The current coronavirus threat has led experts to call for regular handwashing with soap. You are advised to use plenty of soap and to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds. In our current situation, this is both cogent and the right thing to do – we have to break the infection chain. However, we should also realise that frequent handwashing with soap irritates our skin.
Conventional soap has a high pH between 8 and 11, and is hence considered alkaline. Healthy skin and the skin flora (skin microbiota) have a pH of about 5, which makes them acidic. Excessive soap use may interfere with the skin’s natural protective layer, referred to as acid mantle.
Thoroughly washing your skin certainly isn’t wrong per se, even if you use soap. It will only take a few hours for your natural skin flora to regenerate – you can call this your body’s natural toolbox. However, if this protective layer is compromised for longer periods – in particular by excessively frequent handwashing – the skin will not only be stripped of viruses and pathogen (= disease-causing) bacteria, but also of some of the good and healthy bacteria which make up the natural microbiome of healthy skin. The result may be skin diseases, cracked or chapped skin, allergies, or eczema – possible conduits for viruses and pathogens.
But you can help your skin: use pH balanced soaps or alternative products with a pH of 5.5 to keep yourself clean, and restore your skin’s protective layer by regularly applying microbiome-enhancing skincare. In this way, you not only protect your body from influenza and corona viruses, but also your skin health.
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