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how to help dry hands

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Keep dry, cracked hands at bay with the right products and aftercare.

story highlights

  • Soap, hot water, and hand sanitizers can weaken your skin’s barrier and lead to dry skin.
  • Using pH-balanced cleansers, cool water, and lotion right after you cleanse can reduce feelings of dryness.

  • To help keep germs or viruses from spreading, it’s imperative to regularly wash your hands with soap and water. This is because soap removes the lipid bilayer – or fatty membrane – of viruses that helps protect them. By destroying this part of a virus, you're rendering it inactive and helping to prevent its spread. The catch: soap also removes protective lipids in your skin, which can lead to dry, cracked hands. Here's how to remedy this situation.

    telltale signs of dry hands from overwashing:

  • itchy, flaky or cracked skin
  • visible redness, rash or scaliness
  • skin that feels tight or rough
  • increased sensitivity after washing hands

  • what causes skin on hands to feel dry?
    Overwashing can leave your hands feeling dry. That's because your skin naturally contains a protective lipid barrier that helps keep moisture in and irritants out. Soaps, hand washes, hot water and harsh, stripping ingredients like alcohol can damage this barrier. This allows moisture to evaporate from your skin, leading to feelings of dryness.

    how to protect hands from dryness
    There are three things you can do to protect your skin from excessive dryness:

    1. use a pH-balanced, conditioning cleanser
    Conditioning or "nourishing" cleansers that are pH-balanced clean skin while preserving its barrier. Some even have soothing properties. Why pH-balanced? Traditional soap tends to be alkaline, which can disrupt skin's barrier and trigger dryness. A pH-balanced cleanser is closer to skin's acidic pH.

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    2. wash hands with cool water
    Hot water may feel good, but it dries out and irritates skin. This is because your skin's protective lipid layer is kind of like butter; it stays put under cool water but it can melt away under hot water. Once it melts away, the moisture in your skin rapidly escapes until the lipid layer replenishes itself. As you age, it takes longer to replenish lost lipids. So if your hands are prone to dryness, avoid cleansing with hot water. Wash them with lukewarm or cool water instead.

    3. apply lotion after washing hands or using hand sanitizer
    Your skin loses hydration within 60 seconds after washing. That is why it is important to apply lotion or moisturizer to hands right away. This helps prevent dryness and reinforce the lipid barrier. Look for ingredients like ceramides, phytolipids, Glycerin, Aloe and Hyaluronic Acid.

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    For more advice on how to care for dry skin, consult a professional skin therapist.