Dry hands? How to remedy the harsh effects of sanitiser on your skin

If the scoreboard between your hands and sanitiser is reading 0-1 and your skin is looking cracked, ashy or even scabby, try these easy fixes

23 June 2020 - 09:46
The alcohol in hand sanitiser can strip the moisture from your skin.
The alcohol in hand sanitiser can strip the moisture from your skin.
Image: Getty Images\S Alemdar

These days hand sanitiser is a must for your handbag much like your favourite lipstick or travel-size fragrance. If you've been applying it regularly, you might find the skin on your hands is crying out for help — especially now that winter has arrived.

One crucial fact about sanitiser is that it is alcohol-based. In fact, if you're using a product that's in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, 70% or more of it will be made up of alcohol. Alcohol is extremely moisture-stripping and can cause the skin on your hands to become dry and even irritated. If you have naturally sensitive skin, sanitiser is going to make that worse.

We know coronavirus and germs are really scary right now, but try to take breaks from sanitising your hands while you're at home — save that for when you're on the go — and wash them with soap and water instead. Don't forget to moisturise them afterwards as soap can also have a drying effect on the skin.

Beyond that, remedying hands that are suffering the effects of over-sanitising starts with finding out whether your skin is dry or dehydrated.


We rarely know if our skin is dry or dehydrated and tend to bundle the two together under the blanket term "dry". Dehydrated skin lacks water whereas dry skin lacks oil. Knowing the difference is important because it determines what product you'll use to remedy the problem.

An easy way to tell the difference is to press down on your skin with your finger and lift it up:

  • If there's an oily-like imprint on the skin before it bounces back it's likely dehydrated.
  • If there's no signs of oil and the skin looks ashy white before bouncing back, or if it flakes or cracks under your finger, it's likely dry. Dry skin can even crack open creating bleeding or scabs.


It’s important to start with skin that is ready to absorb the moisture-replenishing products you'll be applying. So the first step is to prep it by using an exfoliating hand scrub to remove dead skin cells. 

Use a hand-specific scrub or a face scrub that is super gentle or natural once a week or as necessary. Don't go for a scrub that is too active, such as one that contains glycolic acid, as that may be too harsh on your skin in this state.

Apply a small amount of the scrub to wet hands and using gentle circular motions, work the product into the skin for about 30 seconds. Rinse off with warm water and pat dry with a towel.



You think that a hand cream is enough to combat sanitiser dryness but have you ever noticed your hands feel dry seconds after applying hand cream? While hand creams are naturally designed with a balance of water and oil in their formulas, if you have severe dryness, you'll find it beneficial to boost the oil content of the product you're using.

To do so, take the most natural facial oil that you can find, or some olive oil from your pantry, and mix a few drops into your hand cream of choice.


If your skin is dehydrated rather than dry, look for a hand cream that contains hyaluronic acid; this will act as a moisture magnet and draw water into the skin's cells.

Just as you would apply an overnight mask to your face to wake up with plumper, more moisturised skin, so too can you apply one to your dehydrated hands. Choose a hydrating leave-on face or hand mask that contains hyaluronic acid and slather a thick layer onto the back of your hands before bedtime. Apply a pair of plastic gloves to help lock in that moisture and prevent the product from staining your bed linen.