Dry, chapped hands are a common problem many of us battle with, especially in winter.
Your hands are constantly exposed to the elements, with cold weather, central heating and frequent hand-washing all exacerbating their susceptibility to dryness.
But, don’t fret, in this post we’ll offer our top tips on how to treat dry hands and leave your skin feeling nourished.
Why does the skin on our hands get dry?
Your skin is protected by the skin barrier. This is the top layer of the epidermis (the layers which make up your skin) and is designed to prevent water loss and keep irritants out.
The lipids in the skin barrier maintain hydration levels by trapping water molecules. This keeps the skin firm and soft, although the amount of lipids in the skin barrier decreases significantly after the age of 40.
A weakened skin barrier means you’ll be more prone to sensitive skin, itching, inflammation, eczema, and yes, dryness.
What dries out the hands?
- Cold winter air saps moisture out of our skin, particularly the hands, since they are normally exposed.
- Central heating can aggravate skin because of the warm air. Warm air holds more water vapour than cold air, which means your skin loses more moisture.
- Water washes away the skin’s natural oils. This lack of lubrication can lead to itching and flaking.
- Any chemicals you come into contact with may damage the skin barrier.
All of these factors make it more difficult for moisture to be retained and this can lead to dryness, cracks, peeling and even bleeding.
Preventing Dry Hands
Prevention, as they say, is easier than cure. The easiest and most effective way you can look after your hands is to use a moisturising hand cream, which you can apply directly to the skin.
Moisturiser helps to keep water from evaporating, which in turn will ensure your hydration levels are high.
Use a Hand Cream
For the best possible results, apply your chosen product five or six times a day. Be sure to apply it to your nails and cuticles as well (dryness affects them too!)
Keep a tube of hand cream at home, in your bag, on your desk — even in your car! If the cream is always in reach it’ll be easier to get into the habit (and stick to it).
Dry Your Hands
While it may seem like more water = more moisture, in this instance it’s important to make sure your hands are completely dry. Water can wash away the lipids in the skin barrier, which are essential for maintaining good hydration levels.
Avoid hand-dryers and use paper towel or toilet paper to dry your hands instead. The hot air will dry out your skin, and make any existing problems worse.
Fleece gloves or mittens will offer your skin protection against the cold wind when you step outside. Wear lined rubber gloves when you wash up to minimise the effects of the water on your hydration levels.
Treating Dry Hands
Sometimes dry skin persists, no matter how careful you are in trying to prevent it. Luckily, it’s not a lost cause — there are steps you can take to soothe sore, dry hands and they’re all easy to integrate into your everyday routine.
Wash Your Hands Gently
It's necessary to wash your hands numerous times throughout the day, but there are ways you can make this process kinder to your dry skin.
Using warm (not hot) water and a gentle soap will clean them effectively, while applying a layer of your favourite hand cream afterwards will seal in moisture and counteract the drying effects of the water.
Avoid any soaps that contain SLS or alcohol, as these ingredients can be drying and cause irritation.
Use a Humidifier
Higher levels of humidity will soothe dry skin all over your body (including your hands) and can also help with blocked winter noses.
Just be careful to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria!
Try a Scrub
Exfoliate once a week or so with a gentle exfoliator to get rid of any dead skin cells. Apply your moisturiser immediately afterwards.
(Steer clear of this step if your hands are cracked and bleeding.)
Use Your Hand Cream as a Treatment
Slather your hands with cream and pop a pair of cotton gloves over the top for half an hour before you go to bed. This intense treatment will leave your hands feeling baby soft and you can even keep the gloves on overnight for an extra moisture hit.
Look for a hand cream that contains natural ingredients that will nourish your skin, such as Vitamin E, Aloe extracts and natural oils such as jojoba oil.
If your skin is so dry it’s unbearable, we recommend seeing your GP. They may be able to prescribe treatments or refer you to a dermatologist.
Take these precautions and your hands will be much more comfortable throughout the winter months, leaving you free to enjoy the festive season and beyond!