Caring for Your Hands in a COVID-19 World
The following blog post is sponsored by Pure Pro Massage Products
By Dianna Dapkins
If you just took some time away from massage you may have noticed your hands got a little . . . weird. Maybe they got dry from all the extra washing and not being covered in massage oil all day. Your nails probably got longer and the cuticles became dry and all over the place.
Even if your hand hygiene met and exceeded best practices prior to the pandemic, there will likely be changes to your protocol as you ease back into hands-on work. How can we meet these new and different demands and care for our hands? Let’s start with the basics and work our way to caring for our hands long-term.
Great hand hygiene for massage therapists starts with very short fingernails. Very short means just the tiniest sliver of white showing at the top of the nail, or none at all. Any length beyond that creates a larger space for germs (that means bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa) to hide and grow. If you choose to keep your fingernails longer than that, add scrubbing with a soapy nail brush to every hand-washing session.
Some therapists have worked while wearing rings, bracelets or watches. At this point, the risk involved greatly outweighs any benefit of these adornments. It’s time to take them off for your workday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) holds the most stringent of recognized handwashing protocols and provides a great visual guide to the full process that captures every surface of the hands and wrists. The protocol should take at a full 20 seconds to complete. It’s helpful to post the WHO guidelines in your office bathroom, and a little more fun if you customize the instructions to include 20 seconds of lyrics to your favorite song.
Since you’ll be washing your hands countless times a day, soap choice plays a major role in your hand health.
When choosing a soap, avoid antibacterial soaps and products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), polypropylene, triclosan, and any dyes or fragrances. All of these ingredients can dry and irritate your skin.
I prefer an unscented, organic Castile soap. My favorite is from Vermont Soap. You can make a little go a long way by using a foaming dispenser that combines water and soap.
A soap with simpler ingredients is just as effective at killing germs when combined with proper hand washing technique as its packed-with-chemicals counterpart, but less harmful to your hands (and the environment).
Some of us are facing state or employer requirements to wear gloves in all massage situations. This can feel weird and restrictive if you haven’t worn gloves to massage previously.
Kerry Jordan and Cal Cates of Healwell assure us: “You can give an excellent massage while wearing gloves . . . we’ve been doing it in hospitals for years.” They suggest you find out what size nitrile glove fits your hand well. “Gloves won’t jam up your qi or mess up the flow of your massage. You can still give an amazing, centered, caring massage.”
When shopping for gloves, be sure to buy medical grade nitrile gloves, not just the cheapest ones you can find online. Medical grade gloves meet stringent FDA requirements and will perform better.
Even if you don’t wear gloves while massaging you may choose to wear them for cleaning and laundry tasks as an extra layer of protection. Wearing gloves while you clean will prevent those cleaners from drying your hands or leaving a jarring scent that lingers on your hands into your next massage.
If you are required to wear gloves and develop dermatitis (this happens occasionally but is not super-common) the best remedy is a little time off, moderate sunshine and air
exposure. You can also apply calendula oil to dry hands at the beginning and end of each day. Just 10 drops massaged into each hand and fingers will do the job. Bonus: self-care in the form of hand massage!
You may also find that when you massage with gloves on, you can use a little less massage product. This is because your hands are no longer soaking up any of the product. You’ll get used to this quickly, no doubt.
Hand sanitizer/alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) should be used whenever soap and water isn’t available. The CDC recommends using ABHR with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol in health-care settings, and the WHO suggests a formula of 80% ethyl alcohol.
Our hand sanitizer at Pure Pro meets the more stringent WHO criteria. ABMP members receive $10 off their first order of $40 or more using the code found on the ABMP member discount page.
In the massage room, it’s helpful to place bottles of hand sanitizer in a few locations, so you always have one within reach. You should use it whenever you have to touch anything other than your client (stool lever, music controls) and contaminate your hands. Some resources also suggest you should use hand sanitizer after you massage a client’s face or hands as well.
It’s important to note that you should not use hand sanitizer on gloves. If you contaminate your gloves mid-treatment, you should remove the gloves, apply hand sanitizer (or fully wash with soap and water) and then don clean gloves.
Whenever and wherever you use hand sanitizer, apply liberally and rub in for a full 20 seconds for maximum efficacy.
Throughout your office, keep hand sanitizer by your entry, by your bathroom sink, and any place you or clients tend to sit or linger. Make it standard procedure for clients to wash or sanitize their hands upon arrival to your office and also before they leave the massage room after a treatment.
All this washing and sanitizing and gloves and cleaning products will take a toll on our skin. It helps to be prepared with strategies to ward off the dryness. When you are home, dry your hands gently with a cloth towel instead of a paper towel.
Be vigilant about using a high-quality lotion on your hands during the day and a thicker moisturizing cream for intense restoration at night while you sleep.
Again, look for products without sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), polypropylene, or any dyes or fragrances. My favorite daytime lotion is our Hypoallergenic Massage Lotion, because it’s super gentle for even the most fragile skin, and doesn’t leave your hands greasy.
For night time, I love our Deep Tissue Massage Cream for the deepest moisturizing. Apply the cream and massage in well before you go to bed. If your hands are really cracked or raw, apply the cream and wear cotton gloves overnight to pack more moisturizing power.
We’ve got so many new challenges in this COVID-19 world. We’ve also got so many new opportunities to care for and serve our communities. Our own excellent self-care will keep us healthy and able to serve safely and with our full hearts and hands.
Dianna Dapkins is a massage therapist and creator of Pure Pro Massage products. Since 1992, Pure Pro has distinguished itself by adhering to its values of quality, purity, efficacy, and education. Each Pure Pro product you try is made in Greenfield, MA and the result of Dianna’s hands-on experience combined with feedback from thousands of professionals like you. Visit www.purepro.com for more information.