Dr. Jennifer Abrahams (UNMC photo)

After weeks and weeks of excessive hand washing and sanitizing in an effort to stave off COVID-19, many Iowans are finding their fingers and palms dry and cracking.

Dr. Jennifer Abrahams, a dermatologist, says while it’s especially important to wash our hands during this pandemic, it’s also important to take proper care of those hands.

“The best time to lock in the moisture in our hands is to apply something moisturizing directly after washing them, while they’re still at the damp stage,” Dr. Abrahams says. “It helps your skin absorb it a little better so that moisture stays locked in.”

If you’re cleaning with chemicals around the house, use gloves to protect your hands and while it may sound counterintuitive, she says getting them wet will dry out your hands even more quickly. Many Iowans will turn to hand lotion as a salve for our cracking hands, but the expert says that likely shouldn’t be your first line of defense.

“Ointments and creams, like Vaseline, petroleum jelly or even some of the moisturizing creams they have on the market, are better about penetrating through the layers of the skin, especially the thick layers that we have on our hands,” Abrahams says. “That would be the ideal, rather than a lotion that you pump from a bottle which is not as moisturizing for our hands.”

When cracks appear on our hands, they can bleed and be very painful. That means they’re extremely dry and your hands may need help beyond ointments and creams.

“A little trick that we use in the dermatology world is filling in that space with a little liquid bandage or even crazy glue,” Abrahams says. “It can fill in those cracks and crevices so it’s not painful and spreading every time you work with your hands, and as your body heals, it’ll push that on its way out.”

She suggests buying products that are hypo-allergenic — without the potentially-irritating chemicals — and fragrance-free as those additives can also cause irritation. As for soaps, Abrahams says to look for non-soap cleansers instead which won’t dry out your hands as much as soap.

Abrahams is a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Dermatology and a dermatologist at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.