Coronavirus: Is Handwashing Drying Your Skin?

Washing your hands is critical to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). However, frequent handwashing can cause dry skin that can flake, itch, crack, and even bleed without proper precautions. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology  (AAD), this can cause open wounds in your skin that can allow in bacteria and other germs and increase your risk for infection.

To reduce your risk of dry, cracked skin from handwashing, the AAD recommends that you follow these tips from board-certified dermatologists.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in lukewarm water. Use soap, and wash every part of your hands, including between your fingers and around your nails. Dry hands? Continue to wash them. Washing helps prevent illness by removing harmful bacteria and viruses.

After you wash your hands, dry them with a clean towel but leave some water on them. You can also let your hands air dry. Then apply a pea-sized amount of hand cream or ointment into your skin, making sure you work some of the moisturizer into your fingertips and nails. Dermatologists recommend using a hand cream or ointment that:

Contains mineral oil or petrolatum

Comes in a tube rather than a pump bottle

Says it’s “fragrance-free” and “dye-free”

This kind of moisturizer tends to feel less irritating to dry, chapped skin.


When you use hand sanitizer, apply your hand cream or ointment immediately after the hand sanitizer dries. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to kill germs, and that can be very drying.

Get your health information from a trustworthy source. Going online to chat with friends and family can be comforting. But when it comes to health information, it’s essential to get accurate and reliable information, such as from your doctor, websites reviewed by doctors and the CDC.

You may have seen well-meaning posts on social media about keeping your hands clean. Some posts may come from assumptions rather than science. The science shows that there is no evidence that using a hand sanitizer makes it easier to pick up germs. It’s dry skin that increases your risk of picking up germs.

For more information on skin health, click here to visit the AAD website.


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