The Problems You Face From Washing Your Hands Too Much

Most of us haven't always been good at washing our hands the right way, but this has had to change recently due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus. If you don't know the drill by now, both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have said that the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus is to wash your hands properly. And that means wetting your hands with clean water, lathering across every spot on your hands and singing "Happy Birthday" or your song of choice (we recommend Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive") for at least 20 seconds, rinsing, and then drying off with a clean towel.


"Coronavirus is changing some of our hygiene habits. People are washing hands more frequently with soap and water. You're supposed to do it for 20 seconds, and often, people fall short of this. If they're doing it the whole time now, they might have issues, especially in the winter, with dry and cracked skin," Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, told Time.

Constant washing wreaks havoc on your hands

But here's the part about soap and water that no one talks about. "Soap removes the natural oils from your skin. If you're washing your hands frequently, you're removing more oil than your skin can produce, and that can eventually make it dry, rough, and cracked. And once that happens, it can be tough to recover," Matthew Zirwas, director of the Contact Dermatitis Center at the Ohio State University Medical Center, told Shape


When the skin on your hands become damaged, your hands become prone to infection and eczema. Internal medicine specialist Samer Blockmon told HuffPost, "If you wash your hands too often, you are also removing healthy oils and good bacteria that defend against disease" and if you clean you hands to the point where they are cracking, the fissures could "actually give bacteria an easier way to get into [your] bodies." 

So even if the medical issues that arise from having dry, scaly hands may not be related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, now is not the time to ignore them, since any microscopic damage could allow organisms a shot at compromising your immune system.

Keeping your hands moisturized prevents other medical problems

It is critical to moisturize often to prevent other problems like hand warts (via USA Today) and contact dermatitis from setting in, particularly if your hands are prone to dryness. Mayo Clinic dermatologist Alina Bridges says you'll want to moisturize as soon as you finish washing your hands "because you want to kind of seal it and maybe prevent some of this dryness from occurring." You may even want to keep some moisture on your hands by patting them dry and then adding an oil-based cream because they are more effective. 


While Bridges recommends Vaseline, other brands named by USA Today include Neutrogena and Aquaphor. It's also important to keep small tubes with you, so you can moisturize everywhere, and all the time. If your creams aren't able to cope, Bridges says you can consider applying hand cream overnight, then wearing a pair of cotton gloves.