The Covid-19 crisis has propelled thorough and frequent hand cleaning top of mind for everyone. We sing our 20-30 seconds of ABC or Happy Birthday while scrubbing vigorously and we make sure that our second choice, Hand Sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol.
But good hand hygiene is actually more than just cleaning hands. Here are five little known facts that will help you stay clean and healthy.
1) Wet hands spread more germs and pathogens.
Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands (1). Therefore drying them right after washing is important, whether you use an electric air drier or clean paper towels or at home, a clean towel. There is some controversy around electric air driers. When air dryers were introduced, they were hailed as the most hygienic way to dry your hands - until some studies showed that some air dryers might actually blast germs into the air rather than contain them. There is also the issue that a weak electric drier takes a long time for hands to actually dry. Long story short, the evidence on clean paper towels vs electric air driers remains largely inconclusive, but for healthcare workers in a hospital or clinic setting where cross contamination is a constant threat, clean paper towels should be preferred (2). Outside of that, both electric air driers and clean paper towels are ok.
2) The 20-30 second rule applies to hand sanitizer, too.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer's antiseptic effect works on contact. But slapping on some gel and shaking off your hands is not enough. First of all, your hands need to be clean of visible dirt and grease. Second, apply enough hand sanitizer so that literally every part of your hands, fingers and nails becomes "wet" with gel and rub for 20-30 seconds. Usually that means until your hands are dry (3).
3) Dry, irritated skin is more susceptible to disease and germs.
Frequent hand washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer strip and dry out your skin, and it's crucial to apply hand cream after every cleaning. Why? The result of dried out skin is not just the discomfort of dryness. A compromised protective barrier, the thin acid mantle of your skin, often triggers contact dermatitis and eczema. We've all experienced redness, itchiness and scaliness especially during the winter months or after we do a lot of dishes without gloves on. But not only that! Damaged skin can harbor more pathogens and actually sheds more microbes that healthy skin and is therefore harder to clean and keep clean of germs (5). While Covid-19 is a respiratory virus and not transmitted through skin, replenishing your skin's moisture consistently is key to your overall health. If you frequently catch yourself forgetting to apply hand cream, make a ritual of slathering on a generous layer every night and putting on some inexpensive cotton gloves for a deep overnight treatment.
4) Hot water is NOT more effective than cold water.
Studies have shown that cold water is just as effective when paired with soap for cleaning (4). In fact, hot water can dry out skin further, and it is also tougher on the environment. Washing with warm water is certainly more comfortable in the winter and make frequent hand washing more enjoyable (which is important in and of itself when you have to do it a lot) but just know that cold or tepid water is just as effective in keeping hands clean.
5) Moisturized hands are NOT more sticky to pathogens.
Your hand cream may feel sticky, but that doesn't mean that microbes and pathogens will stick to them more than if you didn't moisturize them. There is even some evidence to suggest the contrary, that moisturized skin can prevent contamination (6). If the stickiness of your moisturizer is stopping you from applying it consistently, opt for a water-based formula that absorbs quickly. Our Coconut Illipe Hand & Nail Balm is formulated specifically to not feeling greasy while nourishing stressed hands and cuticles with skin-friendly plant oils and soothing colloidal oatmeal. Our Candlenut Body Creme is also a good hand and all-over body hydrator with a non-greasy finish. Ultimately. whatever hand cream you apply, the moisture boost is most effective when applied to damp (not wet) skin.
What helpful tricks or challenges have you experienced when cleaning your hands? We'd love to hear from you!
Interested in exploring more tips on skin, health and wellness? Click here to see all JUARA blog articles.
(1) The neglected element of hand hygiene - significance of hand drying, efficiency of different methods and clinical implication: A review.
(2) The hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods: a review of the evidence.
(3) When and how to wash your hands.
(4) Show me the science - How to wash your hands.
(5, 6) Hand Hygiene and Infection Control: Skin Care Supports Patient Care