Now more than ever, it’s important to wash your hands properly to reduce the spread of germs. Those sneaky microscopic organisms find it easy to get into your body when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching a contaminated surface, which is why regularly cleaning your hands is the simplest way to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.
But did you know there’s a right way to wash your hands, and a wrong way?
Below, we explore the proper hand-washing technique, while also revealing some tips on keeping your skin smooth and hydrated.
First of all, when should you wash your hands?
There are several key times you should always wash your hands, including before you:
- Prepare or eat food
- Treat an injury
- Care or visit someone who is ill
And you should always wash your hands after you:
- Blow your nose, cough or sneeze
- Care or visit someone who is ill
- Use the toilet or clean up after a child who has used the toilet
- Touch animals or animal waste
- Take out the garbage
- Use public transport or touch surfaces in a busy, public place
While it’s a little impractical to wash your hands every time you touch something like your phone or laptop, these things are also notorious for carrying germs, especially if you take them with you into a public place. Regularly disinfecting them with gentle antibacterial wipes will go a long way towards keeping them clean.
What to use when you wash your hands
We recently explored the differences between hand sanitiser and soap. Both have their place, but soap and water is most effective when it comes to killing all germs, while hand sanitiser is best used when you’re on the go and you don’t have access to a sink.
The correct technique for disinfecting your hands with hand sanitiser
Carry hand sanitiser in your bag or in your car so that you can disinfect your hands whenever you need to – for example, after catching public transport or visiting the supermarket. Hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol will kill most germs, though it’s always worth washing your hands again with soap and water when you get home.
To disinfect your hands with hand sanitiser:
- Apply a teaspoon amount of alcohol-based hand sanitiser to your palm.
- Rub your hands together, making sure you cover every inch of skin, including between your fingers.
- Rub for about twenty seconds, until your hands are dry.
Don’t rinse the hand sanitiser off with water before it’s dry or it won’t provide a protective layer against germs.
The correct technique for washing your hands with soap and water
When washing with soap and water:
- Wet your hands with warm water.
- Apply a small dollop of soap.
- Rub your hands together and build the soap into a lather to remove dirt and germs.
- Make sure you scrub the backs of your hands, your wrists, your fingers and under your nails. Wash for at least twenty seconds – or the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.
- Rinse your hands well under warm water.
- Use a towel to turn off the tap.
- Pat your hands dry with a clean towel or hold them under a hand dryer.
There are some studies that suggest using a hand dryer can blow germ particles back onto your clean hands, so if you’re using a public bathroom and you want to play it extra safe, opt for a paper towel instead.
At home, make sure you wash your hand towel every few days, especially if you live with more than one person, so that it doesn’t retain germs.
How to protect your skin from frequent hand washing
One downside to frequently washing your hands is that it can make your skin dry or irritated, especially during the colder months when humidity levels drops. Luckily, it’s easy to keep your skin healthy and hygienic at the same time:
- Avoid washing with hot water, which is extra drying on the skin. Warm water is the best option.
- Use a bar soap that contains natural oils and moisturisers (we recommend Velvet Luxe Beauty Bar or Country Life Fresh Linen & White Clay soap bars) or a liquid soap with a creamy consistency (such as Velvet Sorbolene Sensitive Hand Wash).
- Switch to a soap formulated for sensitive skin, such as goat’s milk soap, which is rich in fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties. Goat’s milk soap is known to remove dead skin cells faster and encourage new skin growth, so it heals and nourishes damaged skin while killing germs at the same time.
- After drying your hands, apply a hand cream or moisturiser that will lock the water into your skin. Look for occlusive ingredients (which prevent water loss) such as mineral oils, shea butter, lanolin or squalene; humectants (which attract water) such as honey or glycerin; and emollients (which soften the skin) such as aloe vera or dimethicone.
While most of us already wash our hands, it can be easy to blindly rush through the routine or overlook proper skincare when life gets busy. Not only will following these tips will make you more diligent about protecting yourself from germs, but it will also help you to keep your skin healthy for years.