Coronavirus means handwashing, lots of it. But it doesn’t have to mean dry skin

Frequent handwashing is one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to Canadian public health officials and the World Health Organization.

But cold, dry winter air is enough to cause cracked skin, and an increase in washing and sanitizing hands can make it even worse.

So how can you continue to engage in important handwashing practices while preventing skin irritation and redness?

According to Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist at Toronto’s Compass Dermatology and lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, using a moisturizing soap and hand cream directly after can give you relief.

“Handwashing and then moisturizing is similar to what we do with our hair; we wash our hair with shampoo and then we condition,” Carroll said.

“We need to get into that mentality.” 

How handwashing affects skin

Our skin naturally produces oils and waxes that act as a protectant to our hands, Carroll said. Increased handwashing and use of sanitizer strips those oils away and makes skin more vulnerable.

When you have water on your hands, the air pulls out that water on your skin and it goes into the air, leaving your hands dry.

“The air is trying to pull water from any source that it can, and the skin is a great source of water,” Carroll said.

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