So Important is Correct Hand Hygiene – Not Only for Protection Against COVID
Regularly washing our hands and then the constant change between wintry outdoor temperatures and the heated air indoors – all this can make our skin dry out quickly. It is particularly important to protect it, because our skin is the most important barrier to the outside world for our body – and it now needs to be particularly resistant during this cold period, which makes taking care of it more important than ever.
„We must ensure our skin doesn’t dry out despite the vigorous cleaning that is so important right now,” explains Dr. Mira Jakobs, Scientific Affairs Manager for Bepanthen at Bayer’s Leverkusen site. “If the skin loses too much moisture, it can no longer carry out its protective function to full effect. Even though we can’t become infected with coronavirus via our skin, other pathogens and harmful substances can then easily get into our bodies,” she warns.
Especially now, when cold and flu viruses are on the rise again in many places, bringing with them typical symptoms such as coughs, colds and sore throats, it is important to continue to observe hygiene rules - especially since everyone unconsciously touches their face with their hands several times a day, allowing viruses to enter the body much more quickly through our mucous membranes.
But how exactly does regular washing protect us? “Washing your hands thoroughly reduces the number of germs on them by up to a thousand times. That means there is less risk of pathogens getting into your mouth when you eat or into your body via the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes, for example. It also makes you less likely to pass them on to family members, friends or colleagues,” explains Marius Dörr, who is responsible for dermatological OTC products at Bayer. “And soap also plays a key role here. It’s a detergent, which means it can penetrate between fatty and water-soluble materials. Since all bacteria and many viruses are surrounded by a cell membrane, that is to say a double layer of fat molecules, soap breaks down the integrity of these pathogens and kills them,” he continues.
Selecting the right sanitizer
Our skin currently has to deal with more than frequent hand washing, though. Regular hand disinfection also plays an important role in everyday life. To avoid overtaxing the skin unnecessarily, selecting the right sanitizer is crucial. “It’s important to check whether products are intended for surfaces or hands. Most products for hands also contain skincare or moisturizing substances so as not to put undue strain on the skin barrier,” says Jakobs.
Furthermore, not all sanitizers are equally effective. According to the Robert Koch Institute, products with indications such as “limited virucidal efficacy” (effective against enveloped viruses), “limited virucidal efficacy PLUS” or “virucidal” marked on the packaging are proven to work.1
While washing and sanitizing your hands may have an impact on your skin, it is especially crucial during the cold season and in the face of other viral infections.
That makes it all the more important to maintain the skin’s protective function and not allow it to dry out. And there’s only one thing that helps here – cream, cream and more cream!
With a total surface area of 1.5 – 2 m2, the skin is the largest human organ. It accounts for approximately 8 – 12 percent of our bodyweight and has a large number of different functions.
As the organ separating our bodies from the environment, its protective function plays a particularly important role.
Our skin comprises three layers – the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutis. The epidermis is especially important for the skin’s barrier function. It is made up of a number of sub-layers. The innermost layer (basal cell layer) contains the pigment-producing cells, which are responsible for coloring the skin, and the epidermal stem cells, which continually divide and form new skin cells.
These newly formed cells make their way from the basal layer toward the skin’s surface. As they do so, a number of conversion and differentiation processes take place within them. They become flatter, adjust the metabolism and keratinize until they ultimately become incorporated into the outermost layer of the epidermis as corneocytes (horny cells), hence the term horny layer.
At the end of their development cycle, the keratinized cells become detached from the surface of the skin and are replaced by new ones, thereby continuously regenerating the epidermis.