“Wash your hands” is a phrase you hear again and again as a kid and one that sticks with you throughout adulthood. And while we may have learned the 5 steps to handwashing, there is one final and important step many of us seem to overlook: moisturizing.
Ever wondered why hotels have sets of soap and moisturizer? It’s not only a luxury and marketing ploy, but rather a matter of function. Soap and moisturizer literally go hand in hand when it comes to healthy hand hygiene.
In today’s climate, with the flu and coronavirus making headlines, handwashing has too. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading germs to others. This is why if you’re looking to give yourself a little extra TLC and prioritize self-care, proper hand hygiene is hands down the single best thing you could do for yourself.
While the importance of handwashing is on our radar, the message we often don’t receive is the value of striking a balance between removing germs and ensuring your hands stay moisturized and protected.
Moisturizing is key to skin health, helping prevent and treat dry skin that may otherwise lead to more severe skin irritations. Your skin, being the largest organ in the body is inherently a natural barrier against external stressors, and moisturizing works to maintain it.
When it comes to handwashing, lathering with soap and bubbles may give you that instant feeling of “clean”, as it lifts the dirt and bacteria off the skin, but soap won’t discriminate between unwanted dirt and the natural oils that are good for you. Constantly stripping your hands of the oils that contain natural antibacterial properties may leave you prone to skin conditions such as contact dermatitis and dyshidrosis.
In addition, scrubbing too hard or overwashing without moisturizing may actually cause the skin to break and crack, creating abrasions that allow for more bacteria to penetrate the skin into your tissues. Simply put, the repeated action of handwashing can leave your skin vulnerable.
So what do we do about it? And how do we find the balance between keeping the germs away while keeping moisturized?
Here are some tips and tricks to maximize moisture in your hand hygiene routine.
Avoid harsh chemicals
Make sure to read the label and avoid SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate, a common culprit in skincare products. SLS was originally developed for use of laundry detergent, hence, it’s powerful cleaning strength. This chemical is way to harsh to be used on skin and hair because it strips your natural oils and irritates the skin, so try to stick to all-natural alternatives.
Do not use hot water
It may feel intuitive to wash your hands with the hottest water one could tolerate, after all, boiling water is used as a disinfectant. But when it comes to hand washing, the temperature of the water does not influence the effectiveness of removing bacteria. It can, however, wreak havoc on your hands and skin. Hot water dehydrates the skin and may worsen existing skin conditions.
Use a natural oil-based hand cream
Surprisingly, water-based moisturizers actually drying on your skin. Look for products that use hydrating plant-powered moisturizers, like aloe vera and oils. Plant-based oils can help replenish the natural oils your skin may have lost due to excessive hand washing. Other than leaving your hands soft, it also leaves them protected, as these oils are absorbed and help recreate your natural barrier.
Moisturize immediately after washing
The way moisturizers work is by holding water in the outer layer of the skin. This is often why our skin feels plumper, more alive, and more forgiving to wrinkles and fine lines. Applying hand cream immediately after washing and while your hands are still damp allows for the moisturizer to ‘trap’ that water and maximize its function.
Make moisturizing part of your routine
The more you moisturize, the more your skin thank you. Keep a moisturizing hand cream in your bag at all times, and keep one next to your bedside, too. Putting on the cream before going to sleep ensures it has the time to fully absorb until the next time you wash your hands the following day. And even if you’re not washing your hands all the time (btw, you really should!), making moisturizing a habit is in your best interest. Hands are just as exposed to other external stressors like pollution and UV rays that affect other areas of your skin!
Maapilim's Hand Cream, $27
SLS-free, aloe vera-based, and naturally moisturizing.