If someone came down from outer space right now who had no idea about COVID-19 and saw how much we are all washing our hands, they would think that we all had obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or that we all just killed someone and were trying to wash the blood away in a very “Out damn spot” Macbeth way. But we’re all terrified about the virus living on our hands. We use our hands to put food in our mouths. We use them to itch our eyes and wash our faces. We use them to touch every surface in our home, and to touch our loved ones. These hands – these ten digits – can be carriers of this terrible illness. So we’re all obsessively scrub, scrub, scrubbing away at them. Hey, it’s what the medical experts recommend. Unfortunately, it’s certainly not what skincare experts would recommend if they had their say in the matter. Washing our hands this much can strip them of essential oils and leave them feeling very dry. I looked down at my hands yesterday and they looked so cracked and shrunken from dehydration that they looked as if they’d aged 10 years ahead of the rest of me. We don’t want that to happen. Here is how to keep your hands moisturized when washing them so often.
Get a pH-balanced soap
Easy on the cheap bar soaps and foaming soaps. Though they can be affordable, and sometimes just fun-looking, they tend to irritate the skin and strip it of its protective barrier. Look for pH-balanced soap that’s designed to work with your skin, leaving the protective layer intact.
Use a moisturizing soap
While you’re shopping for a better soap, find one that’s moisturizing. That way, you can do two things at once – cleanse while you hydrate the skin. If you’re very busy and just don’t have time or forget to add cream to your hands several times a day, this is a good soap option for you.
Keep hand cream by the sink
Just like you’d find in fancy hotel bathrooms with the cloth paper towels, or in an upscale spa or country club, keep a bottle of hand cream right next to your hand soap. That way, you’ll remember to moisturize after each wash, rather than having to go hunting down hand cream somewhere else in the house.
And use hand cream not lotion
Not all moisturizers are created equal. It’s important to buy hand-specific cream. Don’t just use any old lotion you find around the house. Your hands have extremely delicate skin – it’s almost paper-thin – that needs special hydration. Lotion for the body or face may not cut it for your hands.
Just sanitize palms when appropriate
Sometimes, a full hand wash isn’t necessary. If you just touched something with your fingertips or picked up something small with your fist, then only the front of your hand could have become contaminated. In those cases, a drop or two of hand sanitizer should be fine. If you know the tops of your hands didn’t touch anything, then there’s no need to scrub away.
Use the old fashioned glove method
You may have seen your grandma do it, or if you watch any period shows or movies from the 50s or 60s, you may have seen women do it then: putting moisturizer on their hands, and then putting gloves over that moisturizer. A nice silk pair of gloves is smart because that fabric helps the skin retain moisture. You can add moisturizer to your hands at night, and sleep with the gloves on for deep hydration.
Cover hands when driving
It’s very important to minimize sun exposure because those UV rays really work to dry out your hands. If you drive often, your windshield basically streamlines harsh UV rays into your hands. So that’s where old fashioned driving gloves come in handy. They aren’t just for lovers of classic cars.
Sunscreen your hands. Really, even if you barely go outside. If you simply sit near a window all day while you work, your hands are getting hit with UV rays. Sunscreen both minimizes sun damage and keeps your hands moisturized.
Spread the love with cooking oils
Let some of your cooking oils do double duty. If you cook with olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, while you’re cooking, put a few drops of the stuff on your hands and rub. It’s deeply moisturizing, and free of the chemicals some creams may have. It’s just pure olive/coconut/avocado oil.
Use warm water
You may feel inclined to use piping hot water because you just want to obliterate the virus. You like the pain of the hot water because you imagine it just killing those infected cells. But, hot water drains your skin of its natural moisture, and warm water is just as effective in killing germs.
If the damage is already severe, then regular hand cream may not cut it just yet. Hand cream is good for general maintenance when things aren’t too bad, but if you have seriously flaking, cracking skin, it may be time to turn to Vaseline. Let your hands be slippery for a while with the stuff. Just don’t handle any sharp tools during that time!
Lightly blot to dry
While you may be inclined to grabbing a fluffy towel and rubbing it all over your hands, leaving them as dry as possible after a washing, don’t do that. Just lightly blot the moisture away. If you dry your hands so much that they are super dry after a washing, well, you aren’t doing your natural oils any favors.
Use your dishwasher more
This could be a good time to get lazy about the dishes. Maybe you have some items that are bulky that you prefer to hand wash. You have a few things you hand wash every day, because you don’t want to waste the space in the dishwasher. Waste it. Liquid dish detergent is really rough on the hands, so don’t hand wash too many dishes now.
Drink lots of water
Skin hydration works from the inside out, as well as from the outside in. Staying hydrated yourself by drinking plenty of water is an important part of keeping your skin all of your body, including on your hands, hydrated. So drink plenty of H2O and other hydrating beverages, and easy on the alcohol.
Plan your hand washes
Think strategically about your hand washes. So maybe you just opened some boxes from FedEx and want to wash your hands. However, if you’re about to take the trash out to the dumpster, you’ll just wash your hands again in two minutes. Plan hand-dirtying activities around each other to minimize the number of times you wash your hands.