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UPenn Board-Certified Dermatologist: Why Moisturizing Hands is Critical during COVID-19 & Flu Season

American Academy of Dermatology

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and flu season upon us, the importance of hand hygiene has never been greater. New research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology recommends adding a concluding step—moisturizing—to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hand washing protocol.

The study authors note the adherence to good hand hygiene practices during the pandemic coupled with greater use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers increases hand dryness and has triggered a surge in hand eczema.  

 “It’s more important than ever to follow proper hand hygiene protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and seasonal flu,” said board-certified dermatologist, Carrie Kovarik, MD, FAAD, Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology’s Ad Hoc Task Force on COVID-19. “We know that the skin on our hands serves as an important barrier to prevent infections. By adding the simple step of moisturizing, you’re taking a critical, preventative step to keep your skin healthy and thus reducing the risk of picking up additional germs through your hands.”

 Dr. Kovarik can provide additional insights on the importance of moisturizing the hands and how dry skin can hinder adherence to following a proper hand washing routine, one of the top protocols recommended for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Kovarik has an appointment in both the Departments of Dermatology and Medicine, Division of Infection Diseases, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She has a special interest in the way infections affect the skin.

 American Academy of Dermatology board-certified dermatologists recommend continued handwashing to fend off COVID-19 and the following tips to prevent and heal dry skin: 

1Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds in lukewarm water.  Use soap, and wash every part of your hands, including between your fingers and around your nails. 

2: Dry your hands with a clean towel but leave some water on them.  You can also let your hands air dry; however, while your hands are slightly damp, apply your hand cream or ointment. 

3: Apply hand cream or ointment to your skin, making sure you work some of the moisturizer into your fingertips and nails. Dermatologists recommend using a hand cream or ointment that: 

  • Contains mineral oil or petrolatum
  • Comes in a tube rather than a pump-bottle
  • Says it’s “fragrance-free” and “dye-free”

    This moisturizer tends to feel less irritating to dry, chapped skin 

4:  When you use hand sanitizer, apply your hand cream or ointment immediately after the hand sanitizer dries.  Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to kill germs, hand sanitizer can be very drying. 

5: Continue washing hands even if they feel dry.


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