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How to keep your hands clean and moisturized, according to a dermatologist

Avoid chapped hands with these simple tips.
The O'Keefe's Working Hands hand cream recommended by Dr. Wattenberg helps to heal dry skin. "I keep mine by the sink so I don't forget to use it after washing my hands," said TODAY Associate Editor Megan Foster.
The O'Keefe's Working Hands hand cream recommended by Dr. Wattenberg helps to heal dry skin. "I keep mine by the sink so I don't forget to use it after washing my hands," said TODAY Associate Editor Megan Foster.
By Megan Foster

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Washing your hands is the easiest way to prevent the spread of illness and disease according to medical professionals. Though beneficial, the constant scrubbing can also destroy your skin's natural barrier, increasing the risk of bacterial infections if germs settle into cracked skin.

"It is important to wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water," dermatologist Debra Wattenberg tells TODAY. "Gently pat dry and apply moisturizer to seal in moisture and prevent dry, cracked and inflamed skin."

She also notes that jewelry can get in the way of properly washing your hands. She said, “I recommend removing rings and drying your fingers to avoid trapping water which can cause rashes and infection."

To further protect hands she also suggests wearing gloves to clean your home and do dishes. If gloves aren't an option, you should avoid products with harsh ingredients that can trigger irritation including fragrance, salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids.

Moisturize after washing

Her next piece of advice: reach for the hand cream.

"Keeping your skin healthy and hydrated is important to prevent infections," Wattenberg says. "Look for creams and ointment with a higher percentage of oil. The more occlusive the better, but choose a tube or pump over a tub to avoid contamination."

Wattenberg recommends using lotion throughout the day whenever you wash your hands. She also encourages looking for products that include ingredients like hyaluronic acid, petrolatum, dimethicone, glycerin and shea butter.

Worried that a moisturizer will limit the effectiveness of your hand sanitizer? Wattenberg says it's fine as long as your sanitizer is dry (another dermatologist also agrees).

See her picks for the best moisturizers below.

1. O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream

Free of fragrances, this hand cream is formulated to heal, relieve and repair extremely dry and cracked skin. This cream is also available in tube form for on-the-go use.

2. Burt's Bees Ultimate Care Hand Cream

According to the brand, this hand cream is naturally formulated to revitalize extra tough, dried-out skin. It's unscented, dermatologist-tested and won't leave your hands feeling greasy.

3. L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream

Made with 20% shea butter, honey, almond extracts and coconut oil, this lotion will leave your hands feeling soft and smooth.

4. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Tackle painfully dry hands with this portable moisturizing cream. It includes hyaluronic acid to retain skin's moisture and can be used on your hands, body or face.

5. Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

The Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is enriched with botanical oils and wax derived from olive oil — providing you with a pathway to smooth and conditioned skin.

6. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Keep this hand cream in your purse, your pocket or by the sink so you'll always have it around after washing your hands. Only a small amount is needed to fully moisturize your skin.

Use a hand mask

In addition to a moisturizer, Wattenberg recommends looking into hand masks. Most masks provide extra hydration to dry and cracked skin, similar to a deep conditioning treatment for your hair.

You can find pre-made ones in most drugstores, but if you can't get to a store, she says you can DIY hand masks at home.

"If you don't have any products with these ingredients at home, you can use olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil," she noted. You'll want to rub the oil on your hands then cover them with a plastic bag, cotton socks or saran wrap.

Check out Wattenberg's hand and foot mask picks below.

1. Aveeno Repairing Cica Hand Mask

This doctor-approved editor favorite includes prebiotic oat that nourishes skin and shea butter that soothes. After washing your hands, put one hand in each glove and remove them after 10 minutes.

Wattenberg notes that if you still have cracked skin, covering cuts with a bandage is also a good idea.

2. ZenToes Moisturizing Heel Socks

While moisturizing your hands is important, it's also important to prevent dry, cracked feet by keeping them hydrated. Slide these on before you sleep so you'll wake up with smooth heels.

3. NatraCure 5-Toe Gel Moisturizing Socks

If your toes are the real issue, these gel moisturizing socks may be able to help. "I have had problems with dry looking feet. The first night I used them, the skin on my feet (especially my heels) was moisturized and softer to the touch," said one verified Amazon buyer.

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