If there’s one unexpected note in the short-term wake of Covid-19, it’s the general well-being of our hands. “Our hands aren’t used to being washed this frequently,” says skincare savant James Vivian, owner of the James Vivian Clinic in Prahran and Double Bay. While the frequent cleaning is warding off potential pathogens (like bacteria or a virus), it’s also taking a toll on our skin’s protective layer. “Our body doesn’t have the chance to restore itself,” he says. We asked Vivian how best to keep our hands clean and healthy in these uncertain times.
Keep ‘em clean after washing, too
The natural oils in your skin keep your hands feeling soft and looking fresh. They also protect them from dehydration. So if you’re feeling textural changes in your skin, like tightness or rough, chapped areas, it’s might be struggling to replenish itself. Vivian says using a product after washing can help. “When it comes to the richness of products, you might want to use a lotion throughout the day and then an ointment or balm at night,” he says, as regular use of hand creams can increase hydration and replenish depleted skin lipids (natural oils, wax and fats). “Something richer will have more fat or oils in it, which function as an artificial barrier to prevent dehydration and restore comfort to the hands.” There are also some lessons from facial skin care we can use to nourish the skin on our hands. “When we’re treating the face we look for appropriate cleansers that aren’t dehydrating,” says Vivian. You can look for those products for the hands and the body too.”
The difference in sanitising
Vivian recommends looking out for soap and sanitisers that are moisture-enriched – something that’s become more prevalent recently. A start is alcohol-based sanitisers, which have been shown to be less irritating to the skin. A recent example is La Clinica’s all-purpose hand sanitiser gel, which uses a very high quality pure ethanol without the harsh unrefined aroma, panthenol and glycerine for hydration alongside aloe vera, lemon oil and echinacea extract. “A lot of companies have stepped into high gear and responded to the crisis by making products that are better for you than traditional things that were available on the market,” says Vivian.
Exfoliate and remember your nails
After cleansing the face we often reach for an exfoliant to increase the penetration and efficacy of moisturiser. The same rules apply to your hands. Exfoliating them will remove dead skin and help your lotion or cream to really penetrate. “If you have a facial exfoliator, loofah, pumice stone or body exfoliant, take that to the hands every couple of days to pare back some of the dead, flaky skin.” Want to send your hands to the spa? “You could give yourself a ‘hand-cial’: like you do with your face, do it to your hands as well,” says Vivian. “If you’ve got a nice hydrating face mask, apply it to your hands too. Our nails and the skin around our nails is really copping it at the moment because our body is trying to nourish and prevent this dryness from within. And because your fingertips are so distal, they’re “not getting much love from the body”. Whether you’re using a specially formulated hand cream, cuticle oil or basic moisturiser, pay special attention to your nails and cuticles to keep them hydrated too.
One last barrier
If you want to get ahead on the hydration, you can even apply a balm or lotion then put on some gloves – look for something specifically formulated to replenish hydration and soothe and dry. Your skin will absorb the product at its own rate, and you won’t have to worry about greasy hands. Along with these handy hints, Vivian shared one final, important reminder: “The health of our hands isn’t the most important thing; it’s killing off the pathogens and making sure the hands are properly sanitised.”