This mistake is not as gross as overgrown nose and ear hair, or as complicated to fix as a hang nail, but it’s still something you should fix. Wondering what it is? Take a look at your dry, cracked hands. Your partner doesn’t want to be the one to tell you this, so we will: Your hands feel like wads of sandpaper, and they make you look like you’ve spent hours constructing the foundation of a house in frost-bite worthy conditions.
So what causes this malady? The main culprit happens to be lack of moisture. During the winter, the humidity outside depletes, and that, combined with the drier, inside air and consistent hand-washing to avoid catching a cold or the flu, leaves your hands stripped of whatever natural oils are left in your skin. All of these factors can leave your hands so dehydrated that they crack, peel, and bleed. Simply recognizing the problem, says New York City dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, to WebMd, means you’re halfway to fixing the problem. Here are four ways to combat this winter malady.
1. Quench your hands’ thirst
To treat those poor mitts of yours, you need to replace the moisture that your skin is missing. “It’s the moisturizer applied directly to the skin that will keep water from evaporating and give your skin a healthy, dewy appearance,” says dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, to WebMd. Moisturize your hands before you have the dry, cracked, peeling, and bleeding problem. Marmur adds that the best prevention is to begin using a moisturizer before your hands begin to show signs of winter dryness. Look for two different types of ingredients when scanning the shelves for a moisturizer at your local drug store to keep them hydrated: emollients and humectants.
Emollients act like lubricants on the surface of your skin. They act to fill the crevices between the cells that are ready to be shed and help release dead skin cells that are left behind and stick together. Emollients helps to keep the skin soft and smooth. Humectants take it a step further: They draw moisture from the environment to the skin’s surface, actively quenching your skin’s outer layer. Look for these common humectants to get the job done: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, propylene glycerol, urea, and lactic acid. Also, give pure coconut oil a try. It works surprisingly well due to its unique combination of fatty acids.
2. Change the way you wash your hands
But please still wash your hands. To protect your hands from hand washing, which can do so much damage to your mitts, be sure to use warm not hot water, avoiding soaps of the foaming and antibacterial type that are likely to strip your skin of its own natural oils (they usually contain formulas with synthetic fragrances, preservatives, and sulfates that are all drying). Don’t use the hot hand dryer either. Instead, pat your hands dry with a paper towel or toilet paper or shake them out out. Instead of the soaps that dry out your skin, choose moisturizing cleansers but be sure to rinse thoroughly. Apply lotion right away afterward.
3. Wear gloves to bed (and outdoors)
Admittedly it seems like a strange thing to do, but when your hands are damaged, you need some serious moisture and the best results are from an overnight treatment. Apply a super thick moisturizer like Jack Black’s Industrial Strength Hand Healer with vitamin E, put on a pair of gloves, and wear them to bed to lock in moisture. In the morning, take off the gloves and rinse your hands off slightly. You won’t be able to stop touching them. Also, be sure to wear gloves when you go outside to protect yourself against the elements.
4. Use a humidifier
Using a humidifier when you sleep is another fantastic way to help your dry hands. In addition, it will help dry itchy skin all over your body, soothe chapped lips, and relieve a stuffy nose. It releases moisture into a dry, heated room. Take advantage of this wonderful contraption, and be sure to clean it regularly so it doesn’t release mold or bacteria into the air, Marmur tells WebMD.