- Keeping your skin moisturized is an important step in preventing coronavirus, since germs can get into cracked, dry skin.
- Cyclists are likely , especially after outdoor rides, which is good, but they may see more dryness and irritation as a result.
- Using products that moisturize and hydrate your skin is best.
From the very start of the coronavirus pandemic, the recommendation to more often—and the correct way—was rightfully touted as one of the most important methods for preventing virus transmission.
But there’s a crucial next step that hasn’t received as much attention: Keeping your skin moisturized to prevent the kind of cracking and micro-tears that could make you more susceptible to COVID-19. If you don’t rehydrate, then ironically, washing your hands frequently could, indirectly, be putting you at higher risk.
Another potential risk factor is the dry skin you may experience from wearing face masks, which makes it tougher to adhere to the other recommendation: “don’t touch your face.”
Here’s what’s going on with all that washing and rubbing, and what you can do to protect your skin—and your health.
Why Dry Skin Is a Problem
Frequent washing can cause a loss of natural oils—called sebum—on the skin, said , a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She told Runner’s World三九电影网 that sebum helps maintain the skin’s healthy barrier which protects you from the outside world.
Especially for cyclists who are still riding (safely and alone!) outside, this can be a big issue right now compared to those spending most, if not all, of their time indoors. Cyclists will likely be washing their hands more—which is good—but they may see more dryness and irritation as a result—especially with erratic spring weather thrown into the mix.
三九电影网“As the skin becomes more dry, it can be irritated from inflammation, which can lead to itching,” she said. “Then it will start to form small, painful nicks that can bleed and enlarge, and may lead to scratching, which will worsen skin cracking.”
三九电影网Micro-tears can evolve into deeper fissures this way, she added, and then your protective barrier isn’t so protective anymore. You could be more susceptible to skin infections, as well as other , including viruses.
Skin Issues With Face Masks
First and foremost, a quick reminder to reserve N95 masks for healthcare workers and instead use DIY masks—including bandanas or scarves, as long as they can be washed immediately—when you go out in public, including when you ride. (The purpose of the mask is not to protect you, but to protect other people from you—check the and the for specific guidelines.)
Even with cloth masks, though, skin can get irritated due to trapped moisture, and because you have to tie or loop the masks so they’re firmly pressed against the fact, that pressure can raise the likelihood of redness and sensitivity, Massick said.
A good strategy after you’ve removed your mask using (avoid touching the front of the mask, and wash your hands right afterward) is to wash your face, she added. But be sure to wash your hands first so you’re not transferring germs from the mask into your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Much like the hand scrubbing, more face washing can increase your chances of developing dry skin, especially in the areas around the nose and mouth, where the mask has been. Avoid the temptation to scratch or adjust your mask, or even reach under the mask and rub your nose subconsciously.
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How to Boost Your Skin Health
三九电影网Fortunately, there are ways to keep your hands and face from turning into a parched desert landscape.
三九电影网In general, creams contain more oil than water-based lotions, Massick said, so they’re more moisturizing and protective. She suggested looking for moisturizers with —which are already part of your skin’s layers but can reduce with aging and dryness. Ceramides are often paired with other hydrating ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and shea butter, which help to “lock in” moisture, Massick advised.
She also suggested sticking to fragrance-free and hypoallergenic choices if possible, especially since you’ll be using them more often—whenever you wash your hands and dry them, ideally.
At night, you can start a routine that will lock in moisture as you sleep, suggested , assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. She told Runner’s World the first step would be to use a gentle cleanser, such as micellar water, and then to apply a thick cream-type moisturizer to your hands and face. If you just have moderate dryness, stop there.
But if you have really dry, irritated skin, Stevenson suggests “sealing” in the moisturizer with a light layer of petroleum jelly or a beeswax-based product if your skin tolerates it. It may help to sleep with a towel on your pillow as to not transfer the oils to your sheets.
You can also do these steps at any point during the day, but it’s important to do them after wearing your mask, not before.
“With the mask, you want your skin to be in its usual state, since adding thick layers of emollients [moisturizers] can interfere with the mask working and also with the integrity of the mask,” said Stevenson.
With both your hands and your face, think of these extra moisturizing steps as creating an additional barrier between you and germs, said Stevenson. Because coronavirus can remain on surfaces for at least a day—and on some types of surfaces for a few days, according to a in The New England Journal of Medicine—it’s possible to pick them up on your hands and transfer them into your system by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. The more barriers between you and coronavirus germs, the better.