All of the handwashing we're doing is great to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but it's terrible on our hands, leaving skin cracked, dry and more susceptible to superficial skin infections.
"Hand soap can be really harsh," says Lisa Pfeiffer, owner of Peaches Skin Care, a California-based skin clinic with an outpost in Cincinnati.
That's because in addition to washing away germs, soap and hand sanitizer also wash away oils that serve as protective barriers to skin.
To be clear, no one is recommending you stop using hand soap or sanitizer. But there are steps you can take to help reinvigorate moisture-less mitts and, best of all, with items you likely already have around the house.
Exfoliating is the process of using a granular substance to slough away dead, excess skin, which your body sheds every 28 days or so. "Exfoliating is one of the most important things you can do," Pfeiffer says. If you don't exfoliate, a callous layer of dead skin can build up, not only making you look older and wrinkles look deeper, but keeping the nourishing DIYs we're about to share with you from penetrating, she explains.
Furthermore, "Do it at night, because that is when the body heals itself," Pfeiffer says.
Molly Nagle, owner of Spruce Nails, an all-organic nail salon in Over-the-Rhine, says sugar, coffee grounds or baking soda make great at-home exfoliants. Simply mix your exfoliator of choice with a little bit of oil, lotion or even water, and rub into hands for a few minutes before rinsing, she says.
One easy thing to do is keep a bottle of lotion near the sink. "Once you wash your hands go ahead and put some lotion on right away," Pfeiffer says. "You're at least sealing any moisture into your hands."
Vasoline, a household staple for many, is another option. "Vasoline is not a bad petroleum and it is very hydrating," Pfeiffer says.
No lotion or Vasoline? No problem. "Things like olive oil, coconut oil and vitamin E are all really hydrating for the skin," Nagle says.
If you have the time (and who doesn't these days?) other pantry staples are equally moisturizing, though require a few more steps. "Oatmeal is also really nourishing; yogurt, honey, avocado and milk as well," Nagle says. Below, she shares a few at-home recipes to restore moisture to dry hands.
Avocado Hand Mask
"This is great to use if you know you have an avocado that's on its last leg," Nagle says. If you have essential oils on hand, use a few drops for aroma, she adds.
1 ripe avocado
2 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp plain yogurt
Blend together all ingredients. Rub onto hands. To trap in moisture, wrap hands in cling wrap or place each hand in a plastic bag. (Nagle says reusing old plastic shopping bags, like the ones you get from a trip to Kroger, are great for this.) Secure wrap or bags with sock, watch a favorite show and by the time it's over (20 minutes should suffice), remove everything and wash mixture off hands.
Oatmeal Hand Mask
3 tbsp uncooked oatmeal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp honey
Mash together all ingredients, rub onto hands and repeat the bag-and-sock steps above, as well as that of catching an ep of your favorite show. Hard work, huh?
If you're feeling really indulgent, throw a hand towel in the dryer. "You can also wrap your hands in a warm towel when you have a hand mask on to increase the effects," Nagle says.
How To Handle Hangnails
"It's really easy to get hangnails, especially if you are washing your hands a lot," Nagle says.
She says after you get out of the shower, take your towel and gently push your cuticles back to keep them from growing over your nail and cracking. If you have a serum or body oil around, rub it into your cuticles for a little nourishment. Coconut and olive oil work for this purpose, too.