Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because you feel a burning, stinging or itching sensation on your hands? Or maybe you have chapping, cracking or fissures on your fingers or palms?
These kinds of skin conditions (See: How to Exfoliate Your Skin Without Drying it Out) are caused by a number of things, but the most common reason is over-washing and overusing hand sanitizers.
The goal of washing and sanitizing your hands is to keep germs off of your body, but what you’re actually doing is breaking down the body’s built-in defenses.
Are You Keeping the Skin from Doing Its Job?
The human body produces oils and waxes. These oils and waxes create a barrier that keeps liquids and fluids inside the body and prevent outside substances from entering the body.
That’s the skin’s main job – keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
When you constantly wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer with alcohol – often at the behest of a boss who wants to minimize days missed due to the flu and colds – you dissolve and wash away the body’s natural barrier. As a result, many office workers develop dry hands or even hand eczema.
Other causes of dry skin in an office environment include the bleach, fibers, and chemicals used in paper and office equipment. These substances can literally irritate the skin, especially when the skin’s natural defenses have been compromised by over-washing and over-sanitizing.
How to Prevent Dry Hands
After you wash your hands, use a heavy moisturizer while your hands are still wet. Aquafor, Vaseline, or some other petroleum-based moisturizer will seal in the moisture. Most moisturizers are simply too thin to trap moisture in the skin, especially for a person dealing with dry hands.
Keep in mind that there are lots of expensive lotions and hand creams on the market that smell great, but do little to moisturize your hands. To keep your hands from drying out, we recommend sticking with the petroleum-based, heavy moisturizers.
When Is It Time to See a Dermatologist?
When your hands are always dry and uncomfortable, it’s time to see a dermatologist. When your hands hurt, burn, or sting when you touch something, or you can’t pick up something without getting into a wound, it’s time to see a dermatologist.
However, we want you to take steps to prevent dry skin or seek help before it gets that bad.
If you can use over-the-counter heavy moisturizers to relieve the dryness in your hands, that’s great. If you don’t see any improvement, it’s time for a different approach – and it’s time to see a dermatologist.
Dr. R. Todd Plott is a board-certified dermatologist in Coppell, Keller, and Saginaw, TX. His specialization and professional interests include treating patients suffering with acne, identifying and solving complex skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and identifying and treating all types of skin cancers. In his spare time, Dr. Plott enjoys cycling, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his children and new grandson.
Learn more about Dr. Plott.