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Is your hand washing causing dry skin?

Is your hand washing causing dry skin?

As COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, it has led many people to wash their hands over and over throughout the course of the day, making proper skin care more important than ever. This repetitive hand washing has likely been helpful in fighting the spread of COVID-19 but has led to an uptick in dry skin related issues we see here in our dermatology clinic. For many people, frequent hand washing can lead to skin dryness and flaking, itchiness, cracks and fissures, weeping, oozing and crusting, and even bleeding when proper precautions are not taken.

Who’s at risk

Hand dermatitis (skin dryness & inflammation of the hands) affects up to 9% of the general population and account for over 80% of occupation-related skin disorders. It is slightly more common among females and in those with jobs that involve contact with mechanical and chemical skin irritants as well as those who wash their hands frequently. Occupations with the highest risk include agricultural workers, vehicle mechanics, health care workers, food industry workers, janitors and maids, construction workers, painters, electricians, hairdressers and beauticians.


There are many steps you can take at home to minimize the risk of developing hand dermatitis.

  • Minimize hand washing. Wash your hands only the number of times that are necessary to keep them clean.
  • Only wash your hands with a mild cleanser. I recommend using Dove soap for sensitive skin or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser to wash your hands. You may need to stash these products in your purse or take them to work as well.
  • Apply a bland moisturizer after each hand washing. It is imperative that you get a moisturizer on your hands within 5 minutes after every hand washing. Use unscented moisturizers like Aquaphor, CeraVe, Eucerin, Cetaphil, or Aveeno. Try to stick to “ointments & creams” and avoid “lotions” which contain more water and aren’t thick enough to get the job done. Most people prefer creams which aren’t greasy like ointments.
  • Wear gloves when doing wet work. Wearing rubber gloves is imperative in helping to prevent hand dermatitis when washing the dishes by hand, cleaning, or working with household or workplace chemicals.
  • Avoid fragranced hand products and hand sanitizer. Products that are scented and smell good have fragrance or other chemicals added to them to make them that way. People who have hand dermatitis no longer have a protective skin barrier that works. For these people, using scented products on the skin can lead to the development of allergic contact dermatitis. Hand sanitizer is usually alcohol based and tends to dry out the skin, so I recommend avoiding these products all together. If you don’t have access to soap or other mild cleanser, you can use hand sanitizer in a pinch, just make sure you apply a moisturizer afterwards.


Over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment can usually be purchased at your local grocery store or pharmacy, or even online. If you have mild hand dermatitis or slightly dry skin and itching, then applying hydrocortisone ointment 3 times each day for 1-2 weeks is a good place to start. If that is not helping or you have more severe hand dermatitis with oozing and crusting, cracking, or bleeding, I recommend an in-person evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible. Getting treatment quickly may be useful in preventing the development of allergic contact dermatitis which can be a life-long problem.

Many different treatment options for dry skin and hand dermatitis are available at our clinic. To discover which treatment is best for you, schedule a consultation with one of our providers at Feinstein Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery by calling (561) 498-4407. 

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