Have you used so much hand sanitiser over the last year that your skin is now cracked and dry? Do you suffer from persistent bouts of acne, or eczema, or other dry skin brought on due to the stress of the pandemic?
The last year hasn't been easy on our skin. Even if you're taking the right supplements, the conditions and stress of a post-COVID world certainly isn't the easiest factor for your skin, and using harsh chemicals like strong soaps and alcohol-based sanitiser can do more than just kill the coronavirus.
Dr Bjorn Herpers, clinical microbiologist with Gladskin, tells us it's because our skin isn't just a barrier to the outside world: it's a complex ecosystem.
Herpers says: "To understand what the skin microbiome is, we have to realise the body houses trillions of bacteria and fungi. Most of these bacteria are good: our skin houses bacteria that forms a complex ecosystem which keeps your skin healthy.
"Disrupting the skin microbiome may lead to problems. Using hand sanitiser with alcohol frequently may cause the skin to become dehydrated and prone to irritation, such as itching, redness or even small infections. By using these hand sanitisers you’re not only killing the coronavirus but also disrupting the skin microbiome, giving bad bacteria an opportunity to cause infections or inflammation."
Dr Bjorn Herpers put together a 20-minute talk, exclusively for Fit&Well, on protecting your skin from harmful infections and keeping the microbiome healthy. You can listen to it in its entirely below:
Watch Dr Herpers' expert skincare tips talk below:
Just as harmful alcohol-based hand washes and sanitisers cause irritations, harsh chemical cleansers can aggravate issues on your face, causing dry skin and acne by disrupting your skin microbiome.
"With acne, many people still think it’s good to use harsh cleansers with alcohol to clean the skin, but this leads to more inflammation and a disrupted microbiome. Instead of harsh chemicals, alcohols or soaps, use gentle cleansers and then moistuiser to prevent any disruption in the skin’s microbiome."
We obviously can't avoid using hand sanitiser, so Dr Herpers recommends moisturising immediately after sanitising, which can help rehydrate the skin and shore up its defences. As well as a little bottle of sanitiser, make sure you also have a moisturiser everywhere you go.
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Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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