In case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold outside, and our Canadian Winter is upon us. The winter cold brings with it many different health risks. Some of these are severe, others merely irritating — but still significantly unpleasant. Chapped and dry skin falls into this second category. Lower temperatures draw moisture out of the air, which can leave skin dried out and irritated. If left untreated, the skin will become red, cracked and tender — or chapped.
Hands are particularly prone to becoming chapped because they are more likely to be exposed to the elements more regularly. Normally, natural oils in the skin provide protection. With cold weather, humidity falls, and skin becomes drier. Inside your home it may be warm — but central heating also has a dehumidifying effect. In extreme cases chapped hands will crack and bleed. Even when the symptoms are less severe, chapped hands will cause considerable discomfort, and can make everyday tasks painful.
Naturally, it is important to prevent the onset of chapped hands, or alleviate the symptoms if your hands are already cracked. The basic goal is to keep the skin on your hands hydrated. There are multiple ways to accomplish this.
The best method is to regularly apply a moisturizer specifically designed to deal with dry skin, to your hands. The more regularly you apply the moisturizer the better. Taking a preventive approach is the best way to avoid chapped hands. Don’t wait until symptoms appear: adopt a regimen of regular moisturization as winter approaches.
Moisturizing lotions are available without a prescription at any drug store, but be sure to read the label, don’t put anything on your skin you can’t pronounce, let alone know what it is, or where it came from. You don’t have to go to the other extreme either, expensive cosmetic moisturizers promise the same relief of mild dryness, but most contain 75% or more water as their primary ingredient. Water will actually help in drawing heat and moisture out of your hands in the cold, rather than to moisturize and protect. Therapeutic moisturizers, such as the entire line of natural and organic Rostoplasc Skin Care creams, give the skin a thicker barrier of protection from the air, and will hold in the moisture your skin already has. Experiment and see which moisturizer work best with you skin.
If your hands already have open cracks and significant pain, you will need a thicker, heavy-duty protectant. The best choice is a restorative hand care lotion. As a final resort, for badly damaged skin, use petroleum jelly — commonly known by the brand name Vaseline. A thick, viscous substance, petroleum jelly will seal in moisture and allow your body to heal the painful openings in your skin. The disadvantage of petroleum jelly is that its slick, gooey texture can be considered unpleasant, and it dissolves into the skin slowly. Nonetheless, it is one of the best ways to protect you skin or help it heal. Slather on a layer before you go bed to or venture outside, then put on gloves — this will help keep in moisture and prevent you from leaving the jelly on everything you touch.
While moisturizing your hands correctly is the best method for warding off dry and sensitive skin, there are other steps to take. One of these is to use a humidifier in your house. Central heating removes moisture from the air. A humidifier will counteract this effect and help to keep your skin hydrated.
Washing your hands properly is another important part of keeping them moisturized. While it might seem that running water over your hands would reduce dryness, in fact the water will rob your skin of even more moisture as it evaporates, so limit the frequency and duration of hand washing. Apply the same principle to showers or swimming. Use soap moderately since the ingredients of many soaps can irritate or inflame skin. Washing your hands is also the ideal time to reapply moisturizer.
Take the proper steps and you hands will remain smooth and moisturized throughout the cold, dry winter. You should not have to suffer painful, irritated skin or open cracks on your hands. If your hands do become chapped, use petroleum jelly for a quick recovery. Either way, chapped hands are not inevitable, no matter how dry or frigid the weather.