Protecting Your Skin While Preventing COVID-19

Frequent handwashing and wearing face masks are important ways we can control and prevent the spread of disease. But these preventive measures can cause the skin on our hands and face to become very dry or even develop cracks or sores. Here are a few ways to help care for your skin.

Hand Care

One of the most important things you can do to protect against COVID-19 is to keep your hands clean and free from germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Memorial Health System policy also states that you should cleanse your hands every time you remove a pair of gloves. Therefore, it’s important that your hands do not crack due to the stripping of essential oils. Cracked skin can be an entry point for germs, creating the potential for infection.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be gentle on your hands. Use lukewarm water to wash your hands, not hot water. Consistent friction for 20 seconds, not the temperature of the water, is what will remove the germs from your skin and prevent illness.
  • Wear gloves when using Clorox wipes or other cleansing wipes to prevent the harmful chemicals from irritating your skin.
  • Moisturize your hands frequently. Choose moisturizers that contain urea, glycerin or hyaluronic acid if possible. Stay away from fragrances and dyes that can irritate your skin.
  • Early protection is key. Before you start to notice chapping or dry skin, be sure to moisturize regularly. Keep lotion at your sinks, in your vehicles and with your personal belongings. The more you moisturize, the healthier your skin will be.

Mask Rash

Wearing a mask for long periods of time can cause skin irritation and chapping on the face and lips. Painful and annoying rashes can develop on the nose, chin, cheeks and even behind the ears.

Here are a few tips to avoid skin irritation:

  • Apply Vaseline or moisturizer liberally over your face and reapply as needed if working long shifts.
  • Apply moisturizers that contain dimethacone to create a barrier between the mask and your skin (for example, Remedy moisture barrier, Aquaphor, Aveeno or Eucerin).
  • Apply a Band-Aid or blister Band-Aid on the bridge of your nose to help prevent pressure sores.
  • Your mask should fit tightly around the bridge of the nose to prevent slippage and rubbing throughout the day.
  • Ask your department leader for mask bands or “ear savers” that attach to the mask to keep the backs of the ears from rubbing on the straps. If a blister forms, keep it clean and intact. Rupturing a blister will cause an opening in your skin that could put you at risk for infection.
  • Keep your face clean. Good hygiene throughout the day will keep sweat and oils from clogging your pores and causing acne. If you do develop acne, use products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Avoid breaking open pimples—this can cause inflammation and infections on the face.