Here's How to Care for Your Dry Hands

Woman and man enjoying cups of something at home while cozy
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There's nothing quite like the dry, biting winter cold. Some people love it; others, not so much. Everyone can understand why some people don't like it, though. Not only is it flu season (ugh), but the cold can cause some serious issues with dry skin. Everyone knows to moisturize their faces, but it's easy to neglect other exposed body parts, in particular your hands. But between the cold outside, the dry winter air, and coming and going from a heated environment to a cold one, the skin on our hands does take quite a beating. Not to mention, the frequent hand washing the season necessitates makes the skin even more dry. Extreme cases of dryness can even lead to cracks and bleeding, and nobody wants that.

Preventing and treating very dry skin on your hands doesn't have to be complicated, but it can take some effort, and a little time. Like any other skincare, it's about forming a habit. You need to make sure you have the basic products at home and commit to using them often. First, look at the soap at the sink in your bathroom. Is it a foaming, antibacterial soap? If your hands are dry, toss it. Instead, invest in a soap that gently cleans and moisturizes, like the one from Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, which'll only cost you about 4 bucks.  

In the winter, you need to apply moisturizer on a regular basis, especially after you wash your hands. Good news, hand creams come in a range of prices depending on your tastes. Go-To's lush Super Handy cream is $16, which is about middle of the road for hand creams. Other people swear by Udderly Smooth, which is only $5. Grown Alchemist's Intensive Repair Hand Cream is hydrating at a level that almost feels unreal, and will set you back $27. For the fancier amongst us, though, fragrance brands Byredo and Diptyque both have hand creams as part of their lines, which will set you back $42 and $38, respectively.

People will sometimes recommend applying hand cream before going to bed and wearing cotton gloves on top of the cream in order to allow the cream to really penetrate into your skin while you sleep, but this also sounds awful to some. If you're not quite willing to take that plunge, keep hand lotion wherever you keep your regular winter gloves. Every time you leave the house in the winter, put on a good amount of lotion (not so much that your hands become sticky, because ew,) and put your gloves over the top. It gives you the same benefits, without having to deal with trying to sleep with gloves on.

You should also be exfoliating your hands—not all the time, though, as that can lead to worsening damage. You just want to get rid of the build up of dead skin cells that are just sitting on your hands, ridding them of any flaky skin. If your skin is exfoliated your hand cream will penetrate better, work better, and your hands will be softer. You should also buy a humidifier for your home, so the air around you isn't so dry. Not only does dry air causes skin to dry out and crack, but it leaves you more vulnerable to illnesses, and dry air on its own can cause nosebleeds and aggravate asthma. If you don't have a dishwasher, wear gloves when washing your dishes. Like the bathroom soap, harsh chemicals hurt the skin on your hands.

Don't skimp when applying hand cream, either. Put a real layer on your hands—enough that you have to let it absorb for a bit. It's a habit you should keep all winter long, even if your hands aren't extra dry and cracking. They can easily revert to dry and scratchy, don't delude yourself into thinking that you've reversed the condition forever. Keeping up with moisturizing your hands will save you all winter.

Updated by Carolyn Hanson