CPD Articles

The flip side of frequent sanitising and hand washing

Lehlohonolo Makhakhe
South African Family Practice | Vol 65, No 1 : Part 1| a5595 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v65i1.5595 | © 2023 Lehlohonolo Makhakhe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 June 2022 | Published: 11 January 2023

About the author(s)

Lehlohonolo Makhakhe, The South African Institute of Dermatology, Bloemfontein, South Africa; and, Department of Dermatology, Faculty of Health Science, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis. It acts as an interface with the external environment and functions as a barrier that prevents microorganisms and allergens from penetrating the skin, while preventing bodily fluids, electrolytes and proteins from being lost in a process aimed at maintaining homeostasis. With the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, there has been an increase in hygiene practice, particularly hand washing and the use of hand sanitisers. These practices have undoubtedly assisted a great deal in combatting the rate of transmission and contributed immensely to saving lives. However, repeated hand washing and the use of sanitisers have both been linked with marked skin dryness and contact dermatitis. This especially holds true when the above-mentioned practices are carried out in the absence of intermittent hand moisturiser usage.


hand washing; xerosis; sanitiser; contact dermatitis; COVID-19


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