We use our hands constantly, so when your skin is dry, your hands are one of the first areas to suffer. All this wear and tear can leave them rough and cracked.
Dry hands are also irritating—in more ways than one. Yes, the chapped skin can be uncomfortable, itchy, and sometimes painful, but it's also annoying to deal with, considering how much we use them.
What causes dry hands?
Aging - As we grow older, our skin loses collagen and elastin that keep it supple and strong. When these components break down, your skin barrier weakens doesn't retain moisture so our skin becomes drier. Also our body's natural oil production slows as we age, which can result in cracks and fine lines.
Weather - Cold, dry weather can also weaken your skin's barrier, especially if you quickly change between the frigid outdoors and the cosy, indoor heat. And so again, when the barrier weakens, it's easier for water to seep out, which can cause dryness, flaking, and discomfort.
Harsh Soaps & Sanitizers - In terms of soaps, common culprits like sulphates and artificial fragrances can aggravate the skin, causing dryness and irritation.
As for alcohol-based hand sanitizers, these don't just kill the bad bacteria: They kill the good, necessary bacteria too. "These types of alcohols do major damage to the natural lipids and fatty acids on the surface of your skin, so they damage your skin barrier," board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., says on sanitizers.
My Top 5 Tips to Care for Dry, Cracked Hands
1. Moisturise - It's essential to moisturise as often as possible to restore those lipids and encourage the regrowth of healthy bacteria, or your micro biome," Bowe says. It's especially important after washing your hands or taking a shower: A good cream can seal in that lingering water, restore your skin's lipids, and prevent moisture loss. A mix of hydrators and rich butters (like Aloe Vera paired with Shea Butter) can keep a cream fast-absorbing while locking in moisture. Bonus points if your cream contains soothing ingredients known for their anti-inflammatory properties (Chamomile or Lavender), as dry, cracked hands can quickly feel uncomfortable and itchy.
2. Practice good-hand washing hygiene - find yourself a soothing, hydrating hand soap, stick to room-temperature water as water that is too hot is also drying to the skin. Apply cream immediately after drying . Try to use natural soaps over sanitizer whenever you can, as the large concentrations of ethanol and isopropanol are a bit harsher on the skin, even when you moisturise.
3. Use good soap - Look out for soaps containing harsh sulphates like sodium lauryl sulphate, parabens and fragrance oils that can damage the skin barrier. Ideal hand soaps that are enriched with soothing, hydrating ingredients like oats, aloe and honey are best for dry hands.
4. Wear gloves - As we mentioned, your hands come into contact with so many potential irritants. Even household tasks (like washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms) can cause cracked and scaly hands, which is why I recommend you invest in a good pair of gloves for housework. You can even take it a step further and slather your hands in a nourishing oil or moisturizer before pulling on the dishwashing gloves: The oil will infuse your skin and the warm water will open the pores and help the ingredients penetrate deeper into the pores for baby-soft skin.
5. See a professional - If the discomfort is bordering on painful or severe (say, if you notice intense scaling or bleeding), it's best to see a professional who can find targeted treatments for any potential infections. Usually, dry hands are nothing to sound the alarm over—but it's always a good idea to consult your doctor if you're at all concerned.
Now you know how to care for your hands, why not check out my blog post on natural hair care?