Good moisturizers can help prevent or treat dry skin on your hands. They hold that needed water in the outer layer of skin, making your hands smoother and softer. They also help your outer skin act as a temporary protective shield.
Many people like to use some sort of water-based lotion, but that may not be the best choice. Lotions may make your hands feel great at first, but the water will evaporate quickly, drying your skin anew.
Creams are thicker and longer-lasting than lotions. Most creams are water-based, but folks with extremely dry skin may want to use an oil-based cream. Oil will hold water inside your skin longer, but the cream will leave a residue on your hands.
When choosing a moisturizer for daily use, make sure you read the ingredients:
- Humectants such as glycerin, alpha hydroxy acids and urea actually draw moisture from the air around you into your skin. They don't work if the air is dry.
- Emollients get into the spaces between the cells on the outer layer of skin. They replace oils that have been washed away to make the skin smoother. Emollients may be primarily water- or oil-based.
- Most products will include a preservative -- often, several -- to keep bacteria from damaging them after you open the container. If your skin is sensitive, some preservatives may irritate it. Trial and error may help you learn which ones work for you.
- Fragrances also may cause irritation or contact allergy. Avoid them or find ones that you can tolerate.
[source: Mayo Clinic]
Washing carefully and moisturizing should be important parts of your daily hand-care routine -- but they're not everything.