Winter Skin Care

This Derm-Approved Overnight Treatment Will Prep Your Hands for a Full Day’s Worth of 20-Second Washes

Zoe Weiner

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Photo: Getty Images/ Sara Monika

Washing your hands for 20 seconds, multiple times a day, is great for protecting yourself from getting sick. What it’s not good for, though, is keeping your skin hydrated. If you’ve been diligently scrubbing yourself per the CDC’s recommended guidelines, you may have already started to see the effects on your skin. And if your usually moisturized, manicured fingers are starting to look more and more like the Cryptkeeper’s every time you lather up, there’s an easy overnight fix you can treat them to while you sleep.

Even when you’re not washing them non-stop (though, right now, you should be), your hands are still vulnerable to wear and tear from environmental factors such as cold air. To remedy this, board-certified dermatologist Jenny Liu, MD, recommends the “soak and smear” technique for treating dry hands. On Tuesday, she shared the method via Instagram in response to the increased amount of hand dermatitis that she’s seeing from more-frequent handwashing.

The four-step treatment can be done every night as frequently as needed. (It can be particularly helpful for hands so irritated that they’ve begun to crack.) All you need is some warm water, a little ointment, and a pair of gloves.

The “smear and soak” method for treating dry skin on hands:

1. Soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes.

2. Pat them dry.

3. Apply a petroleum-based ointment such as Vaseline ($5) or Cerave Healing Ointment ($16).

4. Put on a pair of cotton gloves, which will help occlude the ointment and help your skin heal faster. Leave them on overnight.

Of course, there are other things you can do during waking hours to further up the ante on your hand hydration. When it comes to choosing a daytime hand cream, dermatologists suggests looking on the label for ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin B, peptides, shea butter, lanolin, and hyaluronic acid (try to use something that has at least three of the six), plus glycolic acid to prevent the loss of elasticity. These will not only make your hands feel silky-smooth immediately after you apply, but they’ll lock in moisture to keep them that way for the long haul. And with all the lather-and-rinsing you’re doing to your hands, it’s important to also regularly apply sunscreen to the backs of them to protect against sun damage.

Then, you’ll be primed and ready for another day filled with 20-second scrubbing while singing “Happy Birthday”… or the chorus of “Come On Eileen.”

Here’s what a germ expert wants you to know before you stock up on hand sanitizer, because not all antibacterials are created equally. Plus, the myths a doctor is begging you to stop believing about COVID-19.

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