Justin Creel, MD, FAAD
Are your hands dry and scaly? What about itchy or irritated? Do they have cracks that are painful and tender?
With the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing more patients than ever with irritant hand dermatitis (which is another word for rash or irritation)! This is primarily due to everyone’s increased efforts with hand hygiene, an effective method in preventing the spread of infection. As medical professionals, we fully support and encourage such cleanliness! But on the other hand (no pun intended), as dermatologists, we also strive to prevent damage to skin and nails. So let’s talk about ways to help you accomplish both – prevent Coronavirus infection AND keep your skin healthy and happy!
- Choose sanitizer over soap.
- This may be counterintuitive, as patients often “feel” like sanitizers are more drying than soap. However, studies have actually shown that handwashing results in far greater damage to your skin, with increased dryness and inflammation. In contrast, hand sanitizer is equally effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and other sources of infection.
- Note: you SHOULD use soap and water for soiled hands such as those with visible dirt, blood, oils, etc. These substances require physical removal via washing and/or scrubbing and are NOT effectively cleaned with sanitizer alone.
- Avoid hot water.
- Keep temperatures lukewarm or even cold if possible. Hotter temperatures lead to far greater losses of our skin’s protective oils.
- Don’t worry, the cooler temperature does NOT counteract or reduce the wash’s cleanliness.
- Choose the proper sanitizer.
- Look for products that have isopropyl alcohol 60-80%, which is the necessary concentration to kill stubborn bacteria and viruses. Many products have higher levels up to 90% or more - this does NOT increase effectiveness but DOES make them more drying to your skin.
- Avoid products with fragrance or preservatives.
- Trial and error may be necessary to find the ideal product for your skin type!
- See list below for examples of recommended products.
- Bring your sanitizer with you.
- Never use public dispensers! This is one of the most commonly overlooked triggers for recurrent “unexplained” flares.
- Moisturize immediately after.
- Whether washing or sanitizing, apply moisturizer after drying - every single time!
- Choose a moisturizer with mineral oil or petrolatum. Avoid products with fragrance or preservatives. Just like with sanitizer, trial and error may be required to find your perfect product.
- For severe cases, your dermatologist may add a steroid (ie hydrocortisone) to use in combination.
- Don’t worry, your hands are still clean! The moisturizer does not “undo” the antibacterial effects.
For more information or to schedule your appointment, please call our office at 225.654.1124!