Submitted by Kenmore Mercy Hospital
Washing your hands and wearing a face mask are your best defense against the spread of COVID-19, but for many it is taking a toll on their skin.
Frequent hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer can deplete the skin of its natural moisture and oils, leaving dry and cracked skin. Face masks may rub across the nose and behind the ears, which can irritate the skin.
Elizabeth Clark, BSN, RN, CWOCN, clinical wound adviser and ostomy nurse at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, shares some tips to help care for your skin while still protecting yourself from COVID-19.
For Your Hands
Keep washing your hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in lukewarm, not hot, water. Use soap, and wash every part of your hands, including between your fingers and around your nails. Hand washing removes harmful bacteria and viruses.
Dry your hands. Use a clean towel to dry your hands, but leave some water on them. You can also let your hands air dry.
Apply hand cream or ointment. While your hands are slightly damp, apply your hand cream or ointment. Applying moisturizer after handwashing helps treat dry skin. Dry, cracked skin makes it easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body. Look for something that:
√ Contains mineral oil or ceramides.
√ Comes in a tube rather than a pump-bottle.
√ Says it’s “fragrance-free” and “dye-free.”
√ Is lanolin free.
Use hand sanitizer and apply hand cream or ointment immediately after the hand sanitizer dries. Hand sanitizer can be very drying, so moisturizers help replenish your skin.
For Your Face
Choose soft, natural and breathable material. Choose a mask with tight, secure fit – either a procedure mask or a one made with tightly woven fabric. Avoid synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and rayon. These make you sweat, which will dampen the fabric and, in turn, may cause irritation.
Create a skin barrier with moisturizer. Putting moisturizer on your face throughout the day is the best way to decrease friction between the skin and mask.
Keep your skin clean. When washing your face, avoid using any strong face soaps or exfoliators. Consider not wearing makeup. Wearing makeup under a mask can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Wash or replace your mask. Soiled masks can irritate your face. Washing your fabric mask by hand with regular detergent and hot water is gentler on the mask. Procedure masks are not meant for long-term use, so discard them if they are soiled or used too long.
Individuals over the age over age 65 and those living with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease, immunity problems or cancer are at higher risk for COVID-19. While social and physical distancing and frequent handwashing are the best ways to protect against COVID-19, you should check with your doctor about the best option for you.
If you continue to have skin issues, reach out to your primary care physician or call 716-706-2112 for a referral.