Due to coronavirus, people have become more conscious of handwashing. Many of us will be experiencing cracked hands from repeated washing in hot soapy water and regular use of drying alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
But is it OK to use hand cream after washing your hands, or does it recontaminate your hands with pathogens?
“There’s no problem with using hand cream,” says Dr Lindsay Broadbent of the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University Belfast. “As long as you have dried your hands thoroughly before applying the hand cream, it’s fine.” She advises people to carry their own tubes around with them, to be extra safe.
“It’s generally best not to share, because you don’t know if someone else has washed their hands properly before touching the bottle.” When applying the cream, squirt it on to the back of your hand, without touching the nozzle. “The coronavirus wouldn’t survive for long in the hand cream, but it’s good hygiene not to touch the nozzle, as bacteria and fungus could technically survive in there,” Broadbent says.
If your hands are painfully chapped and you don’t have hand cream on you, it is OK to use a communal hand lotion, provided you don’t touch the applicator. “Wash your hands, then take a paper towel and use that to push the dispenser, so you don’t touch it with your bare hands,” says Dr Stephen Griffin of the antivirals and viral oncology research group at the University of Leeds.
Griffin also explains that hand cream is a good idea, because you may be more vulnerable to infections if your skin is cracked or bleeding. “Your first barrier to any germ is your skin,” he says. (That said, he points out that the risk of picking up an infection through your hands is still very low, even if they are bleeding.)
Griffin and Broadbent wash their hands regularly for work, and use hand cream often. “I get dishpan hands in the lab,” Griffin jokes. Both favour one hand cream in particular: Norwegian Formula concentrated hand cream – although Griffin says that the Aldi version is just as good. Broadbent has particularly dry skin, as she has eczema. When it flares up, she turns to Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. “It’s my favourite,” she says. “I put it on when I go to sleep.”