It happens every year. The low humidity of winter air combines with the cold weather to reduce the moisture in your skin, turning your once-supple hands into a bed of craggy cuticles surrounded by bleeding hangnails. Even when the weather is warm, harsh chemicals, frequent scrubbing and lack of moisturizer can make your hands red and rough. To soothe your sore skin, try one of these remedies.
Treat cracked cuticles and dry, chapped skin with an overnight moisturizer. Begin by coating the interior surface of a pair of cotton gloves with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Then, cover your hands in thick hand cream. If you don't have any hand cream, you can substitute vegetable shortening or mix 1 teaspoon of honey into 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and add a few drops of lemon juice. Coat your hands completely, working the cream into the skin, particularly around the nail beds. Microwave the gloves for 10 seconds on High and slip them on over the hand cream. Wear overnight, allowing the cream to penetrate the skin while the gloves protect your hands from outside elements. In the morning, remove the gloves and rinse off the cream with cool water.
Treat your hands with lotion at different times throughout the day. Look for an intensive care formula that contains shea butter or vitamin E, as these ingredients help skin heal while combating climate conditions such as a dry environment or cold, windy weather. If you can't find a lotion with these elements, choose one you find appealing and add the vitamin E yourself. Vitamin E capsules are available at health food stores and also can be applied directly to skin. Warm the capsules slightly by holding them in your palm, then puncture the protective coating. Gently squeeze to release the oil, rubbing it into skin that is rough, dry, cracked or red. Aloe vera plants can provide a similar and less expensive alternative to vitamin E. Break off a piece of the plant and rub the exposed pulp over any distressed areas of skin. The plant's juice penetrates the skin, increasing the efficiency of the healing process.
Hand washing prevents the spread of infection and helps you stay healthy, but all that soap may be taking a toll on your skin. Make a habit of carrying a small bottle of moisturizing hand wash with you rather than using the harsh detergents dispensed in public washrooms. Skip the hot air hand dryer, too. The hot air will cause your skin's surface to dry, stripping off any protective oils in the process. Instead, use paper towels or carry your own hand towels. Immediately after drying your hands, add a topical moisturizer--lotion, hand cream or skin conditioner--and rub it in for at least two minutes to allow the emollients to penetrate the skin and replace the moisture you've washed away.