Keep your washed hands hydrated

We talk about keeping your hands clean and moisturized.

July 14, 2020


You may be washing your hands often, and with good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that handwashing is one of the most important ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

While hand hygiene is important, handwashing and hand sanitizer can strip skin of the natural oils and proteins that make up our skin barrier. Weakening this barrier can lead to dry, cracked and sensitive skin that can also raise our chances of a bacterial infection. 

The key to treating or stopping dry, scaly and cracked hands is to moisturize after washing your hands. Drinking water will not keep your skin from getting dry.

How to wash your hands well

Ideally, you should wash your hands with a gentle, fragrance-free soap in warm water for at least 20 seconds. When you're done washing, dry your hands with a clean towel.

If you're using a hand sanitizer, make sure it has at least 60% alcohol in it. Rub your hands together, including in between your fingers. Do this until your hands are dry. 

Right after either of these hand washing methods, moisturize your hands. Adding moisturizer to your handwashing routine before there are signs of dryness will help stop more severe skin breakdown.

How to choose a hand moisturizer

  • Look for fragrance-free products. Fragrances can irritate the skin.
  • Select ointments or thick creams. These products will work better than lotions to repair and strengthen the skin barrier. Lotions are primarily water-based, which can lead to further drying out the skin when that water evaporates. Ointments and creams are often oil-based, helping to trap moisture into the skin. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) is both very effective and a less expensive choice. 

Tips for putting on moisturizer

  • Put on moisturizer at bedtime. This will help repair your skin barrier while you’re sleeping.
  • To help moisturizer sink into your skin even more at night, wear cotton gloves or socks over your hands while sleeping.

When to get care for dry skin

Dermatologists specialize in skin health and can help if you have any questions or concerns about your skin. Seek care if you have any of the symptoms below, which may be signs of a more serious problem:

  • Swelling
  • Drainage from opened areas
  • Bleeding
  • Tenderness that worsens
  • Skin discoloration

Make an appointment

To make an appointment, please call us at 1-206-860-5596.


By Jacqueline Panko, MD, FAAD

Horizontal Rule


The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.