Ever notice that you use apply much more lotion to your hands in winter than you do in the other seasons? There’s a reason for that: exposure to dry air sucks the moisture straight out of your skin. Symptoms of dry skin include cracking, flaking, redness, and itchiness — ouch! But while you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to protect your hands from drying out.
We spoke to board-certified dermatologist Andrea Suarez, MD, FAAD, also known as Dr. Dray on YouTube, about why winter weather is so unfriendly towards skin — plus, how three simple actions can help keep your hands healthy and hydrated in winter.
Why Your Hands Get More Dry In the Winter
In general, the skin on your hands differs from the rest of your body in that it’s both more fragile and more frequently exposed. “The skin on the backs of your hands is pretty thin in comparison to other body sites,” Dr. Suarez explains to FIRST for Women. “Importantly, it is exposed to many more environmental stressors, and therefore often shows signs of skin aging earlier. [By contrast], the top most layer of skin on the palms, like the soles of the feet, is some of the thickest in the body. Unlike many other body sites, there are no hair follicles on your palms.” Because of this, experts at Eucerin note that it’s difficult for the skin on your hands to retain its moisture-binding components.
These factors combine to put your hands at higher risk for losing moisture — and that’s exacerbated by chilly winter air. “Cold weather is typically accompanied by a drop in humidity, and there are often cold winds,” Dr. Suarez says, noting that these “pull moisture from the skin and leave the hands chapped and dry.”
Despite this, your hands aren’t doomed until spring. Use the below tricks to protect and moisturize your hands — and give them the nourishment they need right now.
How To Protect Your Hands From Dryness
Dr. Suarez’s three-step approach to hand care will help yours look and feel great no matter what. Here’s what to do.
- Moisture throughout the day. Consistent moisturizing using a hand lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly is key. Be sure to moisturize your hands after washing them or performing tasks that involve handling cleaning chemicals, water, or food. (Bonus: Purchase a hand cream like Gold Bond’s Ultimate Healing Hand Cream, Buy from Amazon, $3.97. Or try the DIY coconut cream in our winter skin beauty treatments story to heal raw, cracked hands.)
- Wear gloves when outside and when doing “wet work.” The physical barrier that gloves provide helps keep your skin hydrated and minimizes exposure to irritants that reduce moisture. Invest in a warm pair of outdoor gloves to protect your hands from cold winds, and always wear cleaning gloves when handling chemicals or doing wet work like washing dishes by hand. (Bonus: For outdoors, try SATINIOR’s Warm Cable Knit Texting Gloves, Buy from Amazon, $14.99. For cleaning, buy the Playtex Reusable Gloves, Buy from Walmart, $5.48. )
- Protect your hands from UV rays. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays cause damage that can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer, even during the wintertime. (Sun can cut through cloudy skies.) UV damage also weakens skin barrier function — making the hands more prone to dryness. Wearing SPF 30 or higher sunscreen provides protection against harmful UV rays and skin dryness.
The Bottom Line
Your hands help you to accomplish some of the most important tasks in life — cooking, writing, hand-holding. Support them with nourishment all year long, and you’ll be rewarded with soft, supple skin that can survive harsh winter weather and daily to-dos!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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