While taking out more money for face or body care products my extremities are completely neglected – especially my dry hands. Every winter, my hands look like a cracked, bleeding, dry, flaky horror show. This season, however, I decided to take serious action to fix the problem.
Nowadays, there are many more options than traditional hand lotions on the shelves, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City. The latest generation of hand creams, he explains, contains a combination of occlusive agents, such as vaseline, which act as a barrier against moisture leakage on the skin. Humectants such as hyaluronic acid, which help the skin absorb more water; and emollients (such as oils) that can do both. Not only that, but they also have "barrier repair ingredients like ceramides and special salts that cover the skin like a glove, which prevents exposure to environmental stressors like water or irritants," he adds.
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Wait, water is a "environmental stressor". Yes, says draftsman. If you wash your hands, especially if you wash them in hot water, remove the natural oils that help to moisturize the skin. "Excessive washing, scrubbing or disinfecting can destroy the skin barrier – dried, cracked outer layers that cause fluid loss and inflammation," adds Zeichner.
After I improved, I also had to incorporate some new habits into my hand care. In addition to using moisturizing, hand-fused products, I had to wash my hands less and be more careful. Draftsman also recommends some basic rules to avoid cracking, dry hands:
- Treat dry hands at the first sign of symptoms – large cracks or tears can be difficult to treat if you wait too long. (Uh, too late, but good to know!)
- Apply hand cream or hand treatment at least twice a day – but you should use it after every hand wash or after the moment you feel dry again.
- If you are prone to drying, try cracking hands to avoid hand sanitizer that are high in alcohol. And for soft cleansing soaps that are free of lipids (these cleansers are more moisturizing than traditional antibacterial types).
- If you get skin tears or fingers (like me), you can apply bacitracin or hydrocortisone 1 percent ointment. Wrap it on the open area twice a day for up to two weeks and then wrap it with a patch wrap.
All these tips helped me minimize the drying of my hands in winter. But I still wanted to know what I can do to make my dry, itchy skin ASAP feel better. So I tried different hand treatments to take my hands from rough to repaired. And I am so glad that I did it. And so it went on, and a few more popular hand treatments (which I did not test):
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