Skin Health: Hands

Dry hands

Hands feeling dried out and irritated from all that hand sanitiser gel and handwashing?


Learn how and why we need to protect skin on our hands and keep them healthy

In the current time of the Covid-19 Corona virus outbreak, regular handwashing at the right times using the correct technique (singing the “happy birthday” out loud is optional!) for at least 20 seconds is at the front line of the UK Government and Medical advice for managing the outbreak. We need to keep our hands clean but also maintain the skin health. How can we do both? 


The role and function of our skin:

It is important to look after the skin health of your hands.

  • Our hands are highly sensitive to touch sensations and are our main ‘tools’ for interacting with the physical world around us. 

  • Skin is made up of different layers. The outermost layers, the epidermis and the stratum corneum provide a protective and defensive barrier that helps keep a balance of moisture in our skin and helps to keep out external things that could cause us problems like bacteria and germs, irritants and dirt, and protects against UV light.

  • A healthy and well-functioning skin barrier is crucial to your overall well-being.


The healthy skin barrier integrity consists of several elements all working together:

  • the older and dead skin cells that form the outermost surface

  • the balance of moisture in the skin

  • natural oils and lipids produced in the skin that help seal joins between the cells (like the cement between bricks that makes a strong wall)

  • and the normal skin flora (bacteria, yeasts etc.) that usually live harmlessly on the surface of our skin


All of this works optimally within the skin’s natural slightly acidic pH environment (around pH 4.5-7).  If any of these elements becomes disrupted, the skin barrier may not work as well.


Impact of frequent washing and drying and alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels:


  • Highly frequent handwashing with everyday hand soaps and the simple act of regularly wetting and drying the skin can quickly lead to dry skin and reduces the level of natural moisturising skin lipids. It can also disrupt the natural pH level of the skin.

  • Regular use of alcohol sanitising gels which may also contain colouring and perfumes can also dry out and irritate the skin.


As a result of the impact on your skin’s barrier, you may notice the appearance of dry, flaky, peeling or cracked skin, especially around finger tips and cuticles. Your skin may also become more sensitive, irritated or sore.


How can you help protect and maintain the health of your hands?


  1. Choose a mild and skin-friendly cleanser to wash your hands with.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is a mild skin wash designed to help the skin maintain its normal barrier function, retain moisture levels and natural lipids. It is hypoallergenic, non-perfumed, skin pH friendly and suitable for use on sensitive and dry skin. It can be used to cleanse skin on hands, face and body. It is a non-foaming light gel texture, and has been recommended by experts for years for washing dry and sensitive skin.


  1. Moisturise regularly including after washing with a mild cream or lotion suitable for sensitive skin

For day to day maintenance and protection, replenish moisture and lipids in the surface of your skin with a moisturiser. It is commonly advised to avoid perfumed products if skin is sensitive or already irritated or damaged.

Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion contains a light, fast absorbing non-greasy blend of ingredients that help rehydrate the skin and retain moisture in the skin.  It is non-perfumed and designed for sensitive, dry skin. It comes in a pump bottle for easy and hygienic dispensing and the pump lever can be easily regularly sanitized.


If you are concerned by the condition of the skin on your or your family’s hands, please speak to a healthcare professional e.g. pharmacist or your doctor, for more specific advice.