Sun & Skin News

Ask the Expert: My Hands Are Suffering from Repeated Washing. How Can I Keep Them Healthy and Sun-safe?

By Skin Cancer Foundation • December 28, 2021
handwashing with soap

Q: Since we are all trying to wash our hands more often right now, how can I keep my skin from drying out? Can the sun’s rays make the problem worse?

We’re all washing our hands more than ever during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important step to help reduce the spread of the virus, but at the same time it can cause dry, red and cracked hands. What is the solution? The goal is to minimize skin barrier disruption and skin irritation, while still sanitizing. This can be accomplished with the use of synthetic cleansing bars or liquid cleansers. These “syndet” products are readily available over the counter and are less drying on the skin than traditional soaps. I also recommend using non-fragranced moisturizing creams containing ceramide, after handwashing and before sleep. This moisturizing step is vital to maintaining normal skin barrier function and decreasing overall surface dryness.

For certain people, sun exposure can exacerbate a dryness problem. The sweating induced by the sun’s rays can worsen skin irritation partly due to the salts left on the skin after sweat evaporation. In addition, the tops of the hands are already chronically sun-exposed for most. In my clinic, it is routine for me to diagnose and treat skin cancers on the hands, so I recommend being vigilant about avoiding unprotected sun exposure. Keep up with your sun protection strategies during this time, including the use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Dr Stephen Ho

About the Expert:

Stephen C. Ho, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Greenwood Village, CO. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

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