The Link Between Hand Washing And Dry Hands

Written by Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant on January 15, 2016 No Comments

hand moisturizing

Are your hands overly dry or cracked? Excessively dry hands are a common dermatologic concern. Frequent symptoms include burning/itching/stinging sensations and fissures along the palms or fingers. The most common culprits leading to dry skin include over-washing and the repetitive use of irritants like soap or hand sanitizers. Ironically these products, which work to keep germs away, can actually cause cracks and wounds that act as channels for infection.

The Skin’s Natural Barrier

Our skin naturally produces oil and wax in order to create a natural barrier. This barrier is essential for maintaining skin hydration and preventing substances like dirt and bacteria from entering the body.

Repetitive hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers can destroy and wash away the skin’s natural protective barrier. A damaged barrier can lead to several problems:

  • Skin dryness
  • Fissures and impaired wound healing
  • Bacterial infections
  • Eczema and/or itchy skin

Healthy skin is important. When this natural barrier is damaged, skin can be irritated by even short-term exposure to common cleaning products, fibers, and office equipment.

Easy tips to protect your hands

While excessive hand washing can lead to problems, it is still important to keep your hands clean (particularly during cold and flu season). Here are some helpful hints on how to keep clean while protecting the natural skin barrier on your hands.

  • Use a natural or mild soap.
  • After washing your hands use a moisturizing cream while the hands are still damp. I recommend creams because they are more hydrating than lotions.
  • Avoid alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Wear gloves when exposed to harsh chemicals.
  • Consider a humidifier at night.

See a dermatologist

If you have made the modifications listed above and are still suffering from pain, burning, stinging, or dryness it is time to visit your physician. A dermatologist will examine your skin to determine if prescription medications are necessary.


Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C

Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant, graduated from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas where she earned a Master of Physician Assistant Studies. Katie joined Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in the spring of 2012. Katie is certified by the National Commission of Certification for Physician Assistants and is licensed through the Texas Medical Board.

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