Over the past year, dermatologists have reported a steady rise in patients with sudden onset of skin disorders and flares in relatable and autoimmune skin conditions due to harsh chemicals in hand sanitizers.
In most instances, hand sanitizers are not the culprit when used in isolated instances.
However, repeated use of chemically-infused hand sanitizers to ward off viruses can leave your skin dehydrated and sensitive, and result in sudden flare-ups of skin conditions you never knew you had before.
In addition to this, wearing a face mask all the time means that you’re constantly adjusting it to fit, moving it to de-mist your glasses, or easing the itch behind your ears from the elastic or fabric rubbing against your skin.
If you’re used to slipping the face mask down below the jawline while eating or drinking your coffee, the face mask could cause an increase in sweat build-up under the chin and along the jawline, further irritating your already-sensitive skin.
This could result in angry red patches, pimples and acne, or unsightly and itchy skin patches that leave you feeling embarrassed in the company of friends or colleagues.
Protecting your most precious organ this pandemic season need not be a full-time job.
These top tips to protect your skin were scoured from dermatologists worldwide to bring you a guide you can share, print, or refer back to as often as you need.
Top Tips To Protect Your Skin
#1: Keep your spirits up
The pandemic may be difficult for people who are depressed from events over the past several months; this may lead to rashes and irritation from compulsive itching or handwashing. Frequent or excessive handwashing with conditions like psoriasis and eczema – which are characterized by dry, inflamed, cracked skin – affects these skin disease patients the most.
Even the gentlest of hand soaps can strip the skin of moisture and essential oils, affecting the delicate balance and pH levels (which are already a concern) resulting in psoriasis and eczema flare-ups. If you’re overwhelmed or feeling overly anxious, reach out to a friend or colleague you can trust to discuss your concerns.
#2: Use soap vs hand sanitizers
Handwashing is not only safer for patients with skin diseases or skin barrier issues, it’s also more effective. Hand sanitizers should never replace handwashing, especially if you have a reliable, non-irritating soap that you prefer to use. Keep in mind that over-washing may break and damage the skin’s outer layer, further encouraging bacterial infections to take hold and dehydration to set in. Over-washing also leaves your hands red and dry – and may even create or worsen cracks in the skin, which increase the risk for infection in serious cases.
The virus is transmitted through the skin on your fingers, which then spreads to your face and has access to your mucous membranes. Those who are susceptible to skin inflammation or psoriatic plaques may struggle to wash their hands properly.
“If you can’t wash your hands well you may be more likely to spread the virus if you come in contact with it.” California-based dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, MD, (who is also a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology) has concerns about hand hygiene in patients experiencing psoriasis flares. “Psoriatic skin lesions are characterized by a lot of scale, and these are rough places where viral particles may be able to lodge and resist easy removal by washing,” she says.
#3: Use warm rather than hot water
Using hot water can be damaging and drying to the skin. Warm water is sufficient to help the activation of the soap in removing dirt and grime. There’s no need to burn yourself!
#4: Pay attention to your nails
Wash your nails with warm, soapy water at least once a day to prevent bacteria growing under your nails. Make sure your nails are completely dry afterwards. You should moisturize your nails and cuticles as often as possible, especially after a shower or after bathing.
This helps to keep them healthy, and can also improve their dry, flaky appearance.
#5: Cover up and protect
Wearing protective gloves to clean or when working with harsh chemicals makes sense, not only in skin conditions. Gloves help to minimize trauma and to protect your hands and nails. If your skin can tolerate it, consider wearing gloves during cold weather spells, when working outdoors, or at any other time that nail damage is a possibility.
#6: Change your bad habits
It’s natural to want to chew on your nails or pick at the side skin when nervous or anxious, but experts caution against biting, picking, or tearing at your nails and skin in these hand-transferred pandemic times. Not only do these habits make your nails look ragged and damaged, but broken skin around your nails could also introduce infections.
#7: Keep your skin hydrated
While the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends that you leave just a little water on your hands when drying them to apply topical creams or ointments while still damp, they also point out that most dermatologists will recommend using mineral oils or petrolatum (such as Vaseline) and which clearly states it’s “fragrance-free” and “dye-free.” Keep the moisturising cream by the sink for a convenient reminder each time you wash your hands.
#8: Go fragrance-free
Using regular soaps or detergents can often leave you feeling as if your skin conditions have worsened. These products may often contain fragrances or other ingredients that can irritate your sensitive skin. Check the ingredient list for anything you may be sensitive to. Often people find fragrance-free to be kinder to the skin.
What To Do When These Tips Don’t Work
- Consult with your doctor or skin specialist at the first sign of unusual flare-ups.
- Keep a stash of topical creams in your bag or rucksack for emergency treatment or when the itch gets too heavy to handle.
- Avoid excessive oils, glycerin’s, and emollients in hand creams and skin moisturizers.
- Look out for herbal remedies to complement your hand hygiene regime that include active ingredients such as thyme oil, citrus oils, aloe vera, or other herbal scents and ingredients more to your liking.
- Learn to anticipate your specific triggers, such as diet, stress, and alcohol, which can exacerbate your psoriasis.
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