With the pandemic, you may ask how over-washing hurts your hands, jewelry


A telltale sign you work in health care or have simply been doing your part to destroy COVID-19 germs may be your clean, but raw, hands.

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The global pandemic caused by COVID-19, a new coronavirus that is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by droplets from an infected person getting into someone else's lungs usually via the nose or mouth, has brought handwashing and sanitizing to the forefront of daily routine.

The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most. Sometimes, and especially for those older than 65 and anyone with an existing health condition, the case can be severe and lead to complications that may be fatal. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday announced 199 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths, including one in Clarendon County and two from Lee County.

Clarendon County's death toll is now at 36, Lee's at 13.

That brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 9,379 and those who have died to 416.

According to health professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing your hands for 20 seconds helps to ward off the virus because the ingredients in soap and hand sanitizer break down its barrier and destroy it. While handwashing may be a good sign of best health practices, it can take its own toll on our skin.

"We see it every day, often in the health care industry, but also in beauticians, if you're working in cutting oils in the machine industry," said Phillip Latham Jr., a dermatologist whose office, Dermatology & Skin Surgery, serves Sumter on Broad Street.

He said it's unfortunately a regular issue. We put a lot of chemicals on our hands.

It's not just hand soap, he said, which is often harder on skin when it's scented. Fabric softener, dish soap, scented shampoo.

"We touch a lot of chemicals all day long, and we don't think about it," he said.

Human skin has a lipid barrier, which prevents unnatural ingredients from entering our body, he said. It's why, for example, you can't quench your thirst by getting into a pool.

When you wash your hands, the alcohols in the soap break that barrier down. Much like how it kills the virus.

Over-washing, though, may keep us safer from the coronavirus, but it can leave hands and wrists irritated and dry.

Gloves can be worn to prevent direct contact with irritants or potentially the virus, but gloves should not be worn all day; throw them out and put on a new pair after each use.

Latham said applying moisturizer after washing can help prevent irritation as a simple enough trick. Look for lotions with dimethicone in them.

Among other dermatology services, Latham helps patients when irritation persists or you can't apply lotion after every wash because of your job or setting.

Our hands may be taking a hit in the name of cleanliness, but most of the rocks and natural materials we wear as jewelry usually fare better.

Most alcohol-based soaps and sanitizers don't affect jewelry, especially white and yellow gold and silver, according to Danny Chandler, owner and president of Galloway and Moseley, which is celebrating its 85th year this year and has stores in Sumter and Florence.

"Anything oily will take the brilliance out of stones, like this time of year sun tan lotions can make the diamonds we wear more dull," Chandler said based on his 45 years of experience. "It clings to the hard surfaces of gemstones, just makes them not as pretty."

Diamonds, silver, gold and jewelry can always be cleaned on an at-home basis. Galloway and Moseley also cleans jewelry for free.

The only items you really want to keep out of reach when applying sanitizer or cleaning are some stones such as pearls, Chandler said.

"You wouldn't want to get it on that at all," he said. "And that's true of all cosmetics and perfumes and hair sprays. Everything else pretty much can be cleaned and is resilient."