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If You’re Not Moisturizing Your Hands After You Wash Them, You’re Doing It Wrong

Soft hands are healthy hands, goddamnit

Say what you will about this whole coronavirus thing, but my hands have never been cleaner. I’m washing my hands more often, for a longer period of time and with increased vigor. Not to mention, I top off the whole performance with a layer of hand sanitizer. 

Naturally, my hands are dry as fuck. Yeah, I could coat my dainty little hands in a layer of luxurious hand cream but I work (type on a computer) for a living! My keys would get slimy! So what’s a gal or rough-handed person of unspecified gender to do?

You might be thinking that having dry hands is a rather frivolous problem, but it’s not. If you have any pre-existing skin conditions like eczema, dryness can make the condition worse or trigger a flare-up. Even if you don’t have other skin issues, dry skin can crack and bleed, potentially leading to an infection, which, yeah, you really don’t want right now.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this while also avoiding coating everything in a thin, greasy layer of lotion. For starters, Anthony M. Rossi, a dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, recommends using cold water instead of hot. The hotter the water is, the more natural oils are depleted from the skin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cold water is just as effective at removing germs as warm water — so long as you use soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds, you’re doing it right. 

After washing, it’s best to moisturize before even drying your hands. “This helps to lock the moisture of the water onto the skin and to add hydration,” he says. Lightly drying your hands before moisturizing is also okay, too, though. 

Rossi says thick moisturizers like Aquaphor or even petroleum jelly are most effective, but are obviously very greasy. A tier below these in greasiness but still recommended by Rossi are options like Eucerin, Lubrederm or ointments designed for people who work outdoors with their hands (and also for animals’ udders) like Udder Butter or Working Hands. “Ideally, you’d want to avoid fragrances or ones with allergens if you do have a specific allergy to personal care product ingredients, such as lanolin, which is in Aquaphor,” he says. 

For those who hate greasiness altogether, look for a water-based lotion. “Cream, water-based moisturizers instead of oil-based ointments are more comfortable and less slippery,” says Rossi. 

If you already have any cracks or painful areas on your hands from dryness, you might want to go for the thicker options. Rather than slathering your whole hands in it, though, you could apply vaseline, for example, to the irritated skin with a cotton swab. 

Another more extreme method Rossi recommends is dealing with the problem overnight. “If you’re suffering from very dry hands, an easy hack is just to put petroleum on your hands and cover them with socks or cotton gloves at night,” he says. This way you maximize your moisturizing while minimizing your need to actually touch anything. You might feel silly sleeping with socks on your hands, but it’s worth it. 

Or you could avoid needing to do that altogether by moisturizing your hands more routinely to begin with. Better yet, moisturize your whole body. 

You’re stuck in quarantine — why not get silky soft while you’re at it?

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