Dry hands from constant washing? Here are some tips on how to counter the flaky problem – The National

Posted: April 28, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Our hands are at the frontline of our personal battle against Covid-19.

Weve all learnt to wash them regularly, for extended periods of time, and to slather them in hand sanitiser when needed. But for many, the flip side of all this attention is flaky or dry skin, exacerbated by the fact that we are spending more time indoors, with the air conditioning on.

We are seeing more dermatitis of the hands than usual, as the alcohol in hand sanitisers as well as the act of washing hands more frequently are both drying out the skin

Dr Mariam Khalfan Al Suwaidi

With Covid-19 requiring frequent handwashing and sanitising, and with most people staying at home, as well the onset of summer and Ramadan, we should be taking more care of our skin, says Dr Mariam Khalfan Al Suwaidi, consultant dermatologist and head of Healthpoints department of dermatology.

"At Healthpoint, we are seeing more dermatitis of the hands than usual, as the alcohol in hand sanitisers as well as the act of washing hands more frequently are both drying out the skin. Some sanitisers and soaps contain chemicals and perfumes that irritate the skin, and cause contact dermatitis, she adds.

After washing your hands for the prescribed minimum of 20 seconds, ensure they are completely dry and then make a habit of applying some moisturiser. Al Suwaidi recommends a skincare, rather than cosmetics, range with as few perfumes, chemicals and potential irritants possible.

Using moisturiser will not neutralise your handwashing efforts, or leave you more vulnerable to infections, notes Dr Rutsnei Schmitz Junior, a dermatologist at Medcare Women and Children Hospital. He also recommends that you moisturise immediately after washing your hands, using a pea-sized amount of lotion that you rub into both hands.

Use moisturisers with mineral oil or petrolatum they are the ones that you squeeze out of a tube, not the ones that you pump out of a bottle. Choose fragrance-free and dye-free moisturisers, as these are less irritating to your skin.

If you suspect that you are suffering from more than your run-of-the-mill dryness, Al Suwaidi recommends consulting with a dermatologist; she is currently seeing patients through video calls to maintain social distancing. If you have a flare-up indicating dermatitis, with symptoms such as red, cracked, itchy or burning skin, it should be evaluated by a dermatologist to ensure it is not accompanied by a bacterial infection.

Heightened anxiety and stress levels, as well as disrupted sleeping patterns, may also be having an adverse affect on your skin, suggests Dr Fiona Cowie, an aesthetician at Dermalase Clinic in Dubai.

It is important for our skin that we stick to a regular sleep pattern otherwise our bodies release more cortisol which is the stress hormone. Cortisol can cause flare ups of acne, eczema and psoriasis. Exercising regularly at home will help to reduce cortisol as well as reducing stress and anxiety, leading to clearer skin.

If you are suffering from perpetually itchy skin, Cowie suggests acquiring a humidifier. Also, avoid long hot showers, which can further dehydrate your skin and take shorter, lukewarm showers instead. And do not become over-reliant on the hand sanitiser. Its alcohol content is far more likely to dry out your skin, so rely on good old fashioned soap and water instead.

Avoid washing in excessively hot water, as this can strip the natural protective oils from your skin. Make sure you use a moisturising soap, soaps that have glycerin and lanolin in them are excellent moisturisers, suggests Cowie. Try to avoid bar soaps, and use liquid soaps instead as these have a lower pH and are less drying to skin. And try to pat hands dry rather than using rough towels to avoid disrupting the natural skin barrier.

A good tip is to leave a moisturiser next to every sink and get into the habit of applying it after every hand wash. Using gloves as much as possible for household chores will also help to protect your hands. Finally, if you suffer with a skin condition that has become worse during lockdown, try to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, such as cereals, rice and white bread, and replace them with foods that are rich in antioxidants to boost your overall health.

As the weather heats up, you should also be doing your best to stay hydrated, especially if you are fasting, as this will have an impact on the skin all over your body.

As a special treat, why not try a DIY hand mask, says Galina Antoniuk, director of Anantara Dubai Spa. Hand masks are a skin conditioning, nourishing treatment, improving the appearance of the skin and are usually used after exfoliation, which removes dead skin and improves circulation.

"Note that hand masks can be prepared at home. Add 2/3 cup of sugar to a jar or container of your choice (whatever sugar you have in the pantry is fine). Add 1/4 cup of either coconut oil or olive oil. Apply to hands and rub together. Rinse and apply hand cream.

Updated: April 27, 2020 08:39 AM

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Dry hands from constant washing? Here are some tips on how to counter the flaky problem - The National

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