Frequent handwashing is one of the most important recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. While crucial, this kind of handwashing takes a toll on the skin. Our Roswell Park dermatologists have assembled the following recommendations as a way to help care for your skin, not only during COVID-19, but as a self-care practice that can produce long-term benefits:
- Try to apply a moisturizer in between hand washes. Applying the moisturizer immediately after washing when your hands are still damp can also allow it to feel less greasy and seal-in moisture.
- Look for topical products that are recommended for eczema or dry skin, including moisturizers that you may already have at home. As a rule, creams are thicker than lotions and may provide more relief. Some brands commonly sold in stores are Eucerin, Cetaphil and CeraVe. Avoid "watery" lotions, as these will not provide much relief.
- Bedtime is a good time to use either Aquaphor ointment or Vaseline. For added relief, use a white cotton glove to keep this moisture in overnight.
- Try to avoid moisturizers with denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or added fragrance, as these may be more irritating and cause the hands to dry out more.
- Select products that fit your budget and lifestyle, so that you are able to use them consistently.
- If you have a product that makes your skin feel too sticky or greasy during work hours, try gently blotting your skin with a paper towel to remove the excess.
If you work in health care or another essential industry, wearing a respirator or surgical mask for a prolonged period of time can begin to irritate the skin. Here are some tips to prevent irritation:
- Gentle cleansing with Cetaphil or CeraVe skin cleanser should be done in the morning and after work.
- Avoid makeup while wearing a mask.
- Avoid comedogenic products such as skin oils or certain foundation products – a good way to identify these products are notices on the label or box that say it "won't clog pores" and/or is "non-comedogenic."
For dermatitis (itchy, dry, irritated-looking skin):
- Aquaphor ointment by Eucerin is a thicker product, which can also serve as a barrier prior to putting on the mask. Apply a thin layer of this on your face prior to donning the to prevent and hydrate irritated skin.
- Consider using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% cream (generic brands are fine) as a spot treatment to the irritated skin once the mask is removed, and then again before bed.
For those prone to acne:
- CeraVe or Cetaphil cream daily will be more hydrating than Cetaphil lotion and may also serve as a barrier without being comedogenic (make sure the non-comedogenic formula is purchased, as there are body moisturizers too by these companies).
- Cleansing should be done after taking the mask off with a gentle cleanser (Cetaphil or CeraVe are fine) and applying a benzoyl peroxide-based topical 2.5% to 5.0% range to spot-treat areas.