To prevent the spread of germs, many are washing their hands more frequently, leading to dry skin, especially during the winter months when the common cold is rampant and the air is harsh and arid. While nutrition plays a very important role in the quality of a person’s skin (coenzyme Q10, omega 3s, and drinking lots of water), it is also crucial to care for skin from the outside. Skin is, after all, the largest organ in the human body, and the outermost layers are primarily moisturized externally.

Why does washing my hands dry out my skin?

Hot water
Frequent contact with water, especially hot water, can strip skin of its natural oils.

Removal of glycerin
Thanks to the industrialization of soap production, glycerin is frequently removed from our modern soaps. Glycerin (also called glycerol when in its pure, chemical form) is the natural byproduct of the soap-making process. Combining fat (animal tallow or vegetable oils such as coconut, olive, or palm kernel) and an alkali (lye, sodium, ash) makes soap, which produces the moisturizer glycerin. Around the late 1800s, commercial soap-makers found that glycerin could be extracted from soap and re-sold for high profits, as it is used to make dynamite, medicines, and many cosmetic products. Since glycerin became such a high-demand product, it is stripped from most soap and thus leaves the modern consumer with hands stripped of moisture.

Antibacterial soaps
Antibacterial soaps have been found to dry skin, and, furthermore, don’t show any long-term benefit of truly fighting bacteria. In fact, frequent use of antibiotic soap begins to produce antibiotic resistance to bacteria and can strip the skin of its natural defenses.

Sulfates
Commercially made liquid soaps are frequently made with sulfates (commonly sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate) for their lather and foam producing properties. However, sulfates also dry out the skin. How well a soap lathers does not determine how well it cleanses, so there isn’t much added benefit of adding sulfates, except for the nice foaming action.

Thus, most soaps sold in modern convenience stores are extracted of natural moisturizers and instead filled with ingredients that dry our skin.

How can I prevent having dry skin from soap use and frequent hand-washing?
Since washing our hands regularly is said to be the best way to prevent the spread of germs, giving up hand washing is not an option. There are several things you can do, however, to prevent dry skin:

  • Use tepid water when washing. Hot water can further dry out skin. Many of us love hot showers, but this is another good reason to turn the shower temperature down, even if just a little.
  • Find soap that contains glycerin or make your own!
  • Avoid anti-bacterial soap.
  • Use soap that is sulfate-free. Sulfates are found in many household products such as body washes, hand soaps, shampoos, facial cleansers, and even toothpaste.

Originally posted 2013-01-04 22:18:00.

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