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My Thin Skin and Aging: Hands and Arms Bleeding and Bruising Easily

Updated on December 17, 2016
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John was a Navy hospital corpsman; he worked general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.

The Sun Takes Its Toll 

My interest in this subject stems from not wanting to limit my activity—which I think is a concern to many people who are aging. I don't want to miss out on life because of concerns about banging up my skin. Throughout this discussion I want to refer to what happened to me, and how I addressed the problem.

At 62, I am a classic example of a person who should have taken better care of himself. I have lived in Arizona since the age of five. Fifty-seven years of improper skin protection has taken its toll. I took warnings about using sunscreen with a grain of salt. I was too busy to fuss with all of that, I thought! More often than not I wore short-sleeved shirts outside in the intense, summer sun.

Once I reached my 50s, however, I began to notice that very small bumps and bangs could cause deeper cuts and more bleeding than I was accustomed to. I began to learn about the concept of thinning skin, and I started to do something to protect myself.

One of the troubling results of aging is the acquisition of paper-thin skin. This "thin skin" is due to reduction in the amount of collagen (a protein, fibrous in nature, connecting and supporting other bodily tissues) under the surface of the skin. Elastin (another protein), which gives flexibility or spring to the skin, also decreases. Exposure to sun and its ultraviolet rays accelerates the loss of collagen and elastin. Because the hands and forearms are the most frequently uncovered parts of our body, the thin skin develops there most often. The skin changes in appearance, doesn't bounce back, and tears and bruises more easily.


Thin Purple Skin

With thin skin, bumps and bangs usually cause an immediate bleed under the skin if not broken. These purple marks spread out under the skin and are a telltale sign of age. I look at them NOW as if they were scars, and the people I have them with in common, veteran livers. It wasn't always so.

The interest I took, noted earlier, came from the surprise when I discovered a big blood spot or found blood on clothing. Usually I am unaware that anything happened to cause such bruise or bleed. There is nothing heartwarming about working on a project, discovering blood, and then trying to find out where it is coming from!

An example may be informative to the younger. I work on cars. I cannot say I enjoy it, but I must repair cars out of necessity. The automobile is the single biggest cause of nicks and bruising on my body. When I am done repairing something on an automobile, I have looked as if I have been through some kind of war. My skin having traveled across a piece of metal or some kind of connector, ever so slightly, came up a loser. Usually blood was smeared all over part of the engine, or all over me. With nicks and bruising all over, I realized I had to make a lifestyle change.

So here is a first idea that my wife, not I, came up with. She suggested that I wrap dish towels around my arms and secure them with rubber bands (not tight rubber bands!). Over that she felt I should wear a long sleeve shirt to keep them in place, and help protect arms and hands from the rough environment and the SUN! She is a smart lady.

Since doing this, I have virtually eliminated cutting to my skin. I still get some bruising, but nothing is perfect. I am so grateful for this suggestion she made. And for those of you out there who don't FEEL old yet and want to continue with what you have always done, this is something that helps me with car repairs.


It Was Her Solution

Dish towels rubberbanded around the forearms covered by a long sleeve shirt can be a very inexpensive fix. I am including photos. The dish towels run $4 for 6 at Walmart. I use latex cloves to protect my hands from cutting (but they are also now recommended for professional auto repair people to prevent cancer from over exposure to burned hydrocarbons). I get Medi Touch Powder Free Latex Gloves, 50ct per box at $6.27 at Walmart.

Another example of a common thing I do to get an abrasion involves yard work. My home is made of frame and stucco - the outer coat is a rough Spanish lace texture. If I turn a corner just a bit too soon and my forearm touches that rough stucco, I have a scrape that will bleed. This is the kind of scrape that used to appear as roughed up white dry skin, perhaps a little reddened, but not bleeding.

If I get close enough to a counter top to tap it with my hand or forearm, it can result in a bruise or a nick. So here is a common sense solution I have had to acknowledge and use to change my behavior. I have had to become more careful. As easy as it seems, it takes some training. I intentionally give more room between me and objects. If I see a counter top, I don't get as close. If I see a corner, I remind myself to make a wider turn. These are things I never consciously thought about before; the consequences of hitting were not very serious.

These slides show cross-sections of the epidermis and dermis of (a) thin and (b) thick skin. Note the significant difference in the thickness of the epithelial layer of the thick skin. From top, LM × 40, LM × 40. (Micrographs provided by the Regents
These slides show cross-sections of the epidermis and dermis of (a) thin and (b) thick skin. Note the significant difference in the thickness of the epithelial layer of the thick skin. From top, LM × 40, LM × 40. (Micrographs provided by the Regents | Source

Grandpa's First Aid Tips

I deal with bloody spots under the skin with vitamin E gel. I use Equate Aloe Vera & Vitamin E Baby Oil Gel. Before bed every evening, I wash the area with the bloody spot and apply the gel, which rubs in and disappears quite well. What have been the results? I think the gel helps the bruise dissipate sooner. I cannot prove it scientifically, but it is something I believe is working. My skin also feels better. Maybe it would help you, too? Again, I have my wife to thank for the idea. She is an aloe convert and has seen its healing properties in other ways - for her, in the treatment of sunburn. She thought the gel might help my forearms and hands. I am a convert. The gel costs around $1.50 per tube at Walmart.

If I get a nick doing ordinary chores or activities, I wash them and apply an antibiotic ointment. While at the doctor's office for a routine check up, my physician noticed my little cuts and bruises and emphasized that I should clean them immediately and apply such ointment or cream. She told me that I was at risk of a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection if I ignored it, which I used to do. MRSA is a bacteria that is getting resistant to a number of antibiotics. Cleaning and treating immediately gets ahead of it. Remember when you would scab in 5 seconds, ignore the wound, and continue to work? Not so smart anymore. I use Equate Triple Antibiotic Ointment at $2.52 a tube which contains Polymyxin B sulfate - bacitracin zinc - gramicidin. There are other antibiotic ointments available. Inquire with a pharmacist.

So, to review, wear long-sleeve shirts to cover the forearms; this helps buffer the skin from nicking and bruising, and it also protects the skin from exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. Try using dish towels wrapped around the forearms to protect from cutting and bruising when working in tight quarters. Treat cuts and abrasions immediately with triple ointment or cream to prevent infection and to promote faster healing.

And now for a final suggestion. I like to use Curad non-stick pads (12 count, 2"x3") with adhesive tabs for covering those little nicks (or gashes!). These pads stick less to the wound (the advertisements say they do not stick at all; I'm not sure that is completely true, but they are good, nonetheless). The pads provide a buffer, again, between the wound and the possibility of re-injuring the wound. I know those of you out there who are of age have had a cut stop bleeding, washed it, and returned to work only to find a few minutes later you have rapped the same cut again. Ouch! It almost always is a bigger tear with more bleeding. I am sure we have all seen the same thing. The Curad pads help a lot to keep the second strike from causing as much damage, and they cover the wound to prevent infection. The adhesive used by these pads has not torn my skin. It is an adhesive that grabs, but it doesn't grab so hard that you rip the skin when removing the pad. They are available for under $3.00 per box at Walmart.

I have personally decided to wait for a more serious health problem, later in life, to limit my activity. The bruising and cutting I experience due to thin skin is a bother, but it can be nullified in the bigger scheme of things. Don't let paper-thin skin hold you back!

© 2011 John R Wilsdon


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    • profile image

      STAN CHUN 6 days ago

      HI John,

      Those were great westerns you mentioned. 3.10 to YUma was the original with Glenn Ford and a later one was made with Russell Crowe the Kiwi which was not as good.Cimmaron was the John Ford Classic I think but cannot recall if I saw the 1960 version. I just re-watched The Outlaw Joey Wales a short time ago along with High Plains Drifter.Can't beat Clint Eastwood in that type of western in fact I named my 2nd son Clinton...and the first Lincoln. Rio Bravo was one of the John Wayne movies where all he did was walk back and forth taking his Winchester off the rack. He was outshone by Dean Martin as the town sherriff and drunk. Martin was always under rated as an actor but I have John Wayne pics and effigies all around my home.The Searchers was highly rated but I found it rather slow. Red River with Monty Clift is a very memorable Wayne movie. Seen practically every Wayne western. Was great in most of John Ford productions who was his friend and discoverer for Stagecoach.

      How the West Was Won I saw several times on the big screen.

      A great movie indeed full of great stars as Greg Peck, James Stewart and Henry Fonda.

      I just love the westerns in fact my brother said that if I was going to be reborn it would be as a cowboy.

      I was in Hawaii some years ago and brought back some aloe vera. The product there was great for sunburn. Am using it on my skin since I read your article.

      "Down Under" is more of an American term for Australia and NZ. WE hardly use it here. More often the Maori term Aotearoa is used meaning The Land of the LOng White Cloud.

      My friend lives in Brisbane Aust. and he likes Australia if not for the Ass-tralians. They have a certain manner about them which I find hard to describe but are somewhat different to the Kiwi attitude which is a bit more laid back.

      Also where they have racial problems with the indigenous Aborigines and is known to have shot them like animals, NZ has a far better relationship with the Maori and are guided in Law by the Treaty of Waitangi which we have pretty much adhered to even tho it cost the country millions in land ownership and righting wrongs to the Maori over 100 yrs ago.

      We have a very fair and transparent attitude to all races here unlike the US problem/s which will only get worse under your new president.

      Having said that I am not anti American. My brother went to war in the Pacific and got to know one very well and became life long friends. I still communicate with him.

      He is Mal Gurian and was the CEO of OKI Telecom in the USA. Now retired in Florida. I think he was one of the first to develop the mobile phone in the states.Great guy and very humble.



    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 8 days ago from Superior, Arizona

      Howdy Stan,

      Sorry for addressing you as Australian! Do New Zealanders consider themselves "down under" or is that just Australians?

      I live in Superior, Arizona. It's a little copper mining town about 60 miles east of Phoenix.

      I used to live in Tucson where "Old Tucson" movie studios are, and where most of the westerns were made. My little town can claim a number of movies. This is a list of films that were filmed in the U.S. state of Arizona. Arizona's diverse geography make it an ideal place for making films. The deserts in the southern part of the state make it a prime location for westerns. Old Tucson Studios is a studio just west of Tucson where several film and television westerns were filmed, including 3:10 to Yuma (1957), Cimarron (1960), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), and Rio Bravo (1959).

      Such films as U Turn by Oliver Stone, Eight Legged Freaks, How the West Was Won, Blind Justice, The Prophecy, Skinwalkers, The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood, and Young Billy Young are set in Superior. In 2005, a sci-fi film named The Salena Incident, also called Alien Invasion Arizona, was filmed in Superior.

      Due to state laws and taxes, the movie industry pretty much moved to New Mexico, but once in awhile one is set here.

      Good to have a bit of sports banter. The rivalry here is between Arizona State University sports and University of Arizona.

      As for the skin, watching and playing American football here is very hard on the body. Lots of water is consumed! Don't forget your hat!

    • profile image

      STAN CHUN 10 days ago

      Hi again John,

      Speaking of Doves. last night I decided to watch Lonesome Dove with Robt Duvall. Is an old western produced in the 1980's and I always meant to watch it...but only until now for some reason. I have stacks of unseen DVD's but I picked Lonesome Dove and I'll be was shot in Tuscon, Arizona.

      No wonder all the cowboys kept their sleeves rolled down.

      Another thing is that with the blemishes you get from the aging skin you have to check for moles that can turn cancerous.We have a pretty high mortality rate here

      for innocent looking spots.

      Keep a hat on to protect the head.

      Incidently I am writing from New Zealand which is not a part of Australia.

      We are kinda down further and a step away from Antarctica.

      There is always a bit of friendly banter about the Aussies stealing our talent like Russell Crowe who was born in NZ, and the NA Pavlova cake plus lots of other incidents. To make our mark we make sure the Rugby All Blacks trounce them.



    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 10 days ago from Superior, Arizona

      Stan Chun

      I think Arizona and Australia have a lot in common. We probably could be dropped in each other's backyards and not miss a beat. I forgot which side of the road you mates drive on. LOL

      When I was a kid, our favorite summer past time was swimming. They said the chlorine turned our hair blonde. Well, it had already turned Scandinavian blonde before the pool opened! We lived a carefree life in the 50s and 60s without all of the medical information about the harmful effects of the sun.

      I take a cholesterol lowering drug that warns of redness on exposure to sun light. A broad brimmed hat is very useful.

      Now as for sending your sinuses to Arizona, I wouldn't do that. Back in the 40s and 50s that would have been true. It was hot, dry, and we had only native plants which weren't particularly allergenic. However, with the great growth in our state, exotic plants have come with the new inhabitants, and we can't provide that haven from pollen anymore. Right now we have wild flower pollen off the chart because we had terrific rains this year. But in addition, other plants not natural to our area are in bloom. For example, we have a lot of Spanish Broom and Olive along with others. I do not think the doctor would recommend us anymore for sinus problems. It may be that nowhere on Earth is untouched by foreign gardeners. Perhaps we are still better than the alternative, but I would do research on that before moving. HAHA Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      STAN CHUN 11 days ago

      Down here we drive on the Left Hand Side of the road so my right arm gets fried in the sun. I normally roll my sleeve down to stop the burning.

      It is amazing that there are thousands of skin products advertised mostly for women as beauty products yet there should be something specifically for us guys too.

      Maybe a sunblock at 50+SPF rating.

      I also get the sun hitting me on the RHS of the face and taking Doxycycline can make the skin redden. It is an anti biotic [broad spectrum] I take for sinus infections. We also have lots of various types of pollen down here which aggravates sinuses. Most products do not work well and there is even one that says in its adverts "Send your sinuses to Arizona.." so I presume you have lots of sand and little sinus problems.Maybe if I send me to Arizona I would have less sinus problems.

      I use to wonder why the red rear stop lights on the cars down here turned orange with time. It was the strong UV made even stronger with the hole in the atmosphere over us supposedly due to spray cans.

      I know Trump would not believe this so no use telling him a lot of eco problems are man made. Can even turn your hair blonde..!!

      Stan Chun


      New Zealand

      17 March, 2017.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 12 days ago from Superior, Arizona

      Stan Chun

      HaHa....This evening I went to an auction and visited with a person who frequents the same. She fell while unloading some stuff she bought at her little shop. Her arm looked awful. She laughed that people were horrified by the way it looked and thought it hurt. Of course, she said it didn't!

      The sun here is very intense. I have lived here 60 years, arriving in 1954 and being away 4 years+ in the military. I did not use sun block (shame on me), but did try to wear long sleeved cotton shirts. Folks thought I was crazy in the heat, but it keeps the skin from burning too badly. Many folks here notice a propensity for thin skin worse on the left arm than the right - it is from driving with the window down and the exposed arm out.

      Despite the extreme heat, I love the state of Arizona. Many times I watch movies of the old west and point out spots I recognize to my wife. Those old days are gone, but we can watch a movie about it and be entertained. I see so many old movies with characters riding beautiful horses and wish I could have one!

    • profile image

      STAN CHUN 13 days ago

      Hi John,

      As I get older I will develop more wrinkles especially on my arms.

      The sun down here has the highest UV in the world and it can burn you whilst driving.

      Never mind. If I get attacked I'll just roll up my sleeves and scare the attackers to death.

      Wow.. Arizona..!!

      My son passed thru or over there just a couple of months ago en route to Las Vegas.

      I remember seeing all the desert from the air when I went there many years ago.Reminds me of all the old time movie stars like John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper etc. There was a movie called Arizona Territory.Many USA city or state names are preserved in movies. Kinda adds to the glamour.Maybe your new President will declare New York with a name change and call it Trump Territory..!!



    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 13 days ago from Superior, Arizona

      Stan Chun

      Oh, how right you are. As we age, we can only use knowledge to heal and prevent damage to the skin. At some point, the benefits of knowledge and damage prevention reach a point of no return. At what age that occurs depends on the individual. I am 68 and hope to minimize unnecessary damage as long as I can. Perhaps in 12 more years I will become a bit more fatalistic. Thanks for the comment, and good luck to you. Tai chi is a wonderful discipline, and I hope you continue it for a long time.

    • profile image

      STAN CHUN 2 weeks ago

      I teach tai chi and martial arts and am now 80.

      A couple of weeks ago I got one of my female students to parry my extended arm down with a slap. She did it hard and fast and it literally lifted me off my heels. But the next day there was a purple-red blood mark there where struck. She was shocked, but I told her not to worry. The aspirin I take causes thin blood and I bruise easily. However, the parrying technique worked now all she has to do is to get attacked.

      I also notice the skin on my arms are blotched with blood marks and are now wrinkling. You can't stop the aging process forever..!!

      Stan Chun


      New Zealand

      14 March, 2017.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 2 weeks ago from Sydney

      Another wonderful remedy for clearing bruises is arnica. I bruise easily due to medication these days, but the best proof I had of arnica's effectiveness was back in the days when I was sailing. I sailed Hobie Cats and one day, we capsized while I was "hiking out" on a wire. I was thrown on to the mast then dragged under as the boat "turned turtle"(turned completely upside down). I panicked when the quick-release on the wire didn't quick-release and reckon I bashed myself on everything there was to bash myself on, before I managed to get free and get out from under the boat.

      Luckily I was unhurt apart from about 30 separate bruises, some of them really sizeable, including a lump the size of an egg on my arm, which was just accumulated blood. The doctor told me it could take six months for the blood to dissipate.

      Someone told me to put an arnica dressing on it. The lump had gone within a few weeks and my other bruises cleared up very quickly also.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 2 months ago from Superior, Arizona


      Right on about aspirin. When I first wrote this article, I wasn't taking aspirin. Since then, the doc has recommended it as a prophylactic against stroke and heart attack. My forearms still remain protected with my methods, but the hands are a bit more sensitive. I thank my lucky stars that these are relatively small problems, and that I do seem to be outliving my peers. Thanks for the comment.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Low dose aspirin, which many seniors take to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks (especially a recurrent heart attack) can increase the likelihood of small "bleed spots" of subcutaneous bleeds. Aging skin tends to be thinner, especially in otherwise healthy seniors with a favorable Body Mass Index of less than 25. Veins in the hands show up more distinctly, etc.

      Be glad when you reach the point that these circumstances appear. At that point you will have outlived your peers.

    • profile image

      Ripped Arms 3 months ago

      I too have the same problem with hands and arms getting shredded by the slightest bump or rub.

      The remedy is buying arm protection sleeves, look them up on your computer. There are many good quality, and low priced ones out there.

      Wrapping your arms with an Ace bandage works too.

    • profile image

      joann 4 months ago

      I am 70 like to still wear panty hose with my dress rub my legs they will have blood spots any way to help

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 7 months ago from Superior, Arizona

      Thank you for your response to my article. Your remedy is the same as my wife's! It has been a pretty hot summer.

    • profile image

      DECoy48 8 months ago

      This article nailed it. This could easily be me but substitute audio and video equipment for the cars. Well done, and I will be more careful in the future. I, too, live in Arizona. My remedy for the heat is California but that's just me. Thanks again for the nice piece.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 9 months ago from Superior, Arizona

      Vitamin E or B cream. It happens. Good luck.

    • profile image

      Kim Hewitt 9 months ago

      I've had problems with thinning skin for some time now, it's imbearest of my arms. Need help, any suggestions?

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 3 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I agree. Rather than worrying about leaving a trail of you know what around, better to be proactive and not concern oneself. I actually know folks who avoid activity because of thin skin - worst thing one can do, in my opinion. Thanks for taking time to comment. Be well.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi John Loved this hub. My skin is beginning to be thin, and I admire your ingenuity. It's a part of taking charge of your health and your working together. The coconut oil intrigues me, as I just started drinking coconut water. Thanks for sharing this information. I hope you have good traffic. Blessings. Audrey

    • Anjo Bacarisas II profile image

      Anjo Bacarisas II 4 years ago from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

      There are lots of useful information in this hub, I like reading this pages. So thankful for the info. Doing great!

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think you might be on to something about bruising. There are other reasons for easily bruising. In my case, the doctor did blood tests to see if I might have a bleeding disorder. Fortunately, I don't.

      This kind of information is another way to direct you to professional care. And, since you mentioned it, I have also found that coconut oil has a lot of different uses and many people swear by it. Thanks again.

    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 4 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      Thanks for this, John! I've been spending summers with my grandparents and my grandfather especially will come in from working in the woods just covered in semi-serious looking cuts and bruises. It's very disheartening... but inspired by your wife's creative approach, I bet we can come up with something that will allow him to be as active as he's used to being, without endangering himself unnecessarily. It's something to look forward to for sure.

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      Chris Hugh 4 years ago

      Here are a few other things people with thinning skin might consider.

      1) Retin-A to regularize and thicken the skin. (Need to see a doctor first.)

      2) Estrogen cream to thicken the skin. (It will thicken it. It's available without an Rx, but you'd definitely want to to talk to a doctor first.)

      3) Intense pulsed light therapy to rebuild collagen. (Needs to actually be done in a doctor's office.)

      4) Use coconut oil (from the grocery store) as a hand lotion.

      I've done all of these things. I've written some hubs on health/beauty but never one specifically on thinning skin. I wonder if easy bruising could also have something to do with a nutritional deficiency. I always used to bruise easily. A couple months ago I got tested and learned I was low in Vit D and iron. Now that I supplement, I have fewer bruises.

      Interesting Hub. Up and shared.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      Thanks for the comment fiftyish.

      I am glad you are not yet at the super thin skin stage. I think you could hold off that ageing of the skin if you try hard to remember to protect yourself. It's strange how cavalier one can get (like me) when it comes to the body. We sometimes assume the carriage will not wear out. But the truth is that we are all wearing. I recently had cataracts removed and plastic lenses put in each eye. The doctor informed me it was probably because I never wore sunglasses in Arizona. I was a bit too young to have them, apparently. So now I use the sunglasses religiously! Protect your skin all the time - thanks again.

    • fiftyish profile image

      Andy Aitch 4 years ago from UK & South East Asian Region

      Hello John

      I just found this hub after doing a search on the ageing process. There's some really useful information in your article. I think we’ve all see parents and grandparents suffer from this 'wafer thin skin' as you call it, and most folks over a certain age certainly seem to get that blotchy effect, especially on hands and forearms.

      I walk a lot in the mountains, and have recently noticed how old my own forearms and backs of hands are starting to look (although I'm still a good way off from ultra thin skin). I'm guessing this premature ageing is being caused by too much exposure to the sun.

      Anyway, enjoyed your piece, and have taken some notes, so thanks for posting.

      Andy Aitch

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      John R Wilsdon 5 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      Thanks for informing about Turmeric. Your generosity and others' makes HubPages a great place to read!

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      Hiral Shukla 5 years ago

      Wish u a healthy life ahead. Thanks Madame for sharing a beautiful idea, i just coincidentally bleeded my aunt's arm today, getting guilt. In India, nothing can replace TURMERIC..which we used..All u old grana 7 grannies, pls take care.. 43

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      A cutely informative take on a common problem...and thanks to your smart wife for the answers! Enjoyable interesting hub, and best wishes with your dishtowel works! :-)

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