Cold weather, a drop in humidity, indoor heat cranked up, and increasing use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers contribute to excessively dry skin on your hands. This also can lead to painful and unsightly cuticles. Long, hot showers feel good, but leave you standing in a pool of hot water and the runoff of drying sulfate soaps which also rob you of skin’s natural oil. The result being dry and cracked heals and feet.
When it comes to keeping hands and feet soft and moisturized this winter, here are a few easy tips to follow:
- Cleanse with a surfactant and sulfate-free cleanser while washing your hands and taking showers. Sulfate cleansers are generally higher in pH (alkaline) and strip the good oils from skin—leaving you parched and dry.
- Exfoliate to slough off unsightly dead skin and to allow your moisturizers/balms to penetrate more effectively. Try to avoid extremely harsh abrasives that can further tear dry skin. Choose ingredients that can gently roll away dead skin or gently dissolve it. If you do not have an exfoliator, soak in a mixture of honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice will help remove dry, callused skin.
- Moisturize hands and feet after a shower while the skin is still damp. This will help lock in the moisture on the surface and not allow it to evaporate as skin dries. Look for ingredients like cocoa seed butter and sunflower seed oil as these ingredients are very effective in softening and harnessing moisture. Sunflower seed oil is a fatty acid rich in linoleic acid and can help maintain the balance of the skin barrier and decrease trans-epidermal water loss.
- Apply a cuticle oil on your hands and feet to help prevent painful hangnails. This can be especially effective when applied prior to bed time, as the heat of the body at night will aid in greater absorption.
- Skip the wool socks when it’s chilly outside. The rubbing of wool against your feet removes natural fats from the skin, causing moisture loss. A better bet: soft, cotton socks.
- Before bed, slather feet with a product that contains both natural oils for moisture and occlusive agents such as beeswax or petrolatum. Cover feet with cotton socks—you’ll wake up with smoother, softer feet.