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9 Tips to Keep Your Hands Soft This Winter

Prevent dry, chapped hands with our expert tips for keeping hands healthy and moisturized during the cold winter months.

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Avoid winter’s harshness

Dry, chapped hands are one of the most common winter skin woes. Not only can they crack, peel, and bleed, when your skin barrier is compromised, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions can worsen. Therefore, prevention is essential to improve skin outcomes to deter the development or exacerbation of other skin issues. Read on to learn how to keep your hands healthy and moisturized during the cold winter months.

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Wear gloves

If it’s cold enough to wear a hat, it’s definitely cold enough to slip on a pair of gloves. Invest in a pair of cashmere or wool-lined leather gloves, which tend to be more effective at blocking wind and keeping hands warm. Building a snowman or shoveling your walkway? Opt for a water-resistant pair. You should don a pair of rubber gloves when washing dishes or cleaning year-round, but it’s especially important in the winter, says Francesca Fusco, MD, a board-certified dermatologist of Wexler Dermatology and an assistant clinical professor in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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Apply SPF every day

Protect hands from the sun’s harmful rays with a moisturizing sunscreen. Or opt for a hand lotion with SPF, like Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++. Furthermore, a 2019 study published in the journal Cosmetics suggests applying topical sunscreen is an effective way to prevent skin cancer and precancerous skin lesions. (Don’t miss these subtle signs your hands need more attention.)

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Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Dr. Fusco encourages patients to keep a tube of moisturizer everywhere—your desk drawer, handbag, kitchen counter, bedside, glove compartment, among other places. “Repeated moisturizing through the day nourishes, heals, and protects skin,” she says. Here are the things dermatologists refuse to put on their hands.

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Exfoliate

“Most people don’t think to exfoliate their hands, but it will remove dead skin, which allows better penetration of moisturizer,” explains Dr. Fusco. For a DIY fix, mix a bit of coconut oil and sugar together, then rub on hands in circular motions. You can also use your favorite facial exfoliant. (Here’s the best skincare routine for dry skin.)

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Use hand sanitizer sparingly

Overuse of hand sanitizers can dry out hands quickly. Find out how long hand sanitizer really lasts. Dr. Fusco recommends a non-drying formula, like VMV Hypoallergenics Grandma Minnie’s Kid Gloves Monolaurin Moisturizing Anti-Micro-Bug Hand Gel, which has moisturizing properties, is great for sensitive skin, and you can apply it over moisturizer.

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Wash hands with moisturizing soap

Frequent hand washing with hot water and soap can strip natural oils from your skin. The solution: Switch to moisturizing hand soap and make sure the water is lukewarm rather than hot. These are ways you didn’t realize you’re washing your hands wrong.

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Avoid hand dryers

When using the ladies room, if you have the option of an automatic dryer (with hot air) or paper towel, opt for the latter. According to Dr. Fusco, the hot blast could dry out your skin even more. If you notice your hands are still dry, try these home remedies for smoother skin.

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Don’t neglect cuticles

Your cuticles and nails are equally sensitive to harsh winter weather as the rest of your hands. Dr. Fusco recommends adding a Weleda Cuticle Softener Pen to your daily routine. It’s formulated with pomegranate seed and sweet almond oils to repair, soften and gently remove rough cuticles. Or for a more affordable option, try Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Cuticle Eraser and Balm with white tea and cucumber. Massage the non-greasy formula into cuticles and nails beds nightly. (Don’t miss the 10 healing facial oils you need in fall and winter.)

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Pamper your hands at night

Invest in an ultra-rich overnight hand cream, like Kiehl’s Intensive Treatment and Moisturizer. “Applied at bedtime alone or under thin cotton gloves, it will repair, nourish, and soften your hands,” says Dr. Fusco. Or invest in a pair of Bliss Glamour Gloves. Slip them on for 20 minutes for healthier hands. The gel-lined gloves contain olive oil, grapeseed oil, and vitamin E and last for 50 wearings. (Try these home remedies for pampered hands.)

Sources
  • Francesca Fusco, MD, a board-certified dermatologist of Wexler Dermatology and an assistant clinical professor in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai, New York City.
  • Cosmetics: “Topical Sunscreen Application Preventing Skin Cancer: Systematic Review”
Medically reviewed by Jessica Wu, MD, on April 23, 2020

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn has a B.A. in Creative Writing & Communications from the University of Miami. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Brides, Fodor's, Travel + Leisure, PureWow, USA Today, and more.