your hands persists (and we all can’t stop handwashing), consider seeing a doctor. Irritant contact dermatitis or undiagnosed eczema may require medications such as steroids and advice on skincare for the hands.


You can also DIY a hand-mask. Use a thick hand cream of your choice and wear gloves over your hands while you sleep. Something affordable like vaseline will work.


If the dermatitis has settled and your hands are still dry, you can consider hand fillers. Hand fillers are a type of injectable moisturiser (e.g. Profhilo and Skinboosters) that deliver hyaluronic acid into the skin for longer lasting skin hydration. My blogpost, Hand Fillers: Turning Back the Hands of Time, will share more about US FDA approved hand fillers and show how I do hand fillers in my clinic in Singapore.


Related blogposts

Is Profhilo the Injectable Skincare of the Future?

Skinboosters: All You Need to Know About It

Rejuran Healer vs Skinboosters

Conclusion On Hand Washing and Treating Dry Hands

 Please remember to take care of your hands! Frequent hand washing is necessary in light of the global spread of COVID-19 and there are ways you can get around it to prevent and treat hand dryness. Wash with warm water and moisturise immediately after washing are very simple tricks.


If your hands are still dry and inflamed, you might need to see your doctor to treat your irritant contact dermatitis. Besides skincare, hand fillers or injectable moisturisers are a consideration after the dermatitis has settled.


This post is part of a series of dermatological posts related to Covid-19. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the following blogposts:

5 Skin Conditions Related to Covid-19: Covid Toes to Hives

How to Avoid Acne From Wearing Surgical Masks

How to Improve Your Immunity Against Covid-19




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