We're about seven months into the pandemic, and so we've all been over washing and scrubbing our hands for quite a while now. However, one thing people seem to be noticing is this over washing and sanitising of our hands is causing them to become dry and irritated.

But why is washing and sanitising our hands causing them to dry out?

The science behind it

The outer layer of our skin is made up of oils and wax, and this acts as an outside shield for the body, but also a method of keeping the natural moisture within the skin. But this outer skin layer is broken down by soap or alcohol when we're washing or sanitising our hands. They may get rid of germs and bacteria, but it also gets rid of some of these natural oils.

Therefore, the increase in hand hygiene has led to an increase in the break down of this outer skin layer, which then causes the skin to crack and become dry.

And what's quite ironic about this is the fact that dry skin, albeit quite severe dry skin, can actually give germs an additional entry point into our bodies, which could then cause us to become ill.

Also, with winter and the colder months approaching, the issues with dry skin will only become more exasperated. This is because when the air outside is cold and dry, the moisture in skin evaporates more quickly. Your skin actually loses more than 25% of its ability to retain moisture in the winter.

How can I help to prevent dry skin on my hands?

There are a few things that can be done to help avoid getting dry and irritable hands and skin.

  • Make sure you rinse your hands completely - any soap residue that you don't wash off can irritate and dry your skin.
  • Use lukewarm water, not hot water - hot water disrupts the skin's natural balance of moisture, causing your skin's natural oils and proteins to be affected.
  • Avoid vigorously rubbing your hands on a towel or paper towels when drying them.
  • Use a hand moisturiser afterwards - some washrooms now provide lotion ot moisturiser (which is great!), but you can also buy travel sized products, so you always have access to some wherever you are.