If you live in a cold climate, you don’t need Jon Snow or Ned Stark to warn you that winter can wreak havoc on your skin. Chances are, you already know. Dry hands are a seasonal reality for many of us already but add increased hand-washing due to COVID19 and you might as well be asking for cracked, chapped hands all winter long. Luckily, those of us in the north don’t really have to surrender so easily. There are ways you can fight both seasonal and situational dry skin and emerge victorious.
What Causes Dry Hands in Winter?
Dry skin can be itchy, red, and even painful. So why does it seem to happen every single year? With prolonged seasonal cold also comes dry air. When you combine the dry air with wind chill and dropping temperatures, your skin is unable to pull moisture in from your environment. Over long periods of time, this can lead to severe dehydration and drying of skin, especially exposed skin such as that on the hands and face. Cold weather isn’t all we’re fighting this year, though.
Winter is also cold and flu season. Best practice has always been to wash hands vigorously and thoroughly for 20 seconds to kill germs and disinfect but the Coronavirus Pandemic has brought the need for handwashing to a whole new level. This winter not only will we be combating seasonal dryness but we will be fighting acute, chronic dryness from frequent hand washing as well. Frequent hand washing, though beneficial for our health, strips oils and lipids from the skin
leaving them dehydrated, cracked, and even vulnerable to infection.
How to Protect Against Dry Hands
1. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
If you’ve never been one to carry hand cream with you in your bag, now’s the time to change your ways. Your first and best defense against both seasonal dry hands and dryness due to increased washing is to moisturize often. After washing and while your hands are still slightly damp, apply a moisturizer and do so throughout the day. I recommend products with lipids, Vitamin E, ceramides and SPF. Ingredients make all the difference as the goal of moisturizing needs to be about rebuilding and protecting the intercellular matrix. More about this in a future blog article.
Ceramides are lipids which help rebuild your skin barrier and form a hydrating seal over the skin, while vitamin E acts as an anti-inflammatory. Together, they prevent moisture loss and play a key role in maintaining skin’s overall firmness and youthful look. SPF is crucial in protecting skin from harmful UV rays which can not only dry the skin, but also cause more serious and severe damage, not to mention accelerate fine lines and aging.
2. Keep The Outside Environment Out
Dry skin affects more than just hands. It can wreak havoc on your face as well. One of the most effective ways to avoid dry skin is to block out the environmental factors that cause them and seal in hydration before cold, dry air can penetrate. For this, you’ll need some help. Luckily, we’re about to introduce you to your new best friend.
COSMINOLOGY’S GALACTIC GLOVE is an anti-oxidant serum that “seals” your skin with a protective layer making it less susceptible to dryness, irritation, and inflammation caused by external factors such as harsh topical medications, environmental toxins, and free radicals. Loaded with essential ceramides, vitamin E, and vitamin F, this serum stops dry skin in its tracks and leaves your skin hydrated, nourished, and protected.
3. Wear Gloves
Since much damage to hands comes as a result of constant
exposure to the elements, wearing gloves is an effective way
to protect them. Wear protective gloves or mittens when outdoors in cold weather and when performing daily activities such as washing dishes to prevent the stripping of oils from the surface of your hands.
4. Nighttime Repair
Nighttime is a great opportunity to use heavier and more intensive creams that may be inconvenient during the day. Thick, greasy hand creams can transfer and interrupt daily activity during waking hours but are perfect for when you’re visiting dreamland. Before going to bed slather on some GALACTIC GLOVE and top with gloves to really seal the moisture in. Let them sit overnight and remove in the morning to reveal healthier, happier hands without any of the daytime greasy fingers.
5. Drink Up
It may sound obvious but much of our body’s hydration happens from the inside out. If you’re running on three cups of coffee a day and not much else you may be making the problem worse. Medical professionals recommend about 16 cups of water a day for men and 12 cups a day for women for optimal hydration. Getting plenty of water is beneficial for all systems of your body and your skin is no exception, so drink up!
6. Protect Hands from Harmful Rays
Cold air and frequent hand washing are the most obvious contributors to dry and cracking hands but other, more discreet factors, like the sun can contribute to winter time damage as well. Though most of us associate sun damage with warmer weather, it can happen all year round. Even frequent driving can be enough to expose your hands to damaging amounts of UV. Sunscreen is great to combat this but there’s more you can do.
Covering your hands entirely is a great way to keep out not only the cold, dry winter air but the damaging effects of the sun as well. I love these Sun UV Protection gloves designed by my colleague Dr. Sheila Nazarian. Chic enough to be worn anywhere, these gloves are made from fine italian fabrics and have an impressive UPF (UV Protection Level) of 50! Wear them driving, hiking, and even when getting your nails done to protect your hands from harmful UV rays.
When is Dry Skin Dangerous?
Many of us probably think of dry skin as a minor inconvenience at least and a painful daily reminder of winter weather at most. However, dry skin can result in more serious consequences if ignored and left untreated. Unaddressed, simple dry skin concerns can progress to cracked and flaking skin. If this happens, you are at risk for far more than some mild itching or discomfort.
Cracked skin is common in winter and is often regarded by people as no more than an inevitability. In reality, cracked skin is an open wound that can invite bacteria, viruses and fungi leading to potentially serious skin infections! This kind of cracking is common on the hands at joints, the natural lines in palms and in knuckles, similar to what is shown in the image below.
If your dry skin has progressed to this point, you should contact your doctor immediately, as you are at heightened risk for infection.
Don’t Let Dry Hands Defeat You
We’re up against a lot this winter. From winter weather to obsessive hand washing, it can seem like an uphill battle. As we continue to face this pandemic, it’s important to remember that dry skin is no reason to reduce handwashing, tempting as it may be. Good hand washing technique and habits may mean your hands feel rough, but it’s critical to keeping yourself and others safe during this time and during every cold and flu season to come. Thankfully with the right moisturizers, gloves, and a little bit of strategy you can care for your hands without compromising your health.