How to look after frequently washed hands

Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitiser does seem to be doing an excellent job of reducing infection rates but it also come at a cost for many people’s skin.

So what are your options? Well conventional wisdom would suggest that moisturising is the solution however most creams really only provide a barrier. Its also not really practical to moisturise every time you wash your hands and it may remove some of the benefits.

Focussing on skin quality needs to be addressed from two perspectives topical and internal. Topical options can include lotions, creams, ointments or oils. There are advantages and disadvantages to each however first up make sure that the ingredients include water, glycerol and natural oils amongst the first five ingredients. Glycerol or glycerin is important to keep the moisture in the skin.

The major difference between each of these different types of cream is the water content. Lotions have a high percentage of water with a base that helps it emulisfy. Creams are a lower percentage of water, ointments much less and oils usually just contain an oil in an appropriate base. People with oilier skins benefit from lighter lotions or creams, however in the case of cracked dry skin ideally you need to start with a more dense cream or an ointment or oil.

For healing dry and cracked skin you want to choose a product that has a reasonable oil content as well as having therapeutic ingredients. Weleda make a range of creams based on Calendula and the research shows that at abou 0.9% content it can reduce redness and cracking. It will also assist in wound healing and can be invaluable in replacing the natural protective barriers in the skin. The only caution with Calendula topically would be if you are sensitive to the Asteracae plant family. To minimise the risk I would always recommend patch testing a small spot before widespread use.

Very dry skin might really benefit from the therapeutic use of plant oils such as Carrot or Sesame which are naturally high in Carotenoids and Vitamin E. The oil will assist in holding moisture in the skin and it would be ideal to use it at the end of the day to maximise the benefit.

The other critical aspect is the support of the skin membrane. Ideally you need to ensure that to repair good quality skin your diet is rich in essential fatty acids and you maintain water intake. Each cell is composed of a bi-layer of essential fatty acids and without adequate intake of fats its not possible to repair already damaged skin. Look at your diet including good quality fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and nuts and seeds. If your skin is very dry chances are you are not consuming enough or you are not breaking it down effectively. People with low bile acids often have difficulty with absorbing fats and there are several ways to support digestion to address this.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Currently available in person at the clinic or by audiovisual means if you are self-isolating. You can make appointments on (02) 8084 0081 or online at the clinic website at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

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