How To Avoid Dry Hands When Using Hand Sanitizer | Muse Health

Health     Hand Sanitizer     Dry Hands

With the coronavirus still posing a threat to global health, the average person’s use of hand sanitizer is shooting through the roof. Demand spiked by more than 1,400 percent at the start of 2020 and continued rising as the number of cases increased over the following months.

At the start of the crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) implored people to wash their hands as often as possible. They said that hands were a dominant infection vector, harboring the SARS-CoV-2 until the victim touched their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Realizing this, governments soon towed the WHO’s line, telling citizens to focus on washing their hands. At first, they applied the generic hospital setting advice to scrub for thirty seconds in warm, soapy water. But it soon became apparent that that type of intervention wasn’t going to be practical everywhere - particularly at public venues, like retail stores.

For that reason, hand sanitizer became the obvious go-to. It offered the best of both worlds: efficient virus destruction and high portability. Unfortunately, it came with a problem too - dry hands.

The cause of this has to do with the high alcohol content of sanitizers. CDC research shows that these products need to contain at least 60 percent alcohol to kill viruses. Thus, most manufacturers target the 65 to 75 percent alcohol range to keep users safe. Unfortunately, alcohol has a drying effect, so if you use it regularly - say, a few dozen times a day - it will eventually lead to uncomfortably chapped skin.

Worryingly, research from the American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests that dry hands can make your hands more liable to pick up diseases in the first place. Thus, the moisturization issue is more important than you might think.

The good news is that there are several effective ways that you can prevent your hands from drying out when you use hand sanitizer. Here we take a look at each of them in turn:

Bottles of essential oils and a jar of moisturize

Buy Sanitizer Products That Contain Moisturizing Agents

While some basic hand sanitizers contain only active ingredients and fillers (such as alcohol), many commercially-available brands now come with moisturizing agents too. For instance, some use glycerin. It is what chemists call a humectant, which means that it has the property of attracting and retaining water close to it. Cosmetic moisturizing products use it because of its ability to fight chronic winter skin dryness. Once you apply the sanitizer, the glycerin it contains forms a protective, moisturizing layer on your skin, stopping the chapping process in its tracks.

As you browse sanitizers, you may also come across products that contain vitamin E. This fat-soluble nutrient improves the skin's health and often comes packaged as part of an oil - again, something that will keep your skin moist and supple, even if you apply sanitizer dozens of times per day.

Squalane is another ingredient to look for in your quest for less dry hands. This oily-substance is an emollient, meaning that it mimics the effects of the natural oils in your skin, making it a great way to maintain a healthy epidermal environment. It is similar to squalene - a lipid your skin cells produce naturally to keep your skin supple. And it is naturally-occurring in sugarcane and rice bran, which is why you sometimes see these ingredients listed on the back of hand sanitizer packets.

Finally, you might see so-called “occlusive moisturizers” as listed ingredients on hand-sanitizer products that you buy. These seek to create a physical barrier that retards or prevents water loss from the skin. Examples include mineral oil, lanolin, and various types of silicones.

applying lotion to hands

Apply Moisturizers After Using Hand Sanitizers

Sometimes, you only have access to the most basic of hand sanitizers. For instance, if you are at work, managers might expect everyone to use the same bottles at strategic points around the workplace.

Generally, this shouldn’t be a problem. Just buy standalone moisturizing products that contain the ingredients discussed in the previous section and regularly apply to your skin throughout the day. Doing this simply adds back the moisturizer that didn’t come mixed with the sanitizer itself.

various skin products

Use A Skin Balm

Some people might find that regular use of hand sanitizers may lead to the development or worsening of skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Even products with added moisturizing ingredients may have adverse effects. In these cases, you may want to use skin balms to reintroduce moisture to the skin and keep it supple.

Many experts recommend using pure petroleum jelly and applying it to affected regions as they become problematic. Because it is an occlusive moisturizer (like jojoba, evening primrose, and soybean oil), it prevents any trapped water from leaving the skin, giving it time and space to rehydrate naturally. For years, people have been using it to address chapped skin on the lips, so there is no reason why you can’t apply it to the hands too. What’s more, it’s incredibly cost-effective - it’s just a byproduct of the oil and gas industry.

healthy foods

Eat Foods That Moisturize The Skin

It seems as though the coronavirus is going to be with us for a long time. Thus, hand sanitizers are going to become a central part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

In light of this, it makes sense to use food as a way to improve moisture levels on the surface of your skin, especially as we head into the winter months.

Here are some foods that do just that:

  • Fatty fish, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, shown to help keep skin thick and supple
  • Avocados which are high in vitamin E, an essential moisturizing ingredient
  • Walnuts, which are high in both omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
  • Sweet potatoes which contain high levels of beta carotene, an antioxidant that may prevent skin cells from damage

Wrapping Up

Evidence suggests that using hand sanitizer is less skin-drying than washing with soap and water. Furthermore, there are potent methods you can use to keep your skin hydrated and supple. Use them!