Winter is here! As soon as the temperatures drop and the air starts getting dryer, I can feel it in my hands. Not in some old wives tale way. What I mean is that my fingers are dry, cracked, peeling and itchy. It’s not a pretty sight. My skin is probably better suited to the humid tropics of Taiwan than for the brisk climate of Northern California, and add to that the frequent hand washing, cleaning and other mom-ly duties, let’s just say, I’m never going to be a Jergens model. But I do have a few tricks to keep my paws from scaring young children. Some of them are obvious, others may surprise you!
- Layer! Just like wear lots of clothes to keep yourself warm, you’ll need lots of products to keep your hands soft. Any one of these steps will help, but the combination of all them is what seems to really do the trick for me. I know, it’s complicated,but it’s better than having painful cracked hands.
- Start with a cuticle oil. Begin with the thinnest product, such as Avoplex or Solar Oil for your nails and cuticles. These oils will soak into your cuticles and really make a difference. You could also use a plain carrier oil, such as avocado or rice bran, but I find these specially-packaged products are handy because they come with the nail polish type applicator brushes, so you don’t get grease all over (your phone, computer, clothes, etc.) making it much more likely for you to use them.
- Shea Butter Hand Cream This is pretty much one of the wonders of the world, for extremely dry-skinned gals like me. Not just any shea butter lotion, you need the really thick kind that comes in a tub or tube. L’Occitane is the most famous brand, but I like Pre de Provence, which is nearly identical, costs less, and comes in Unscented, Lavender and Verbena. And the scented ones are the exact same formula as the original kind, not some watered down version. Another good one is by J.R. Watkins, which can sometimes be found in the natural beauty aisle at Target. These creams will sink into your skin and prevent future damage. But don’t stop there!
- Aquaphor You’ll need to seal it all in with a thick ointment, such as Aquaphor. When my kids were in the diaper phase, I’d sometimes rub extra A&D ointment (the regular, not zinc oxide formula) into my hands and found that it also works really well to seal in moisture and heal cracks. But the diaper ointment contains fish oil and smells… like fish. So you might not want to use it when you’re going to be around other people.
- Extras: Neosporin or 1% Hydrocortisone Cream Are you hands already cracked, bleeding, infected? I’m not being dramatic here. I’ve seen my Asian mom friends wearing bandaids on all their knuckles during the winter to protect their damaged skin from cleaning and general harsh winter conditions. Again, back in the baby days, the lactation consultant recommended something she called “magic goo” for cracked nipples (sorry, TMI). The “magic goo” included miconozole, antibiotic cream, and hydrocortisone creams. And you know what? It worked. Since I don’t think most people are at risk for yeast infections on their dry hands, I just use Neosporin and hydrocortisone on my cracked knuckles and cuticles. And it works, too!
- Be Careful With Washing We all want to be germ-free, but frequent hand washing — with the wrong soaps — can really strip your skin of whatever moisture it has. One thing I like to do is to fill pump soap dispensers with really moisturizing bath washes, such as Dove or Olay, instead of regular liquid hand soap.
- Give Yourself Some Gloves And of course, wear rubber gloves when doing dishes or cleaning the bathroom and put on gloves whenever you go outside. Thicker leather gloves help keep your hands warm and dry, but anything, even those one-size-fits all cheapie knit gloves help.
What do you do to protect your hands during the winter? I’d like to hear your tips!
I purchased all these products myself and all opinions expressed are my own.