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GENEVA – While hand-washing is probably the single best way to help stop the spread of germs, it can also leave your skin feeling like sandpaper. There are some products that work better than others to keep your skin feeling soft and smooth, even after washing your hands many times a day.
Dr. Amanda Wendel, dermatologist with Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, said that when you wash your hands, you're also washing away the essential natural moisturizers like ceramides, lipids and fatty acids on the top layer that help keep skin soft.
While regular moisturizer that is pumped out of a bottle can offer some relief, it's often not enough to help prevent chapped, cracking skin. Wendel recommends using a thick moisturizer every time you wash your hands.
"You want something that you can either squeeze from a tube or scoop from a jar, but not pump out of a bottle," she said. "[Thicker moisturizers] don't have as much water in them so they coat the skin better and seal in the moisture."
The best time to use a moisturizer is immediately after you wash your hands, and apply it while the skin is still damp, Wendel said.
"You can also use coconut oil, or even Crisco – they keep the moisture in and prevent further water loss," she explained. "And when you dry your hands, don't rub. Just pat your skin dry because rubbing removes more natural moisture. If your skin gets too dry and cracked, it can be a portal of entry for infection."
Hand sanitizers are good for killing germs on your skin, but they can be very drying, Wendel said.
"Hand sanitizers have a high alcohol content and if you have dry, chapped skin, putting an alcohol-based product on them could be torturous," she said. "Regular soap and water is enough to wash away germs on your skin. Anti-bacterial soap is not necessary. Just rub your hands vigorously [with soap and water]. If your hands are dirty, hand sanitizers won't help, you'll have to use soap and water to wash the dirt away."
And when you do go outside for walk, make sure to use sunscreen. Wendel said that UV rays do penetrate the clouds, even if you can't see the sun.
"Clothing and hats are the best protection but I recommend that people use an SPF 30 sunscreen every day, just as part of their normal grooming routine," she said.