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Tips and Tricks for Fighting Chapped Winter Hands

Although mother nature has not yet decided to turn her full frosty gaze on us here in Stowe, it is still time for many of us to deal with some of our seasonal ailments.  One of those which I see most often are dry, chapped, rough winter hands.  Chapped hands can be unsightly, but more importantly they can be truly painful and exceedingly prevalent.  In my years as a Massage Therapist as well as my Medical Assistant work in a Dermatology practice, I have gathered a few tips and tricks to help us deal with this. 

1- Hand washing.
   Water temperature matters.  Try to use warm, not hot water, as the delicate skin on the hands can be easily damaged by excessive temperatures.  Also, choose your soap carefully.  Bar soaps and antibacterial soaps tend to be harsh and strip your bodies protective oils as well as the healthy bacteria that live on your skin.  Cleaning your hands thoroughly is more about time and scrubbing than about lather.  20 seconds is the recommended time for hand washing.  Count it out, it is longer than you may think.  And don't forget the backs of the hands including your thumbs.

     It is a good idea to occasionally remove the excessive dry flaky skin to allow for better penetration of moisturizers, but also to prevent catching on materials which can literally tear the skin and promote cracking.  Light facial exfoliants work well, but it is also very easy to make your own.  Simply take around a 1/2 tsp of table salt in your hand and pour in around the same amount of Olive oil.  Mix these together then use to lightly scrub your hands.  Pay close attention to cuticles as well as calluses. When finished, simply rinse hands.  The remaining Olive oil is quite good for the skin and should largely absorb.  

3- Moisturizing
     Choose carefully here.  Although many of us tend to gravitate towards lotions and creams that smell pretty, many products add alcohols to help deliver that fragrance to your nose.  The alcohols do this by evaporating into the air, often taking some of your precious hand moisture with them.  Read your ingredient lables.  Try and stick with nut butters and oils like jojoba or even Aloe vera.  Although some people swear by petroleum products and mineral oil, both are by products of refining crude oil and many people (especially is the spa industry) feels this is unwise to place on our skin.  Generally, thicker creams and butters are more moisturizing than lotions.

4- Gloves
     They aren't just for outside.  A pair of cotton gloves can become your best tool in fighting chapped hands.  You can find them in many pharmacies, online, and even at my favorite store, Bed Bath and Beyond.  Simply slather on your chosen moisturizer, put on gloves, and got to sleep.  In the morning, you should notice a significant improvement.

Stay healthy, and I will see you at the Spa,

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