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poofandmook's avatar

Compulsive hand washer + winter = ow. How can I stop?

Asked by poofandmook (17222 points ) December 13th, 2009

Where is the line drawn between just liking clean hands and being a compulsive hand washer? Is there a way to break myself of this habit? I mean, crikey… it’s said that one of the easiest ways to avoid the flu is to wash your hands, but I might be going overboard here, since I’ve already gotten two cracks on my fingers, my hands frequently look like elephant skin, and they suck up lotion faster than I can put it on. I don’t know if my problem is the washing or the care afterward. Maybe the washing is fine, and I’m just not taking care of the skin well enough afterward?

I have owie hands. Help.

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25 Answers

HighShaman's avatar

My mother wshed her hand at least ten times a day ; and she was never sick with a cold or flue at all of her 79 years…

Her doctor attriburted it to her washingher hands so often….

DON’t stop washing your hands ; just get yourself some moisturising hand lotion with aloe in it ..and wsh away….

lundayjjjj23's avatar

Try wash9ing your hands with out hurting your self.

dpworkin's avatar

I don’t know how to answer the question about OCD, but I can recommend Bag Balm for your hands.

holden's avatar

lotion. Lots of it. My hands crack in the winter too. Recommend Caswell-Massey Honey Almond Shea Butter hand & body lotion.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Only wash your hands if you’ve gone to the bathroom, handled raw meat, taken out the garbage, or something as genuinely gross as that. Wear gloves when you wash dishes, and put on lotion beforehand because the heat from the water can still dry out your hands.

Get some hand sanitizer for when you want to wash but haven’t done anything truly grimey (just, say, shaken a few hands and want to eat a snack). It really does kill mega tons of germs, and won’t dry out your hands as much.

Get the thickest, greasiest lotion you can find!

andrew's avatar

You don’t need to wash you hands as often as you’re doing. You don’t. And I think you realize that from your question.

Try doing this. Try limiting your washing to @fireinthepriory‘s suggestions. Use hand sanitizer before meals.

The trick is: Just do this for 2 weeks. That’s it. Just 2 weeks. Then post here again.

Also, Kiehl’s Creme du Corps is a fantastic moisturizer, IIRC.

wildpotato's avatar

Retinol. Gen-you-wine eyebally goodness. I know it’s marketed as a de-wrinkler, but I never knew about that aspect of it till I looked it up for you just now. It’s just the most awesome skin lotion/cream I ever used.

poofandmook's avatar

I wash my hands after I use the bathroom, after gathering/taking out garbage, cleaning or scooping the litter box (even though I generally wear latex gloves while doing these things), after handling meat or any food that may have left a residue (like, say.. cheese), after washing dishes (I hate the smell of the sponge on my hands). Reading it like this, it doesn’t seem like it’s an unreasonable amount of washing.

wildpotato's avatar

@poofandmook Oh! then it’s probably the latex gloves that are doing it. That powder can crack the hands something fierce. Try other types, like powderless, vinyl, or these.

butterflykisses's avatar

Try using anti bacterial hand lotions? http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=2478324 scroll down and you will find them on the page of this link.

dpworkin's avatar

I love Kiehl’s products, but they aren’t cheap. Bag Balm is ubiquitous, inexpensive, and never fails to work. It has one drawback: it smells like lanolin, so just use it at night and you won’t be able to smell it by morning.

poofandmook's avatar

@wildpotato: I don’t think so… I only wear the gloves once a day for 5 minutes tops to do the litter box, and once a week or every other week to clean… maybe an hour or less. I used to wear them for 8 hours 5 nights a week at work and never had more of a problem with my skin. In fact, the gloves make my hands sweat a little bit and keeps them moist. They might be powderless.

gradyjones's avatar

Maybe you could use a milder soap and it would not be so harsh on your skin. I read that the friction of rubbing your hands together also kills germs and that people could get by with less soap if they used more friction for a longer period when washing.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@poofandmook You’re right, that’s not all that much. I was imagining much more. I’d get some gloves for dishwashing so you don’t have your hands in hot water for that long, and leave a jar of lotion next to the sink so you can put it on every time you wash.

I have soap specially formulated for people who wash their hands all the time in the lab I work in called “VWR SoftCIDE Extra-Mild Hand Soap.” My hands don’t get irritated at all and sometimes I have to wash my hands 18 times in a day. I bet you could order some online.

(Also do NOT use antibacterial soap/lotion!!! Baaaad idea unless you like antibacterial-resistant supergerms.)

wildpotato's avatar

@poofandmook Gotcha. I was also imagining much more glove-wearing from your description. I was thinking, wow, gloves to use the bathroom…

answerjill's avatar

I don’t know if you have ocd or not, but if you are curious about treatments for people with hand-washing ocd, you can google “exposure response prevention” to learn more.

loser's avatar

I’m having the same problem. Everytime I move my hands I’m afraid a finger is going to chip off. I had to quit using hand sanitizer and switched to Dove soap.

bobbinhood's avatar

Given your further explanation through this thread, it sounds like you just have excessively dry skin. I have the same, and tried everything for the longest time. The biggest thing to remember when washing your hands is to pat them dry. Rubbing them or letting them air dry both remove significantly more of your skin’s natural moisture than does patting them dry.

Beyond that, there are two products that have helped me significantly. One is a moisturizing hand wash by dove. I’m not sure that it actually kills bacteria, so I always used it immediately after using a normal soap, before drying my hands. Washing still dried out my hands a little, but not nearly as much as without it. Bonus – it smells delightful.

The other is a lotion by Main ‘n Tail that is actually not overly greasy. You can put it on, and actually use your hands a couple minutes later (brilliant, right?), provided you don’t use an excessive amount. This lotion doesn’t smell particularly good, but it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as most that are designed for especially dry skin. It’s also not nearly as expensive as most and lasts a long time. I can’t tell you how excited I was when a friend had me try it, because it works so much better than any other lotion I’ve used.

Good luck getting your hands back in shape. The hardest part will be getting them back to normal; once they’re there, maintaining them is much easier. Use lotion before you notice that you need it, and you will stay ahead of the cracked, painful hands.

EmpressPixie's avatar

My suggestion is to use a balm instead of a lotion. Burt’s Bees has a hand salve that’s good—it’s not amazing, but it is easy to carry and does the job. @pdworkin suggested a balm as well, I believe—I would be inclined to say that his recommendation appears to be stronger and you should take it over BB’s except that BB’s is cheap and readily available at Whole Food or basically any drug store and his may be harder to find.

juniper's avatar

Don’t stop, just get better lotion. I recommend only one: Borage Dry Skin Therapy, by Shikai. Other lotions seem to sting or make things worse. This one is kind of amazing. It’s not greasy like a balm, it soaks in well, and it has zero scent. You might have to order it online or get it in a health food store. I know that drugstore.com carries it.

You have to carry it around and apply it right after washing your hands, though.

I hate having lotion on my fingers, so I dot some on my knuckles and then rub the top of my other hand on the lotion. That gets everything except my palms covered. I guess if you have dry palms you can skip this, but I just hate getting goop on my food, hair, computer, and everything I touch.

SeventhSense's avatar

@andrew said it best. I wash my hands a handful of times a day and I have none of these problems. This seems by your own admission to be something more. I would encourage you to seek resources that address Obsessive compulsive disorders. This condition can be very progressive and get worse. Think Jack Nicholson in “As Good as it Gets”. Or as was the case with Howie Mandel, a sufferer, he actually washed his hands so often with antibacterial cleansers that he compromised his body’s own antibodies and developed these warts on his hands as a result.
All bacteria is not bad either. An introduction of a pathogen into the body can strengthen the bodies natural defenses as well. Also some bacteria is good and vital to the bodies functioning. And there’s new evidence that indicates that normal washing with soap and warm water is just as effective as antibacterials without the harmful side effects. I know it’s easier said than done but this is a psychological thing more than a rational thing.

lonelydragon's avatar

I have had similar problems in the past. Eventually, my dry skin itched so much that I just couldn’t keep washing my hands all the time; the itching was driving me crazy. I also tried substituting hand washing with hand sanitizer. Germ X contains aloe and other moisturizers to keep your hands from drying out.

In between washings, use Vaseline total moisture lotion or Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand creme. Also, before bed, apply more lotion and sleep with gloves on your hands. This treatment will soften them up considerably and heal cracked skin.

Haleth's avatar

Most regular hand lotions are too light for people with really dry skin during the winter. A few years ago I got into making homemade soaps and lotions, so I did a little research on them. Most hand lotions are emollients/ moisturizers, so they soften the skin and add moisture but don’t protect it. That means your hands will be dry again soon. You should put on a moisturizer and give it a few minutes to sink in, then put on a second layer of a thicker lotion that will protect your skin. Shea butter is good, especially if you buy it pure. (L’occitaine sells tins of it.) It doesn’t moisturize your skin on its own because all it contains is fats and oils, but it will keep your hands from chafing and prevent the moisture from escaping your skin.

juniper's avatar

Um, my two cents about hand sanitizer: if you’re gonna use one, you might choose a natural one (Burt’s Bees, for example). The chemicals in that stuff are, well, toxic, and most people slather it all over their hands and then use those hands to eat. Eating nasty chemicals isn’t my favorite, even if it’s just a bit.

I’m all for the hand washing. I teach at a university so I have to use a public bathroom all day. Yeah, I wash my hands a lot. There’s really nothing wrong with doing it often as long as you combat the dryness with lotion or something. Unless, of course, you feel that your hand washing is, truly, a compulsion.

Anyway, good health to you!

augustlan's avatar

I have the same issues. Here are a couple of things that help me:

1) No anti-bacterial anythings! Not soap, not hand sanitizer. Most of them contain alcohol, which not only drys your skin further, but freaking hurts if your skin is cracked. Regular old mild ‘soap’ is the way to go. Foaming ones seem to bother me less than the gel types, maybe because they rinse off more quickly.

2) Use warm water, not hot. Even in the shower. Applying oil (baby oil or sesame oil… whatever) while still wet and in the shower may help. Pat dry gently.

3) When doing the dishes (or anything else involving wearing gloves), apply a thick balm to your hands first. Then wear a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber/latex gloves. You can also do this at night while you’re watching TV, or even while you’re sleeping – if you can handle sleeping in gloves (I can’t). This is like a super moisturizing hand treatment.

4) Throughout the day, apply a regular, non-irritating lotion that absorbs quickly. Like someone else up there^^ said, I almost always only apply to and rub in with the backs of my hands. This avoids that “greasy fingers” feeling.

5) Wash your hands only when necessary.

Note: Even with all of this, I still have hands that look 80 years old in the winter. However, they don’t crack and bleed nearly as often as they used to, and I haven’t had to use an Rx steroid cream in ages.

Good luck!

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