Hands up! Don't get busted for rough, dry skin

December 1, 2007

Protecting your hands from dry skin in the winter is important in maintaining a healthy glow

Key Points

If having rough, chapped skin on your hands were a crime, would you be behind bars every winter?

Well, maybe it's time to re-think your way of doing things. There are so many new ways to help soothe, protect and maintain great-looking skin on your hands these days, that it really is a crime not to take advantage of new technology!

In the winter, when humidity levels drop and there is very little moisture available in the air, the environment literally sucks moisture from wherever it can find it - and your skin is a prime target.

So, the obvious solutions include buying - and actually wearing -gloves, especially lined ones; moisturizing after every hand washing; and exploring some new options to help maintain and repair the skin's barrier.

Your dermatologist can give you a prescription for a type of product called a physiologic barrier. These products don't contain active drug ingredients, but are manufactured in such a way as to be considered therapeutic by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eletone, Elta and Aquaphor creams are similar products that incorporate an ingredient that most dermatologists will tell you is good for your skin - white petrolatum. These moisturizers form a barrier on your dry, rough skin to help repair and protect it. Best of all, because they don't contain an active drug, you can use them as often as necessary.

If you prefer the over-the-counter (OTC) route, there are several factors to consider. For mildly dry skin, a lotion such as Cetaphil, Nivea or Eucerin will usually suffice if applied several times a day, especially after washing. If your skin is particularly rough and dry, you will benefit more from the use of a hand cream versus a lotion.

Fortunately, most companies offer both. Creams often contain the same ingredients as their lotion counter-parts, but the formulation that makes them thicker often makes them better able to hold moisture in your skin. For best results, many people use both.

And, as with many things in life, timing is everything. If you know that your skin tends to react negatively to cold, dry winter weather, don't wait to implement a moisturizing routine. The old expression about "closing the barn door after the cows are out" really applies here. Don't wait for the dryness to become apparent.

Begin moisturizing when humidity levels fall below 50 percent. Also, keep your moisturizer by the sink and use it after every hand washing to help lock moisture in. Conscientious use will produce good results. If, however, your skin continues to feel very dry and maybe even itchy, consult a dermatologist to rule out hand eczema, which may require treatment with a prescription formula.