Tips for dealing with dry skin from frequent hand washing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s recommended people wash their hands frequently to avoid the spread of COVID-19. There are side effects to practicing good habits, including dry, cracked hands or worse.

Dr. Richard Ashack with Dermatology Associates of West Michigan says this is a good time to talk about hand dermatitis and how to manage it.

“Let’s start from the beginning, soap is a surfactant, which is what breaks the bond of the bacteria and viruses. It also strips the oil from our skin, and oil acts as a lubricant,” he explained.

Beyond dry, cracked skin, frequent washing can lead to red, splotchy, inflamed skin that burns or itches. At that point, he suggests you use more than lotion.

“Topical steroids are traditionally what we would recommend at that point, you can get most of them over the counter,” he said.

Alternating between soap and sanitizers can also help. There is an important ingredient you can look for that may be even gentler on your skin: Benzoalkonium Chloride.

It’s the base ingredient for certain hand cleansers as opposed to alcohol-bases sanitizers. Alcohol tends to also be drying, but the benzoagkonium chloride is less harsh, while still removing bacteria and viruses.

Finally, wearing Vaseline, or something similar, on your hands with gloves overnight can also help lock in the moisture and prepare your hands for another day of frequent washing.