As the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread globally, health officials have emphasized that washing one’s hands regularly and properly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people should scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds to effectively curb the spread of germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol can also be used to rid your hands of germs, though they are not as effective as soap and water at removing visible dirt or harmful chemicals. Sanitizers also do not get rid of all germ types.
Frequent hand washing, though a reliable way to ward off illness, can lead to and exacerbate dry skin issues, according to dermatologists.
“Coronavirus is changing some of our hygiene habits. People are washing hands more frequently with soap and water,” says Dr. Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, who says she washes her hands about 75 times per day. “You’re supposed to do it for 20 seconds, and often, people fall short of this. If they’re doing it the whole time now, they might have issues, especially in the winter, with dry and cracked skin.”
Why frequent washing and sanitizing can cause dry skin
Soap and water rinse away germs and dirt, but also strips the natural, protective oils in your skin, causing it to dry out, according to Dr. Justin Ko, chief of medical dermatology at Stanford Health Care. He says, as a medical professional, he washes his hands around 100 times per day.
“Because you caused so much irritation, your hands get dry, cracked and raw,” Ko says. Cracks that form on the skin can increase your risk of contracting infections through the fissures and also lead to conditions such as eczema.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which kill the microbes on the skin without removing any debris, irritate hands less than soap, according to Ko. He suggests using hand sanitizers when it makes the most sense, like after touching a door handle or another surface that might carry germs, instead of repeatedly washing your hands. While the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available, the agency says sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs and that only soap can wash away visible dirt or grease.
Dr. Stevenson says taking preventative measures to moisturize your hands after washing them will help.
“Once your skin is dry and inflamed, it becomes a much harder circle of the chicken and the egg to get out of,” she says. “The more you practice these things, the better.”
How to keep your hands clean and moisturized with ozonated oils
Grapeseed Ozonated Oil
Grapeseed ozonated oil packs a strong moisturizing punch in a lightweight formulation with vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. It can be used on all skin types, this is excellent for skin that is uniformly dry or a combination complexion with dry areas. You also get anti-aging benefits with the extra hydration: Grapeseed oil has a stellar reputation for diminishing lines in areas of thinner, vulnerable skin on the neck and around the eyes.
Ozonated Olive Oil
Ozonated olive oil has long been hailed as a pantry cure-all for dry skin woes, thanks to its intense moisturizing ability. This non-fragrant Mediterranean food staple is chock-full of fatty acids that dry skin craves, including palmitic, linoleic and oleic acids. Ozonated olive oil is also a staple in most oil cleansers for its hydrating properties and antioxidant benefits.
Coconut ozonated oil
Coconut ozonated oil is a favorite in the natural beauty world for its ability to intensely moisturize the skin and retain that moisture. It’s best for naturally dry skin and can heal extra-dry skin as it hydrates. In addition to boosting moisture levels, coconut ozonated oil also soothes skin that has felt dryness take a toll on its anti-inflammatory properties. No matter what oil you choose, always be sure to test any new product on a patch of skin, since even natural ingredients can result in an allergic reaction.
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