Dry, Chapped Winter Hands: Causes, Treatments and Prevention
Our hands are our most precious and useful tools and too often we neglect to care for them . Most of us go through our day without even putting on any sort of hand cream or hand balm, leaving us with dry hands and irritated skin. This is even more problematic during winter months when there is very little moisture left in the air,
During winter, the humidity in the outside air plunges. Inside, things are even drier, thanks to indoor heating. And, if you're washing your hands frequently to avoid catching a cold or the flu, you could sap whatever natural oils are left in your skin leaving your hands so dehydrated that they crack, peel, and bleed. The GOOD news is that there are ways to treat and prevent this common problem. Read on to find out how to cure and prevent dry chapped hands.
Strong or Weak Barrier?
How well your hands can withstand winter's harsh conditions has a lot to do with the strength of your skin barrier.
The skin barrier is a mix of proteins, lipids, and oils. It protects your skin, and how good a job it does is mostly about your genes.
If you have a weak barrier, you're more prone to symptoms of sensitive skin, such as itching, inflammation, and eczema. Your hands are also more likely to become very dry in winter.
If you had chapped hands last winter, you may be more likely to have that happen again every winter.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
To treat parched, scaly hands, you need to replace the moisture that your thirsty skin is missing. Drinking water, experts point out, won't do that.
It's the moisturizer applied directly to the skin that will keep water from evaporating and give your skin a healthy, dewy appearance.
Start moisturizing before there's a problem. The best prevention is to begin using a moisturizer before your hands show signs of dryness.
Simply putting moisturizer on once a day is inadequate since once is probably enough protection for only about five minutes.
If you apply moisturizer more frequently, its effects last longer. Five or six applications a day will provide round-the-clock protection.
To reach that goal, Lang & Ivy recommends practicing good product placement. Along with keeping a big jar of your favorite moisturizer in your bathroom, stow smaller sizes in your purse, gym bag and on your desk so application becomes a habit.
Remember to rub the hand cream or lotion over your cuticles and nails because nails can become dry, just like the skin of the hands.
Choosing the Right Moisturizer
You'll find many hand creams and body lotions on your drugstore shelves. Cut through the clutter by remembering that just two types of ingredients do most of the work when it comes to keeping your skin soft and hydrated: emollients and humectants.
Emollients act as lubricants on the surface on the skin. They fill the crevices between cells that are ready to be shed and help the loose edges of the dead skin cells that are left behind to stick together. Look for natural emollients such as mango butter, shea butter and jojoba oil.
Humectants draw moisture from the environment to the skin's surface, increasing the water content of the skin's outer layer. Scan the ingredients label for natural common humectants such as glycerin, aloe vera, tremella extract and hyaluronic acid.
How to Wash Your Hands
To protect your hands while you're protecting your health with frequent hand washing, choose a mild soap, use warm not hot water, pat your hands dry and apply a moisturizer right away.
If you've got severely dry hands or you wash your hands a dozen or more times a day, substitute a hand-sanitizing gel or wipes for some of the soap-and-water sessions.
Alcohol- based sanitizers do dry the skin but for people who do a ton of hand washing - - - whether they're doctors, moms, or dog-walkers -- it's actually a bit gentler on the skin than soap and water.
Extra Tips to prevent moisture loss
Consider a Humidifier
Using a humidifier can also help your skin.
The higher humidity levels will not only salve your super dry hands, they'll help ease dry itchy skin all over your body (including chapped lips) and soothe a stuffed up nose.
Put a Glove on It
Wear gloves or mittens if you're going to be outdoors for longer than a dash to a car on cold days. If your hands get wet, dry them, and then apply moisturizer.
If redness, peeling, and tenderness persist, see a dermatologist. They can prescribe a steroid cream to help fight inflammation, and also check on whether your dry hands may be due to a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis.
If your skin is healthy, with basic care -- resisting the urge to warm up in hot water and keeping simple, effective remedies on hand -- you can bear with winter until spring's warmth arrives.
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