Does washing your hands make them dry?

It’s no secret that washing your hands has always been a basic part of your daily routine. It’s the norm to give your hands a wash when you carry out certain tasks, such as before you prepare a meal or after you’ve visited the bathroom - but lately we’ve been soaping up more than ever before.

By now, we are all familiar with the fact that washing our hands thoroughly and frequently throughout the day is one way in which we can do our bit to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Not only can this help prevent you from picking up the virus, but it can help protect others too.

The bad news is, all this extra hand washing can cause your skin to become dry and sometimes even sore - but why? At Heathcote & Ivory, we’ve taken a closer look at the reasons behind why this happens, and what you can do to look after your skin.

Does soap dry your skin?

Although using soap in combination with water is a simple, effective way of removing dirt and germs from your hands, it can also strip the natural protective oils from your skin, causing it to dry out. This can cause irritation, you may then find that your hands become dry, cracked and itchy.

In severe cases, the skin may feel rough, raw or even bleed, potentially opening a door to infection. If your hands become badly cracked, you may find that you develop a skin condition, such as eczema or dermatitis.

Some soaps are particularly harsh and coarse, meaning they may be more drying than those with milder, more moisturising formulations which have been developed to be kinder to your skin - a must if you’re washing your hands more frequently.

a person washing their hands at a sink

Does hand sanitiser dry your skin?

There’s no denying that squirting a few pumps of sanitiser into your palms is a quick, easy and convenient alternative to cleaning your hands with soap and water - but it comes at a price. Just like a bar of soap, hand sanitiser has a lot to answer for when it comes to drying out your skin.

In order for hand sanitiser to effectively kill germs, it needs to contain at least 60 per cent alcohol. However, while this is good news in terms of protecting your health and keeping your hands free of unwanted nasties, the high alcohol level can wreak havoc on your skin. In fact, alcohol is known for drying out the outermost epidermal layers of your skin, so you may find that your hands become dry and even irritated, especially if you have been using sanitiser more regularly.

Opt for moisturising hand sanitiser

If you like to use hand sanitiser after you have washed your hands, you can opt for a moisturising formulation that contains ingredients such as glycerin. A moisturising hand sanitiser will help you to counteract the drying effects of the alcohol. 

How to prevent soap from drying out your skin

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to prevent your skin from drying out. For tips and tricks on how to keep your hands feeling fresh and looking their best, keep reading.

Use a mild, moisturising soap

To make sure your hands are clean but prevent them from drying out, make sure you use a mild, moisturising soap. It’s also advisable to use a liquid hand wash as it is less likely to leave your hands dry and susceptible to becoming dry, cracked and sore.

Look out for liquid soaps with a creamy consistency which include hydrating ingredients such as glycerin. Look for soaps that contain Shea Butter, Evening Primrose and Sweet Almond Oil. If your skin has become extremely dry and sore, using a fragrance-free, emollient soap is advisable until your skin is better.

Always pat your hands dry

If you’ve just washed your hands with soap and water, make sure you always pat them dry using a soft, clean towel. You should avoid rubbing them as this can irritate the skin. If you use hand sanitiser, it’s fine to let your hands air dry.

Apply a moisturising hand cream

After you’ve cleaned your hands, you should apply a moisturising hand cream. Applying just a small amount of cream immediately will provide a protective, hydrating layer, stopping your hands from drying out, as well as helping to soothe the skin to prevent any redness. Make sure you apply the cream all over your hands, including the palms, backs of your hands and in between each finger.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of moisturising your hands each time you wash them. You may find it useful to keep a hand cream next to the sinks in your home, as well as travel size versions in your bag or in the car for the times when you’re on the go.