It’s safe to say that the colder months can take a toll on our body, especially the skin on our hands. Our hands are one of the most vulnerable parts of our body, as they are exposed to and interact with much of our environment. When you take the time to think about it, we put our hands through a lot. From handshaking to hand washing, we use our hands for nearly everything. Therefore, our hands can (and likely will be) exposed to environments that make them more susceptible to damage than other parts of our body. Caring for your hands and nails will bring life back to your limbs and help you feel the satisfaction of knowing that you are caring for the part of the body that cares so much for you.
WHAT CAUSES DRY HANDS?
Dry hands are often attributed to changes in the weather, but there are a few other potential causes that should be considered if your skin is consistently dry. The AAD attributes these causes of dry skin to age, skin disease, hands-on occupations, and swimming. With age, our skin tends to change in ways that make it thinner and drier, therefore needing more moisture.
Very dry skin is commonly associated with skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema) and psoriasis and should be treated by a dermatologists. For those in occupations that involve a lot of handwashing or interaction with water, such as health professionals or hair stylists, your hands may be more likely to become dry and cracked. For similar reasons, swimming frequently can also cause dry skin, especially because of the high levels of chlorine.
DRY HAND SOLUTIONS
Depending on the condition of your skin, different types of moisturizers can help soothe dry hands. As mentioned in a previous SkinzCosmetics article, moisturizers can be categorized as ointments, creams, lotions, and oils. If your skin is already cracked, avoid using lotions as your first step after washing because it can be painful when applied to open wounds. Instead, the AAD suggests applying a petroleum jelly or ointment and then covering the cut with a band-aid.
While exploring moisturizing solutions for your hands, consider the ingredient list of the product you decide to purchase. Moisturizers that contain the following ingredients may be especially hydrating:
- Olive oil
- Jojoba oil
- Shea butter
- Lactic acid
- Hyaluronic acid
- Cocoa Butter
Apply a moisturizer after each hand wash to ensure that your hands are protected throughout the day. It is much easier to prevent dry hands by maintaining a consistent moisturizing routine, than to try to cure worsened skin conditions. Tip: Local drugstores sell mini moisturizers that are convenient to throw in your purse, keep at your desk, or even fit in your pocket for only $1. Keep one nearby to ensure that your hands stay hydrated this winter.
Don’t Forget Your Nails
Dry, brittle nails can also be a sign of needed treatment. Differently than our skin, dry nails are caused by an over-use of cosmetic products. Many nail polishes and nail polish removers contain drying alcohols that withdraw nutrients from our nailbed. In order to keep your nails looking and feeling healthy, it is important to give your nails time to breathe by leaving them bare, without product, in between nail appointments. In doing so, your nails have the chance to grow and restore the nutrients needed to make them stronger and less susceptible to breakage and damage.
There are also simple ways to prevent dry hands that you can integrate into your daily routine. One of the most popular, but often overlooked, tips is wearing gloves. Gloves can act as a protective barrier for the times in which you submerge your hands in water, comes close to chemical substances, or go outdoors. Even the American Academy of Dermatology includes this as a tip for reducing dry, raw skin.
A simple trick for soft, supple hands can take place overnight with little effort required. The best part is that all you will need is a petroleum-based moisturizer, like Vaseline, and socks or gloves. If your skin isn’t as dry, a fragrance-free cream or thick lotion will also be acceptable in the place of a petroleum-based moisturizer.
As the last step before you head to bed, select a moisturizer of your choice and lather your hands before covering them with the socks or gloves. For those with sensitive skin, it may be helpful to look for socks or gloves made of cotton, as those will be most comfortable next to the skin. The Mooresville Dermatology Center explains that as we sleep, the moisture from the cream is trapped and can absorb more easily into our skin. When we wake up in the morning, smooth skin is revealed that is ready to take on the dry, cool weather. Also try this tip on your feet to keep them moisturized throughout the night.
DRY HANDS CAN LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS CONDITONS
The months of supple and smooth hands that once accompanied summer are gone, and the dry, winter months are here to stay. If you look down at your hands and they appear dry, ashy, and/or chapped, it is important to prevent any worsening of your skin condition before it may become more inflamed. According to the Dermatology Consultant group in Kentucky, hands that become patchy, red, scaly, and inflamed may have already developed a hand rash or eczema, so it is important to notice these signs early and take the necessary steps to prevent worsening.
It is important to care for the skin on your hands because dry skin is susceptible to cracking and can, therefore, allow unwanted germs to get through our skin. As many of us may know, once germs enter the barrier of our skin, it’s easy for those germs to cause an infection. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) lists early signs of an infection as red, sore spots on the skin.
If your dry hands do not respond to common at-home treatments, make sure to visit your dermatologist to explore options on how to properly treat your skin condition. Certain skin symptoms that include skin discoloration and bleeding may indicate a more severe condition. In some cases, a dermatologist may prescribe a corticosteroid or immune modulator medication that can be applied directly to the skin and can help with itchiness, redness, and swelling.