While most people are fine-tuning their skin-care regimens to be more moisturizing and cold weather-friendly, uber-dry hand treatments tend to get left out. That is, until you feel that horrible pain on your hands and look down only to find them cracked, possibly bleeding, and definitely parched."The skin on our hands is among the thickest on the body, but it's the most at risk from the environment because of everyday wear and tear," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. "Especially during winter months, when we're extra vigilant about hand washing to prevent the spread of germs, the skin on the hands can become extremely dry and even crack."
It's true—whenever I wash my hands in the winter, it only exacerbates the dryness problem and all of the moisture gets zapped out within seconds. What to do? "A rich hand cream can help soften, hydrate, and repair damaged skin on the hands. It's key to look for ingredients like colloidal oatmeal to coat and protect the skin." You can also slather on those same ingredients that you look for in your skin-care products for hydration, like trusty hyaluronic acid or aloe vera.
It also helps to avoid washing your hands—yes it can be done. "Instead of using water, stick to lipid-free cleansing lotions which can be applied to the hands and wiped off without using any water at all while still providing effective cleansing," says Dr. Zeichner, who recommends Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Cleansing Hydrating Formula ($10).
When the situation gets more dramatic—i.e. your hands are literally splitting—he notes that you should look for an OTC antibiotic ointment like bacitracin to those areas to prevent infection. "If the hands aren't improving with OTC treatments, visit your dermatologist for prescription options," says Dr. Zeichner. Or you can just keep moisturizing like your life depends on it.
Dry hand saviors
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