How To Look After Your Hands While Following Coronavirus Washing Guidelines

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We all know that the the main piece of advice from the government in light of the COVID-19 outbreak is to wash your hands. It's a very simple guideline to follow and yet can make a huge difference in preventing the spread of the virus, which can live on surfaces and then be transferred to you if you touch your face. However, washing your hands more than usual and using anti-bacterial gels can cause dryness and irritation, so here's how to take care of your hands while still following the advice of the government.

It's important to reiterate the importance of washing your hands during this critical time. The government's "battle plan," which was announced on March 3, reinforced the message, reminding the public to wash their hands more often than usual. It's particularly important to remember to wash them when you get to work or arrive home, after your blow your nose, cough, or sneeze, and before you eat or handle food. You should wash them for around 20 seconds each time. If you don't have access to soap and water, using hand sanitiser (with at least 60% alcohol content) is advised.

However, all this hand washing and use of alcohol-heavy products can really dry the hands out, causing irritation and itching. This should not deter you from washing, however. All you need to do is take a little more time to take care of your hands, and here's how...

1. Opt for moisturising soaps

While you may be tempted to opt for the most hardcore-looking soap, this isn't necessary. Coronavirus "is a virus not a bacteria so using anti-bacterial instead of plain soap makes no difference," Professor Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, told Good Housekeeping. "Also, you’re not killing the virus with hand-washing, you’re washing it off, so ordinary soap is effective providing you rinse you hands thoroughly." With this in mind, pick up a moisturising formula, or one that's especially gentle. The organic hand washes by Green People, for example, are excellent at sanitising hands and washing away viruses, but are mild and contain no SLS, which is one of the main culprits for drying hands out.

2. Carry a hand cream as well as a sanitiser

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Using hand sanitiser is advisable if you cannot get to a sink, but due to the alcohol content (which needs to be at least 60% to kill germs effectively), it can be particularly drying on hands. Therefore, when you whip out your hand sani on the tube, why not follow that up with a little dose of hand cream to inject some moisture back in? There are so many amazing ones, my favourites being this one by Mane'n'Tail and the Aesop tubes. Look for formulas that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which hydrate and restore the skin's barrier.

3. Use weekly hand masks

While hand creams are great for use on a daily basis, why not try and sit down at least once a week to use a hand mask? We invest time and money into masks for our face, so we should do the same for our hands, particularly in times such as these. Grab a glass of wine, pop Netflix on, and whack on a hand sheet mask. I like the Nails Inc and Patchology ones.

4. Be sensible about when and why you're washing your hands

As previously stated, it's particularly important to remember to sanitise your hands when you get to work or arrive home, after your blow your nose, cough, or sneeze, and before you eat or handle food. You should also avoid touching your face.

However, says Virginia L. Vega, PhD, the founder and CEO FlawlessCanvas, wants us to remember that "the skin surface is naturally colonised by bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms; a layer called microbiome. The main functions of the microbiome is to protect the skin from pathogenic organisms and train the immune system." Vega explains, "any alcohol-based hand sanitiser may kill potentially dangerous microorganisms, but they also alter normal microbiome (which are beneficial to the skin)."

With this in mind, try to use hand sanitiser only when it is necessary, not every few minutes.

5. Protect your hands when cleaning or washing up

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One tip you should always follow if you're concerned about maintaining health hands is to protect them when doing things like cleaning the house or doing the washing up. This prevents excessive stripping, and exposure to products like bleach or drying detergents. Invest in a couple of pairs of rubber gloves for different activities.

6. If things get bad, visit your pharmacist

If your hand health becomes really bad and is causing you distress, take a trip to the pharmacy and ask if they can recommend any products to help restore moisture and reduce irritation.

If you or someone you’ve been in close contact with appears to have shown or be showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, visit the NHS website in the UK to find out the next steps you should take or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.