Whether you're typing out an e-mail on your computer or cooking a delicious dinner for your family, your hands are in constant contact with other objects. While they're touching papers, doorknobs, handles or food, they are encountering all kinds of germs that the rest of your body typically avoids. To keep yourself healthy and germ-free, you're probably washing your hands several times a day in warm water. While this is a great way to keep the flu away, this daily practice can also lead to dry hands.
Dry skin, also known as xerosis, can cause itchiness, skin irritation, fine lines and wrinkles. Even though it isn't a serious skin condition, you'll probably want to take steps to avoid the often uncomfortable symptoms. Since dry skin is a product of many factors, including the weather, bathing and health conditions, it's very common, and it affects everyone differently [source: Medline Plus]. And as your hands are exposed to the elements more than most parts of your body, taking steps to keep them moisturized is one of the most important steps to preventing dry skin.
People often worry about the appearance of wrinkles on their faces as they age, but what about their hands? Keeping your hands moisturized can avoid signs of aging. In fact, the skin on your hands ages more quickly than the skin on your face. It may sound surprising, but the lack of fat on the back of your hands leaves signs of the breaking down of collagen and elastin more noticeable. A smart hand care routine will also help to keep your hands looking young, in addition to keeping them moisturized [source: Bouchez].
If you've already noticed your hands experiencing some of the symptoms of dry skin, read the next page learn how to treat them.
Moisturizing Extremely Dry Hands
When your hands are extremely dry, just moisturizing with your typical body or hand lotion may not do the trick. There are certain methods and products that you will want to keep in mind if you are particularly susceptible to dry skin.
First of all, you'll want to moisturize as often as possible, especially after bathing or washing your hands. After stepping out of the bath or shower, moisturize as soon as possible, since it will help seal in the essential moisture that your skin needs. After that, repeated application of moisturizer throughout the day will keep your skin soft and smooth [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
If you still find that your skin is too dry, it may be time to look at the type of product you are using. After bathing, you may try applying a product like baby oil to your hands and any other problem areas. Oil has a bit more staying power than the average moisturizer does, and it will prevent moisture from evaporating off of your skin [source: Mayo Clinic].
You also can select your moisturizer based on its ingredients to ensure that you have found a product that will help with severe dryness. Lotions with lactic acid or urea help to alleviate extremely dry skin. Products that contain hyaluronic acid, an acid that occurs naturally in the skin but diminishes as you age, will help the skin retain water; so will any products with lanolin, mineral oil or petrolatum [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Another thing to consider if you have dry skin is the type of soap you use. Some soaps can be too drying on skin -- you might want to switch to a milder soap with extra fats and oils, or you could use cleansing creams or lotions, instead.
Once your skin begins to recover, maintenance is very important. For tips on when and how to moisturize, see the next page.
Tips for Moisturizing Your Hands
Once you've treated your dry skin, you should engage in a regular hand care treatment that will keep your skin feeling soft and looking young.
The best thing to do for your hands is to moisturize them throughout the day and before going to bed. You may want to keep a hand cream accessible so that you can apply it after washing your hands or any time your hands start to feel slightly dry. Any moisturizing lotion will accomplish this task, but you may want to look for products designed specifically for hands, since they tend to be less greasy and absorb more quickly. This will allow you to moisturize on the go whenever you feel the need [source: Bruno].
Another thing to consider on top of moisturizing is selecting the right cleanser for hand washing. Antibacterial soaps can be especially harsh, so you may want to avoid them. Instead, seek out moisturizing liquid cleansers. If you're using bar soap, look for products containing glycerin, petrolatum or sunflower oil [source: Bruno]. The less dry your skin becomes with regular hand washing, the more effective your regular moisturizing will be.
In addition to making a habit of moisturizing your hands several times a day, you should also change up your moisturizer based on the season. During the winter, your skin is far more likely to dry out due to the harsh, cold weather conditions. When there a chill in the air or the snow starts to fall, start using a heavier hand cream that will help lock in your skin's natural moisture. When warmer weather returns, you can change back to a lighter moisturizer [source: WebMD].
For lots more information on moisturizers and skin care, see the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." AgingSkinNet. 2008. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/winter_skin.html.
- Bouchez, Colette. "Anti-aging Treatments for Your Hands." March 31, 2008. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/antiaging-treatments-for-your-hands.
- Bruno, Karen. "Women's Hand and Nail Care." WebMD. Aug. 7, 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/strong-nails-hands.
- Web MD. "Cosmetic Procedures: Skin Care for Dry Skin." Nov. 29, 2007. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/cosmetic-procedures-skin-care-dry-skin.
- Mayo Clinic. "Dry Skin." Nov. 26, 2008. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dry-skin/DS00560.
- Medline Plus. "Dry Skin." (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003250.htm