7 Tips to Keep Your Skin Healthy While Washing Your Hands Often

by May 21, 2020

Written by Cathy Cassata on March 18, 2020 – Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell

10 Tips to Keep Kids Healthy During the School Year

  • Diligent handwashing may keep germs away, but it may also damage skin.
  • Washing in warm water rather than hot can keep your hands from getting dry.
  • Blotting rather than drying hands dry can keep abrasions from forming.
  • Hand sanitizer can be used temporarily in place of washing when hands are extremely chapped.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 outbreak.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging everyone to wash their hands frequently.

“Whether it be the rapidly escalating corona pandemic or just any given winter, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of infections. Unfortunately, the very soaps and even wringing of hands underwater will also break down the barrier we are trying to protect,” Dr. Adam Friedman, professor of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, told Healthline.

As we diligently wash hands more frequently than usual, skin experts share tips that can help keep your skin healthy.

1. Wash with warm water

Dr. Daniela Kroshinsky, director of pediatric dermatology and inpatient dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, says to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

“About the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, making sure to cover palms, backs of hands, fingers, in between fingers, wrists, and fingernails,” Kroshinsky told Healthline.

She said lukewarm water is best rather than hot.

“Very hot will eventually dry things out and doesn’t improve efficacy,” she said.

Lucy Xu, skin specialist and founder of London Premier Laser and Skin Clinics, agreed, noting that hot water strips your hands of any natural oils that it needs to stay waterproof.

“So if you can, use lukewarm water with plenty of soap,” she said.

2. Use moisturizing soap

Because many soaps can strip the skin and cause them to be dry and cracked, Xu says to wash your hands with soap that’s moisturizing.

“For example, a soap with a creamy consistency. You should also look out for soaps with ingredients such as glycerin and lanolin. Also, try to avoid soap bars,” Xu told Healthline.

Renée Rouleau, skin care expert and aesthetician, also suggested staying away from bar soaps.

“The binders that hold a bar of soap together naturally have a high pH, which will cause unnecessary dryness. Instead, choose liquid soaps since they are generally less drying to the skin,” Rouleau told Healthline.

Xu adds that no matter what type of soap you’re using, try not to be too aggressive when it comes to cleaning your hands.

“This is usually [due] to rushing. Try to be gentle as to not aggravate the skin,” she said.

3. Apply moisturizer

When water isn’t sealed into the skin after washing, it can dry out your hand.

“The reason is that water acts like a magnet and it will attract water out from the deepest layers of the skin and evaporate into the dry air. The result is even tighter, drier skin. To prevent this from happening, be sure to immediately apply hand cream afterward. Even a light layer will do,” Rouleau said.

Friedman suggests using creams or ointments rather than lotions, which he said have too much water content, and therefore don’t block water from escaping the skin.

“Although the term ‘moisturizer’ has little scientific meaning — water is not being added to the skin — topical treatment with moisturizers is fundamental to disorders that disrupt the skin barrier,” Friedman said.

He said moisturizers help with skin care because they:

  • restore the barrier function of the epidermis
  • provide a protective film
  • fill in the small crevices between scales
  • increase the water content of the epidermis
  • soothe the skin
  • improve the skin’s appearance and texture

He noted that ingredients in topical moisturizers that help protect the skin include:

  • Occlusive: lanolin acid, stearic acid, caprylic/capric triglycerides, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, squalene
  • Humectants: sodium pyrrolidine, carboxylic acid, lactate, urea, glycerin, honey, sorbitol
  • Emollients: cyclomethicone, dimethicone, isopropyl myristate, octyl octanoate
    Kroshinsky agreed and recommended using a moisturizer after every washing, before bed, and whenever you feel dry.

4. Wear gloves

In addition to applying a moisturizer to damp skin after washing, Friedman said to soak your hands in plain water for 5 minutes, then apply a moisturizer, and wear gloves for 1 to 2 hours.

“This will ensure that the surface moisture gets where it needs to go,” he said.

For really chapped hands, Xu said to heavily moisturize hands with thick cream and wear cotton gloves overnight.

“Much like a facial sheet mask, the gloves will keep your hands moisturized for 6 to 8 hours allowing the skin on the hands to get some needed TLC,” she said.

Wearing gloves on cold, windy days can also keep the wind from further damaging dry skin, added Friedman.

5. Use skin balm

If you suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis and find your dry skin is becoming increasingly more dry, raw, or cracked due to more washing, Xu suggested opting for a skin balm such as Vaseline and applying it directly onto sores or cracked areas.

“This will both soothe the area as well as protect it from further damage, especially if you find you are outside a lot as the elements will also add to the damage,” she said.

If you have deep fissures, which Friedman said often occur at the sides of the fingers by the nail inserts, consider liquid Band-Aid.

“Liquid Band-Aid is a great way to keep the edges of the fissure together to accelerate wound healing,” he said.

6. Substitute hand sanitizer for soap

If your hands are too chapped to wash, Kroshinsky says you can temporarily use hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer is another option to limit handwashing until the skin recovers, but not before eating, after [going to the] bathroom, [or] when hands are visibly soiled — that should [involve] handwashing,” she said.

7. Blot dry

When drying your hands, Rouleau said blot, don’t wipe to prevent micro-abrasions on the skin.

“Paper towels are best, but if you use cloth, each person in a home should have their own towel and towels should be replaced with clean ones every 3 days. Make sure hands are thoroughly dried, as germs are more easily transferred on wet hands,” she said.

Cruise tip: You’ve been using hand sanitiser all wrong

by May 21, 2020

We all know that hard surfaces are particularly good at spreading germs and most of us wouldn’t think of going into a ship’s dining room without taking advantage of the hand sanitiser at the entrance.

Aware of all the nasties that could be lurking on hand rails, whenever I’m on a ship I squeeze those antiseptic gels into my hands whenever I have a chance, but it wasn’t until the end of my last cruise that I realised I’ve been doing it all wrong. And I’m not the only one.

It’s not really our fault. The instructions on some top selling hand sanitisers tell us to squeeze a small amount into our palm then “briskly rub hands together thoroughly until dry”.

Most of us will put the gel in our hand and rub our palms together, with a bit of an over the back of the hand action thrown in. Which is not even close to enough.

Bacteria loves to breed in warm moist places and on our hands that’s in between the V in our fingers so we really need to get the gel into those areas. Fingernails are the other hotspot we need to zero in on and make sure we get that gel all around fingertips and nails.

A five second rub won’t cut it. We need to keep rubbing for around 20 to 30 seconds or as long as it takes for the hand sanitiser to dry. And don’t even think about wiping any excess off and interfering with its germ busting work.

When used correctly hand sanitisers can kill up to 99.9 per cent of microorganisms but we need to give them a fighting chance on the whole “used correctly” part of the deal.

While it’s all too easy to know where we picked up a lurgy if someone coughs or sneezes all over us, a lot of the time we have no idea where it came from because the person left the scene long ago.

A hand sanitizer dispenser squirting liquid soap into a male caucasian hand.

On a hard surface flu germs can be infectious for up to 24 hours and cold germs for more than a day. Norovirus can survive for weeks if the conditions are right, and it’s believed the new coronavirus could remain active for more than a week.

I don’t want to go all Howard Hughes and see germs everywhere but I’ll admit I am conscious of the fact that even if I have done the right thing before coming into the dining room there’s no knowing what anyone else has done. Could a nasty have hitchhiked its way from a handrail to the serving utensils in the buffet? Should I go do my hands again before eating that piece of bread?

And how many times have I washed my hands properly, sat down to eat and then used my mobile phone? Unfortunately disinfecting wipes can corrode the protective oleophobic coating on the glass screen and in reality I’m unlikely to make and carry around my own alcohol and water solution in a spray bottle as suggested by some sites.

But I will start wiping my phone down with a microfibre cloth. And really getting in between those fingers and around those nails when I use hand gels from now on. It’s the simple things that can make a big difference on our travels.

Coronavirus hand-washing drive a challenge for people with obsessive compulsive disorder

by May 21, 2020

ABC Goulburn Murray / By Erin Somerville
Posted 20 MarMarch 2020

A woman washing her hands.

Excessive hand washing can be a symptom of OCD.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

When it comes to staying away from germs, Chris Parkinson has had a lot of practice.

Key points:
Anxiety ‘quite high’ for OCD patients amid shortages of hand-sanitising products
Chris Parkinson jokes that ‘the whole world’s getting OCD’
Common compulsions and obsessions include washing, cleaning, losing control and harm.
The Melbourne resident has been living with obsessive compulsive disorder [OCD] for almost a decade.

His symptoms came on severely when he was in his early 20s, resulting in him constantly washing his hands, using gloves and hand sanitiser and even throwing out clothing and personal items.

He found it difficult to hold down work and the disorder would also prove expensive as he would have to often replace items he’d thrown away.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap.
After multiple sessions with The Melbourne Clinic over the years, Mr Parkinson said he was in a good position now to manage his symptoms. But he admitted the outbreak of coronavirus could impact on those with the condition amid a heightened focus on germs, hand washing, social distancing and demand for sanitary products.

“I’ve been having a chat to a fellow OCD sufferer and in a way we were just making a bit of a joke that the whole world’s getting OCD,” he said.

Mr Parkinson might be well versed in washing his hands, but he said it was worrying seeing the demand for sanitising products.

He has been using hand sanitiser for almost a decade as part of his disorder and it’s one item in high demand amid panic buying sweeping Australia.

Restrictions have been placed on the item in some supermarkets and chemists and Mr Parkinson said his friends and family were keeping an eye out for stock for him.

Cognitive behaviour therapy has played a big role in managing the compulsions, like using hand sanitiser, that at times have taken hold of Mr Parkinson’s life and the Melbourne Clinic has helped him work through the exposure and response prevention method to deal with his disorder.

The method sees a person exposed to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that trigger anxiety and obsessions, and allows them to then learn to manage their compulsive behaviours in response.

Mr Parkinson said his work meant he would manage with a shortage of items, like gloves and hand sanitiser but it would be a struggle.

A sign in front of empty shelves at a supermarket

A sign at a Woolworths supermarket in Adelaide warning about a lack of hand washes and sanitiser because of coronavirus demand.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)

“The anxiety would be quite high, but I think where I am in my treatment at the moment I’d be able to cope just by using the normal every day things,” he said.

“But I think things would be harder just by using normal soap and water.”

He said hygiene messaging during the coronavirus outbreak was also tough for those with OCD to effectively manage.

Living with OCD
Obsessive compulsive disorder occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions, according to the International OCD Foundation.

The disorder is diagnosed usually when compulsions and obsessions become so extreme that it affects a person’s important activities and daily life.

Common compulsions can include washing and cleaning, checking and repeating activities, and counting.

Common obsessions include contamination and cleanliness, losing control and harm.

Doctors and OCD foundations have previously highlighted concerns that the phrases “OCD” and “obsessing” are becoming increasingly casualised, which undermines or stigmatises the illness.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Will Australia have a second wave of coronavirus?
How many people have died from coronavirus?
Can children pass on the coronavirus disease?
Striking the balance during a pandemic
Over the past week Australians have been targeted as part of a national campaign to inform residents about coronavirus and preventing its spread.

The campaign has a heavy focus on hygiene, particularly handwashing, which has been echoed through other channels such as social media.

The Federal Government releases coronavirus advertising campaign

Melbourne clinical psychologist Dr Owen Lello said it could be a difficult time for those working to manage their compulsions around hygiene and cleanliness.

“I think they will struggle with this balance to a degree because the messaging is saying frequent hand washing is absolutely necessary,” Dr Lello said.

He said it was important to know when to ask for help.

“If it’s getting to the point where you’re not achieving your task at work or not able to care for yourself at home or undertake your responsibilities, that your life is being really severely impacted, then the line has been crossed between understandable concerns and the impact of the disorder.”

The pandemic is expected to trigger anxiety and mental health issues in some residents, but Dr Lello said it could be a difficult time for people to seek help.

“There’s a battening down the hatches type of attitude, and what we’re really noticing is that people are more stepping back from active therapy at the moment until they see how the situation pans out a little bit,” he said.

Instead, he’d like to see access options, like teleconferencing, to mental health services highlighted to help residents deal with OCD and anxiety that may be triggered by the pandemic.

“If that was made clear then I would expect to see a rise in the amount of people that are seeking mental health support at this time.”


Parents name baby ‘Sanitiser’ as a reminder of coronavirus pandemic

by May 21, 2020

File images of hand sanitiser and a baby.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in ways we never thought possible, from social restrictions to hygiene practices.

Now, it appears to have also started influencing baby name trends.

COVID-related names for newborns have begun to emerge – especially in India.

A child there has been called Sanitiser by his parents, who wanted to remember the coronavirus pandemic.

According to an Indian media outlet, Deccan Herald, the child’s father Omveer Singh said the name would help them mark this period in time.

“Everyone if fighting against this virus…from our prime minister to ordinary people. This (Sanitiser) is our contribution,’‘ Singh said.

Sanitiser is one of the best ways to protect oneself against contracting coronavirus infection…

“We will remember this period (lockdown), whenever (we) utter his name.”

The news comes just over two weeks after twins were named Covid and Corona in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

They were born during the ongoing national lockdown that began on March 24.

“The delivery happened after facing several difficulties and therefore, my husband and I wanted to make the day memorable,” Preeti Verma, the 27-year-old mother of the twins, told news agency Press Trust of India.

COVID-19 Self Care: Tips From The World Health Organization

by May 21, 2020

Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with the bad news about COVID-19 from around the world. Hearing constant reports about the illness and death caused by coronavirus can be hard to take. At a news conference today, the World Health Organization shared general tips for self-care and discussed why the mental health needs of the old and the young deserve special attention.

For starters, everyone needs to look after one’s own basic needs to stay mentally healthy in a stressful time.

“We can feel mentally better if we are as physically well as possible,” Aiysha Malik, a psychologist with the World Health Organization, told the news conference.

Malik’s tips for self-care include:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Stay physically active
  • Get regular sleep and rest
  • Create a sense of structure and routine in daily life
  • Connect socially with friends and family, while maintaining physical distance

“We’re all actually experts in our own well-being,” she said. “So what people have done before in the past can help them now.” Malik recommended practicing hobbies that have brought you joy in the past, or relaxation techniques that have worked for you before.

Malik also called smoking and drinking “unhelpful coping strategies” and suggested keeping them to a minimum, as well as limiting exposure to news content that you may find distressing.

The anxiety many people are feeling about COVID-19 can be magnified in those who are most vulnerable to it. Adults over 60 and those with underlying conditions are constantly hearing that they are at higher risk of getting dangerously sick from the coronavirus.

“To be told that you’re very vulnerable can be extremely frightening and very fear-inducing,” Malik said, adding that older adults may be especially prone to feeling anxious, stressed out, isolated and angry right now. She advised older adults to practice self-care and noted that now, more than ever, mental health and social services should be made available to them.

For friends and family of somebody older, it’s critical, “that the elderly people know that they are thought of, that they are loved, cared about,” said Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. He recommended initiating video chats, telephone calls, and sending postcards and letters.

Children are also experiencing major disruptions in their lives — 87 percent of the world’s students are affected by school closures, according to the UN.

Kids are likely facing many of the same fears and anxieties as adults, such as “fear of dying, fear of their relatives dying, or fear of what it means to receive medical treatment,” Malik said.

For those taking care of children, Malik said that simple strategies can go a long way. She recommended giving young people the love and attention they need to resolve their fears, explaining the situation honestly in a way they understand and modeling healthy responses.

Coles supermarket workers worried about switch to non-alcohol hand sanitiser amid coronavirus pandemic

by May 21, 2020

By Elias Clure
Posted 19 AprApril 2020, updated 19 AprApril 2020

A man sits on a park bench with his hands in his lap with a serious expression on a sunny day.

Coles worker Tony Williams said he felt unsafe using the sanitiser Coles had switched to.(ABC News: Elias Clure)

Coles staff have accused the supermarket giant of not providing the best possible protection against coronavirus after their complaints about the effectiveness of non-alcohol-based hand sanitiser were dismissed by the head office.

Key points:
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends using hand sanitiser that is at least 60 per cent alcohol
Coles has switched to a non-alcohol sanitiser for staff in some stores
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union first raised concerns with Coles about the sanitiser six weeks ago
Employees have told the ABC they are concerned about Coles management’s decision to switch from alcohol-based hand sanitiser to a non-alcohol-based product.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Safe Work Australia recommend that workers use hand sanitisers containing 60 per cent alcohol, which are more effective at neutralising the coronavirus.

However, Coles has told staff the product it uses has been tested and protects against the virus.

Coles worker Tony Williams said he was dubious about the product’s efficacy and felt unsafe.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap.
“Why don’t we have the other stuff? Like, why not? Why change it? You feel safer,” he said.

Mr Williams works at a Coles store in Melbourne’s south-east and said staff were confused by management’s decision not to provide them with a product recommended by the DHHS.

Someone put their hands under an automatic sanitiser dispenser.

Some Coles staff say the sanitiser they are being provided is less effective than the alcohol-based products they were using previously.(ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)
“We certainly feel less safe,” he said.

“The anxiety levels have certainly gone up because of everything that’s going on, especially with the knowledge that the stuff that we have isn’t as good as the other stuff that we were using.”

He said supermarket workers were more at risk than a lot of other workers.

“We want to have every shield, every guard to try and stay safe and this non-alcohol-based hand sanitiser is second-best,” he said.

Another Coles worker, who asked not to be named, said the change to non-alcohol hand sanitiser had created “quite a lot of concern”.

“There’s a lot of people in the stores and everyone’s using it, so there’s a chance that that could be the location where transmission happens in the community because of people not using an efficient sanitiser.”

University of Sydney dean of pharmacy Andrew McLachlan said that the product Coles was supplying was not as effective as alcohol-based sanitisers.

The entrance of a Coles supermarket with flowers out the front

A Coles spokesperson said the safety of staff was the company’s highest priority.(ABC News: Tom Joyner)
“All the guidelines strongly suggest an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, if you can’t wash your hands using soap, and the next resort is non-alcohol based sanitiser,” he said.

“So we know it has some efficacy but it’s certainly not as effective as alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

“It’s quite possible that it has some efficacy, but the question is: is it the most effective?”

Coronavirus questions answered
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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

Read more
In a statement to the ABC, a Coles spokesperson said: “The safety of our team members and customers is our highest priority. Coles uses a number of different hand sanitiser products for use in our stores, including ethanol-based products.”

The manufacturer of the non-alcohol hand sanitiser provided at some Coles stores, Jasol, also told the ABC the product was tested and safe.

But Retail and Fast Food Workers Union secretary Josh Cullinan said the tests were not sufficient.

“The report that was done by the laboratory showed it was done as a hard surface disinfectant, not as a hand sanitiser so it’s fundamentally flawed,” Mr Cullinan said.

“We’ve been raising this concern with Coles for the last six weeks regularly.

“Our members are deeply concerned that their health is being put at risk.”

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