I’VE always been a bit of a rabid hand washer. Yes. Long before the arrival of Covid-19. Spectacularly rabid handwashing episodes have infamously kept me up at night due to unbearable itching. In the days following, I suffer the fate of hands, raw, cracked and bleeding.

I wasn’t always this way. But I had such terribly problematic skin as a teenager that after the acne finally cleared, I became a bit hysterical about hand hygiene. Hormonal imbalance caused my acne but I could not risk having dirty hands cause another kind of decade-long breakout.

To this day, I never touch my face with a hand possibly soiled by anything — including the outside of my skincare product containers. If I have a 10-step skincare routine which involves 10 jars then I wash my hands at least 10 times when I do my skincare routine.

It doesn’t help that I love cleaning. I only stop when my hands are bleeding. I remain grateful, though, for the amazing ability of my skin to heal — despite all the abuse it has taken through the years.

Yes, I realize now — this is more than just passionate hand hygiene caused by trauma over a decade of bad skin. This is an obsessive-compulsive disorder sadly enabled and exacerbated during this pandemic.

I also suffer from eczema — likely birthed and nurtured by my daily handwashing habits more suitable for surgery. My enthusiasm for handwashing has effectively altered the balance of my skin microbiome, leaving me more vulnerable to auto-immune conditions.

While I understand it is necessary, the liberal and frequent squirting of sanitizer over my hands everywhere I go these days, does aggravate my misery.

Antibacterials don’t discriminate. They kill both the good and the bad guys just as antibiotics do in our gut. Hand hygiene is a tool to contain the virus. But it also negatively impacts our microbiome.

Early this year, I flew to Manila for a visa appointment. To my horror, despite several attempts, the electronic fingerprinting machine could not read my fingerprints. This has never happened before.

I was told I could be called for interview the following day. “But I’m flying home to Cebu in a few hours,” I wail. I receive neither sympathy nor solution for my predicament.

I fly home to Cebu as scheduled and pray. In the meantime, I google the mystery of my undetectable fingerprints. The possible culprits, I discover, are hands that are too dry, too clean or those that suffer damage from recent episodes of skin conditions like eczema.

No summons for interview come. My passport, stamped with my long-term Schengen visa, arrives shortly by courier. I am ecstatic. Then, Covid-19 arrives. No worries. I have solutions to share with you next week. No. Not solutions for upended travel plans. Solutions for sensitive hands.