"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,
Look how clean my two hands are,
Soap and water, wash and scrub,
Get those germs off rub-a-dub,
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,
Look how clean my two hands are!"
When you get tired of washing your hands for 20 seconds to the ABC song... try the "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" song instead! (fun mind-blowing fact that I only recently discovered well into adulthood -- the tune for these songs is EXACTLY the same! As is Baa Baa Black Sheep...also Narwhals are real and not just magical sea unicorns made-up by the movie Elf...whaaaaaat?!)
After the last several months of this pandemic, I think we are all well-versed in how important it is to wash our hands so that we don't spread germs, particularly after being in public places, using the toilet, before meals, after we cough or sneeze, and whenever our hands are dirty. And now that so many of our kids are going back to school, they will likely be washing their hands even more.
But with all this hand washing and sanitizing, dry skin, eczema breakouts, and contact dermatitis (rashes from irritation or exposure to allergens) have become even more troublesome. What can we do about it?
Here are some tips that have helped soothe my own dry, cracked hands:
1. Wash your hands with a fragrance-free, mild and gentle cleanser. Many soaps are detergent-based and can be harsh on the skin, and fragrances can especially inflame already dry and irritated skin even more.
2. Wash with lukewarm water instead of hot water as the hot water can strip our skin of its natural oils and make it more dry.
3. Effective hand sanitizers typically contain at least 60% alcohol which can be drying to the skin. Look for ones that are fragrance-free.
4. Moisturize with a thick, bland, fragrance-free moisturizer immediately after washing or sanitizing your hands. Since the hands have thicker skin than other parts of the body, creams and ointments tend to get absorbed better and provide more protection than lotions that evaporate quickly.
5. Keep moisturizers everywhere -- by all the sinks, in your car, in your purse, on your desk. For children who are back in school, I recommend parents send them with a travel tube/container of moisturizer that they can throw in their backpack or keep in their pocket so they'll always have it on hand (pun intended :D) when they need it. (If you're able to send them with their own sensitive skin-friendly cleanser or sanitizer to use when cleaning their hands, even better!)
6. Overnight treatments for extra TLC: apply thick moisturizer (creams or ointments) on your hands and cover them with white cotton gloves. This will allow the moisturizer to penetrate the skin and prevent water loss so that your hands are well-hydrated and prepared for the day.
7. If your skin is particularly red, itchy, or painful, and moisturizer isn't helping, you may need to see your friendly board-certified dermatologist for further medical treatment.
The most important tip: moisturize, Moisturize, MOISTURIZE!
"Now I know my ABCs...
of how to keep my hands happy!"
Let's love the skin we're in by keeping it happy and healthy!
Meena Julapalli, M.D.
Growing up in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, Dr. Julapalli is a Southern girl through and through. She graduated cum laude from Rice University with a B.A. in Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations. She completed medical school, pediatrics residency, and dermatology residency at Baylor College of Medicine and fellowship training in pediatric dermatology at the University of Colorado. She became board-certified in pediatrics, dermatology, and pediatric dermatology, and served on faculty at Dell Children’s Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Colorado as an Assistant Professor of Dermatology. After practicing for the last 7 years in Austin and Denver, Dr. Julapalli knew it was time to return to her hometown of Houston, Texas. She is proud and excited to help her fellow Houstonians with all their skin needs with her Pediatric Dermatology Practice, BLUEBIRD DERMATOLOGY!