Never have we been more conscious of the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses. Cleaning, cleansing, sanitising, scrubbing, wiping and washing our hands, not to mention our environment, is a constant part of our lives now. But this diligence has come with it’s own side effects.
The vicious cycle of keeping our hands sanitised to stay healthy is causing dry, cracked, fissured skin, resulting in unhealthy irritation and inflammation.
So how do we care for the health of our hands while maintaining a healthy environment?
Hands Suffer More from Dryness and Irritation
Our hands are frontline workers. They are constantly exposed to the elements, both hot and cold, and they are the first point of contact for the majority of activities we do... yet more of us have a skincare routine for our face, than our hands. Is it any wonder our hands show our age?
The palms of our hands and the soles of our feet are the only two places on the human body that have no sebaceous (oil) glands, hence why they are more prone to drying and cracking, and need a little extra love when it comes to moisturisation.
Lipids Are The Body’s Natural Moisturisers
Skin is covered in sebaceous glands which secrete lipids through hair follicles. Lipids are the skin’s natural fats that work as a protective barrier from dirt and disease as well as maintaining a moisture barrier to keep our skin hydrated and flexible.
Lipids also aid in the skin’s repair. Bacteria and viruses prefer to lurk in the rips, tears and cracks of the skin than they do on undamaged skin. While hand washing and traditional hand sanitisers are proven behaviours for combating germs, the breakdown of the lipid barrier is creating a surge in transepidermal water loss, resulting in dry, chapped hands.
Transepidermal Water Loss
We’re all aware that washing our hands with soap and water is an effective way to disrupt germs, bacteria, and viruses on the skin. However, as a side effect of (necessary) frequent washing, soap strips the protective lipid barrier on the surface of our skin causing transepidermal water loss (TEWL.)
Our skin barrier is often referred to as the acid mantle (comprising lipids), because its pH balance leans acidic. Frequent hand washing, especially in hot water with antibacterial soap breaks down this top layer of skin, while breaking down the germs, making it vulnerable to dryness, inflammation and infection.
Hand sanitisers with high concentrations of alcohol are also contributing to TEWL resulting in rough, cracked, painful hands.
4 Step Hand Care Routine to Stop Dry Hands
This simple but effective 4 step routine results in nourished, happy and healthy hands.
1. Stop washing hands with synthetic chemical soapWe all know to wash our hands in warm or cold water rather than the stripping elements of hot water. We also need to choose a neutral ph soap or cleansing bar instead of soap full of synthetic ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate or toxic chemicals such as triclosan and parabens. Chemical grade soaps strip both the bad and good bacteria from skin, disrupting the lipid barrier, creating higher susceptibility to allergies and are more damaging to the environment.
2. Moisturise your hands after each wash
The savvy life hack now is to keep several moisturisers near your taps, so they are on hand. The best time to moisturise your hands is when they are damp as the hand cream locks the moisture in. Accessibility is the key. Have the moisturiser within arms reach.