Dry hands? To help curb the spread of COVID-19 people are handwashing and sanitizing more frequently. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and applying alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Countless PSA TV spots and online reminders are keeping those recommendations top of mind for sure.
Why are my hands dry?
With all the frequent handwashing and sanitizing, your hands are likely feeling dryer than usual. While hand washing is effective at destroying the lipids in viruses, it can simultaneously strip away necessary oils that comprise our hands’ natural skin barrier. As a result skin barrier function can be compromised and break down. This creates a greater need for increased skin care to sustain moisture and restore skin barrier function.
The primary function of the skin is to reduce transepidermal water loss, provide protection against mechanical injury and microorganisms, and act as a permeability barrier to the environment. The outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, is abrick and mortar structure consisting of corneocytes and intercellular lipids.
The Essential Role of Lipids
The intercellular lipids are essential in maintaining the skin barrier function and act as both a shield from the outside and a guard that maintains natural moisture in the skin. This natural barrier can be broken down by the suds created by soap while washing hands. Soap depletes the intercellular lipids.
How does moisturizer help restore skin?
Applying a hand cream can help alleviate dryness, redness, itching, flaking, and cracks in the skin. While moisturizers cannot actually repair skin, they can help restore the skin barrier and protect the skin as it heals. “Moisturizers need to stop water loss, decrease itching and burning, and make the skin feel smooth and soft,” says Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., P.A., Clinical Associate Professor, in the Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest University. “This creates an optimal environment for healing.”
What ingredients should a hand cream include?
When selecting or formulating a moisturizer, there are three types of ingredients that work together to improve skin barrier function: occlusive agents, humectants, and emollients. Here’s a breakdown of each, some good examples, and what they do to help.
Occlusive agents: The medical definition for “occlusive” is: to close, obstruct, or prevent the passage. Petrolatum is an effective occlusive ingredient. It is creates an occlusive barrier on the skin, help to prevent further water loss and retain moisture.
Humectants: Glycerin is an effective humectant that attracts and binds water and can improve hydration of the stratum corneum.
Emollients: Natural oils like Meadowfoam Seed Oil or Daikon Seed Extract replace intercellular lipids depleted from repeated washing; Emollients soften or soothe the skin by filling spaces between skin flakes and creating a smooth skin surface. Some emollients can also function as occlusive moisturizers.
With increased demand for hand moisturizing strategies needed for the foreseeable future, here are a couple prototype formulations we came up with in the lab that can help, formulated using ingredients suggested above:
DAY RELIEF HAND CREAM – This formulation has a high load of Daikon Seed Extract so offers great moisturization with good absorption.
NIGHT RELIEF HAND CREAM – Meadowfoam Seed Oil adds a more substantive, velvety feel, great for nighttime use. After application, put on cotton gloves to increase absorption.
More hand health strategies coming soon. In the meantime, continue to WASH YOUR HANDS and MOISTURIZE.
Dermatologist Volume 12 – Issue 6 – June 2004
Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(11):771-88. Role of topical emollients and moisturizers in the treatment of dry skin barrier disorders.
J Invest Dermatol. 1950 Oct;15(4):305-24. Bacterial flora of the normal human skin. EVANS CA, SMITH WM, JOHNSTON EA, GIBLETT ER. PMID
A little science behind washing with soap: