My Hands Have Been Extra Dry This Winter, so I Asked a Derm for Tips

I don’t know about y’all, but my skin has been drier than usual this year—especially my hands. No matter how much hand cream I slather on, it never seems to be enough, and my cuticles and nails are suffering the consequences. (Yes, my nail beds suck.) And even though this happens to some degree every winter, it seems to be worse than ever this year. 

“Hands become more prone to dryness in the winter due to the lack of moisture in the air,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City. “When the temperature begins to drop, the air becomes drier and harsher, which in turn weakens the skin barrier and pulls moisture from vulnerable skin. This often leads to dry, flaking, cracked hands.” And thanks to all of the additional safety measures we’re taking during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our hands are losing even more moisture than usual. From washing our hands more often to all that sanitizer, they need more TLC than ever.

Below, Engelman shares her tips to help combat all these factors for soft, hydrated hands 365 days a year.

First and foremost, actually use all those hand creams you stocked up on. “Applying moisturizer to your hands throughout the day, especially after washing, will not only help soothe dryness but also prevent it from occurring in the first place,” explains Engelman.

If you need something for intense dryness, Engelman calls this “the perfect moisturizer” for dry hands. “This salve is formulated with lanolin, Manuka honey and antioxidants that penetrate skin, leaving it nourished and hydrated,” says the derm. “This particular formula is proven to last for over 48 hours and is free of parabens, sulfates, and artificial fragrances.”

With some of the best emollients in the game (shea butter, avocado oil, olive oil, etc.), this formula is in the hand cream Hall of Fame. Plus, at a hefty five ounces, the tube lasts forever.

This drugstore buy has soothing ingredients like green tea extract and watermelon oil to leave skin soft and hydrated.

This super-rich cult-favorite cream is made with a whopping 20% shea butter, plus nourishing coconut oil, honey, and almond extract.

Heavy-duty dryness and eczema calls for this specially formulated cream made with colloidal oatmeal and allantoin, a powerful humectant.

It also helps to have a hand soap that adds moisture, rather than taking it away. Plus, this formula has the brand’s unmistakable cherry-vanilla scent. 

Finding a hydrating hand sanitizer is tough—after all, they are generally made with at least 60% alcohol—but this one from Dove leaves hands shockingly soft and moisturized while still maintaining the CDC’s strict safety standards.

If hand cream just isn’t cutting it, consider a mask. “Overnight hand masks are a great way to treat dry hands,” says the derm. “You can do this at home by applying rich, more occlusive creams or ointments (look for ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid and ceramides) then covering them with gloves or socks while you sleep.” 

These gloves have a gel lining infused with jojoba oil, olive oil, and vitamin E—put them on over hand cream or Vaseline for an intensive moisturizing treatment. And yes: They work with your smartphone!

The brand behind some of the best sheet masks for your face also makes an amazing hand mask formulated with strengthening ceramides and coconut milk.

Made with vitamin E, macadamia-nut oil, and shea butter, this mask both nourishes skin and strengthens nails.

This moisturizing mask smells like dessert and has an Instagram-worthy macaron print.

The dermatologist also recommends using a humidifier to control the moisture levels in your air. “During the winter months, the air is very dry both outside and inside your living spaces,” says Engelman. “Running a clean humidifier like the Canopy Humidifier improves the quality of your skin and makes your home a more comfortable place to be by adding moisture into the air and keeping your space at an optimal humidity level (40% to 60%).”

“A humidifier is a great way to prevent dry skin—not just on your hands but on your whole body too,” advises the derm. “The Canopy Humidifier is special because it uses evaporative (no-mist) technology to release pure, hydrated air, meaning that you don’t have to worry about mold growing or breathing in contaminants. It’s also dishwasher-safe and very easy to clean.”

A mini wireless humidifier is also a great option to have on hand for travel or for hours spent at a desk. 

Depending on how cold it is where you live, you might not need a reminder, but just in case: “Because we are always using our hands, the skin of our hands is some of the most exposed on our whole bodies and, as a result, tends to suffer the most in winter,” says Engelman. “Washing your hands frequently can also strip your hands of their natural oils, worsening dryness. Gloves are a great way to mitigate damage.”

“Wearing warm, protective gloves whenever you go outside in the winter prevents moisture from being pulled from the skin and helps keep your skin barrier healthy and hydrated,” says Engelman. We love this soft pair from J.Crew, which you can use with a touch screen. 

And don’t forget about the protection your hands might need indoors as well. “Wearing rubber gloves whenever your hands are submerged in water—for example, doing the dishes—can also protect your skin barrier from weakening,” says the derm. “I recommend applying lotion before putting on gloves to trap in hydration and further heal and soothe dry hands.”

Like the skin on the rest of our bodies, our hands benefit from gentle exfoliation. Just be careful not to overdo it: If you get regular manicures, you might already be getting scrubbed down enough—so listen to your skin, and only exfoliate when you need to

This luxe cleanser has micro-particles of pumice, so it gently exfoliates hands every time you wash your hands without being too harsh.

Keep this tropical scrub in the shower for use head-to-toe, and just don’t forget to give your hands a good scrub too.

Made with vitamin C and jojoba oil, this hand polish is like a spa experience for your hands. 

Bonus: Give those cuticles extra attention with everyone’s favorite affordable oil.

Up next: According to Nail Experts, Winter Will Revolve Around These 8 Trends

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