Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Ways to Care for Your Hands Every Day

Wash with Care
Want to avoid germs? Wash your hands.
Want to avoid germs? Wash your hands.
Michael Hevesy/Getty Images

You've heard it a million times: Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to keep from spreading bacteria, viruses and other nasty things to yourself, and from yourself to others.

Wash your hands frequently. If you make it a practice to wash your hands the right way, their look and feel shouldn't be a casualty of your healthy habits.

A little knowledge about skin can help you understand how to wash your hands properly. Skin is composed of layers. The outer layer (the stratum corneum) is mostly made of dead skin cells surrounded by natural oils produced by the living cells in the layer beneath. The natural oils make a protective shield that keeps water inside the body and germs and other irritants out. If the outer layer doesn't have enough natural oils, it won't retain enough water -- and your skin may be dry, rough, red, cracked and itchy.

When you want to get all the oil or grease off dirty dishes, you use very hot water with a strong soap that will leave them squeaky clean. That's exactly what you don't want to do with your hands. You want to remove germs and grime, but you don't want to strip all the natural oils from your hands. Wash with warm water instead.

You should also avoid harsh soaps. Dermatologists recommend nondrying soaps like Dove, Neutrogena, Basis, Purpose and Oil of Olay [source: Iowa]. Liquid nonsoap cleansers like Cetaphil also work well. Antibacterial soaps aren't necessary and may even dry skin more. They also can kill good bacteria on the hands and encourage bad bacteria that resist antibiotics [source: Mayo Clinic].

Rinse hands well and dry by patting or blotting gently. Don't rub.

Keep reading to learn all about moisturizers.