How to Prevent Alligator Skin When You're Washing Your Hands All Day LongMar 19, 2020
If you’ve basically been washing your hands nonstop the past few weeks — and you’ve got the dry, cracked skin to prove it — you’re definitely not alone.
The CDC advises that hand-washing with soap and water — or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol — is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, we’ve spent more time in front of the sink than we ever dreamed we would, and all that scrubbing means a lot of us are dealing with seriously dry skin.
“Along with the germs, hand sanitizers and soap clear away our skin’s natural skin oils and moisture,” says Gretchen Freiling, MD, a Boston-based triple board certified dermatologist. That can lead to dryness — and even inflammation in some cases, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, of Zeichner Dermatology.
Needless to say, you need to keep washing your hands. So how can you keep them moisturized? Follow these tips to help prevent the dreaded alligator skin.
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Pat, Don’t Rub
While you may not feel comfortable washing your hands less often, you can at least give your skin a break while drying. “After washing your hands, pat them dry,” Frieling says. “Avoid rubbing them, as the friction can cause more irritation.”
Moisturize After Washing
Chances are, you carry hand sanitizer in your bag. Frieling recommends simply stashing a travel-sized hand lotion along with it, so you can soothe your skin after washing your hands or applying sanitizer. “Apply a small amount to your lightly damp hands to moisturize the epidermis,” she says. How often should you apply moisturizer? Whenever you need it — experts say moisturizing frequently can help.
How to Choose Your Moisturizer
Just like you should be paying attention to the strength of your alcohol-based sanitizer, it’s important to take note of the ingredients in your moisturizer.
“Moisturizers for the hands, like moisturizers for other areas, ideally contain three components: humectants, emollients, and occlusives,” says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Each of these ingredients will serve a different purpose when you’re trying to treat dry skin:
- Humectants (like hyaluronic acid and glycerin) help to attract and bind water to the skin. They need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content.
- Emollients (like squalene, fatty acids, and ceramides) help to soothe skin and prevent water loss.
- Occlusives (like petrolatum, beeswax, and mineral oil) create a protective layer on the skin to physically block transepidermal water loss.
5 of the Best Moisturizers for Dry, Cracked Hands
Ready to stock up on hand creams and lotions? Here are a few products to try.