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How to look after dry skin caused by handwashing and sanitiser

Washing your hands is important. Please do it.

Wash them when you cough, when you sneeze, before you eat, after you eat and any time you touch your mouth or nose. Just keep washing them.

However, you might find that using soap and hand sanitister more often leaves your skin feeling dry and irritated. Please don’t take this as a sign to stop the washing. We all need to keep doing it but dermatologists say it’s important to moisturise too as not doing so can actually make you at risk of infection.

Whilst washing your hands is the best way to clear any germs we may harbouring, repeated hand-washing can be very drying and irritating for the skin. Irritated skin is vulnerable to becoming cracked and sore and then has an increased risk of infection.

This is even worse for people with already sensitive, damaged or fragile skin such as eczema. ‘Itchy, dry, cracked skin reacts to irritants even more and is more permeable to infection, because of damage to the outer skin “barrier” layer allowing easier passage of irritants and infection. The damaged barrier also means skin has difficulty retaining moisture and its natural skin bacteria are disrupted. ‘ It’s really important to maintain the skin’s barrier layer, reducing vulnerability to infective agents and irritants as well as reducing water loss.  Keeping the skin well moisturised and avoiding irritants is key.

Once you’ve done the job of cleaning your hands – adding moisture with an emollient is not a negative at all. Again sticking to a good effective moisturising agent with minimal additives (fragrance/colouring) is ideal.

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