While hand hygiene has always been important for health care providers, it is especially important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of us have been using hand sanitizer more frequently and washing our hands more and more. As a result, you may be noticing your skin becoming dry or you might even have cracks and small cuts on your hands.
Here are some tips that might help treat dry hands:
1. Check the water temperature and towel drying style you are using.
Wash hands in lukewarm to warm water, NOT hot and NOT cold.
Blot your hands dry, don’t rub them with the cloth or paper towel.
2. Check the soap that you are using.
Pump soaps are popular because everyone in the household isn’t touching/sharing the same bar of soap. However, pump soaps tend to have agents in them like alcohols and scents, which can be drying. If you live alone or with a low number of “roommates,” consider using your own bar soap.
A. Dove Original – it’s soft and gentle versus something like ZEST, which is very drying and harsh to the skin.
Liquid soaps you could consider using:
B. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin wash
C. Johnson and Johnson Baby wash
Note: If it’s soft and gentle enough for a baby, it will be soft and gentle enough for you! Also, you can use this liquid soap in your hand pump dispenser.
3. But what about the “antimicrobial” part in my soap?
What about it? These soaps can have additional chemicals in them that can cause dryness. “The FDA says there is no proof that using consumer-labeled ‘antibacterial’ soap is better at preventing illness than ordinary soap and water. Actually all soap is antibacterial. And because germs you are exposed to include viruses, it makes even less sense to worry about ‘antibacterial’ labeled soap.”
4. Alcohol hand sanitizer – We still need to use it.
This is true; we should all be using proper hand hygiene to stay safe.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a workaround for this hand care cleansing option. Try washing your hands (with warm water and gentle soap) more often, while using less hand sanitizer. For those in the field, this is difficult. For those working from home, it’s a possibility.
5. Check the lotion you are using and possibly put it in the basket.
If your hand lotion label contains the words, “alcohol” or “acid” or “fragrance,” it might not be that helpful. Alcohol is a drying agent. It dehydrates.
A. Coconut oil: If you don’t have an allergy to coconuts, you’re in luck!! It’s the only ingredient, plus it has a natural pleasant odor (if you like the smell of coconuts). It’s solid at room temperature, and quickly warms with the heat from your hands, just rub it in well. The drawback is you’ll be a little greasy for a few minutes. This one is my personal favorite. It’s cheap, easy to get, smells great and is pet/kid friendly for all the kisses.
B. Vaseline, the giant old-fashioned tub: Sadly, no pleasant odor, and again you’ll be a little greasy for a bit. Make sure to really massage it into the hands. And remember, a little bit goes a long way.
C. A&D ointment: Again, if it is safe enough for a baby’s bottom, it is safe enough for your hands. This might be a good selection if you have small cuts on your hands.
D. Aloe vera (the Banana Boat – like what you put on a sunburn): You can find it as a gel or moisturizer, or if you have the plant at home, you can break off a branch and squeeze it out. (NOTE: the natural plant gel does NOT smell pleasant)
E. Aquaphor: Again, there’s that greasy component, but boy are you going to get lubed up! This one can be a bit more costly.
Note: If you have an extra pair of gloves available (sacrifice your dishwashing gloves and treat yourself to a new pair), lube your hands excessively and put the gloves on to secure the moisturizer. You can sleep in them or wear in the evening if watching TV, reading a book, or conquering that Sudoku puzzle!
6. Hands are RED, extremely chapped, burn a little bit, and have tiny cracks at the nails and/or creases.
Call you doctor’s office. You may have developed a contact dermatitis or eczema and need to use an over-the-counter or prescription strength steroid ointment. You may also need to discuss ways to restore the natural pH balance back to your hands.
Did you know? Care Dimensions offers employees an array of internal and external training and certification programs.
About the author
Laura Berry, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, ACHPN, CWON, is a family nurse practitioner and wound-ostomy nurse with Care Dimensions.