CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to regularly wash your hands. However, frequent exposure to soap and water strips the natural, protective oils from your skin, leaving it dry and cracked. Here are a few tips to help you keep your hands clean and moisturized.

• Opt for soap rather than hand sanitizer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. However, these products tend to be harsher on your skin. They also don’t kill all types of germs or effectively clean visibly dirty hands. Instead, use a natural soap made with olive oil, cocoa butter, or other plant-based oil.

• Apply moisturizing cream after every wash. If your hands are dry, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an oil-based emollient hand cream (rather than lotion) to soothe your skin and lock in moisture. Avoid products that contain retinol, fragrances, and other irritants.

In addition to reducing dryness and discomfort, keeping your hands moisturized can help prevent infections that you’d be more susceptible to with cracked skin. If you have eczema, psoriasis or another condition that’s exacerbated by frequent handwashing, consult a pharmacist or dermatologist for personalized treatment recommendations.