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Extra handwashing due to COVID-19 drying and cracking your hands? Here's what to do

Tampa Dermatologist Dr. Seth B. Forman says if your hands are continually dehydrated, you need to use moisturizer.

TAMPA, Fla. — We all know to sing our favorite songs for at least 20 seconds when washing our hands. But people started to notice the constant washing is making their hands crack.

People have been asked to wash and sanitize their hands more often. Well, that's caused a new problem: rough, dry, and itchy hands.

"Alcohol causes dehydration and it doesn't just cause dehydration in your body. It also causes dehydration when you apply it to the skin," said ForCare Medical Center Dermatologist Dr. Seth B. Forman. "You'll notice that you actually have a very dry sensation initially, eventually your body will produce some more moisture, so it won't feel dry for too too long."

Dr. Forman says that the repetitiveness of washing our hands is what causes them to dry out.

"If you keep your hands dry and they're continually dehydrated, it can cause an exacerbation, also known as a worsening of either eczema and another one is psoriasis," Dr. Forman said. 

If your skin is very dry, in general, Dr. Forman says you can cause cracking, which can be relatively painful. Especially if you use an alcohol-based cleanser when it touches a cracked portion of your skin. 

To keep it from cracking, Dr. Forman says to it's important to use a moisturizer after washing your hands.

The right products can help. He recommends using thick creams and hydrophilic ointments such as Vaseline and Aquaphor. One thing he does not recommend is using lotions.

"Lotions are often water-based and they could actually even have a little alcohol in them as well," Dr. Forman said.

Many moisturizers and handsoaps have artificial coloring and fragrance in them which can cause an allergic reaction. 

"Those two compounds. The fragrance and the coloring do not contribute at all to the moisturization. You make the way it smells, you might like the way it looks, but it is not helping you and it may actually hurt you," Dr. Forman said.

"If your goal is to have moisture in your skin, if your goal is just to not have cracked hands, just use a garden variety moisturizers. They don't have to be expensive. They don't have to be named brand and they certainly don't have to be colored or have any type of fragrance."

Dr. Forman says we shouldn't only do this during the pandemic, but rather make it common practice to wash our hands because there are many other viruses that can still be transferred through touch.

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