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Saturday, December 2, 2023

How to keep your hands looking their best in winter

Take a minute to look at your hands. How do they appear? Chances are it is not something you think about too often (unless there’s a problem like irritation or dryness) but by this point, your poor mitts have probably reached more than they can handle (excuse the pun).

Overwashing has become more common in the years during and since the pandemic, when washing our hands appeared to be the one way we could find some control over our health. Who can blame us for trying to keep the germs we encounter at bay by washing our hands frequently, but your hands can – and will – suffer if you take it to extremes.

If you are feeling the effects of over-washing, you might notice that the area on the back of your hands, from your knuckles towards your wrist is irritated and red with a slightly rash-like appearance. If you are prone to reaction, you could even discover the same things appearing on the backs of your fingers too.

To get nerdie, our skin barrier is composed of a lipid matrix – a layer of fats and ceramides and when functioning correctly, this works to keep the good stuff (ie hydration) on the inside, and external irritants out. Handwashing should never be discouraged, but we must replenish and care for our hands alongside this.

Washing your hands more often than usual can disrupt the skin barrier. This is because soap doesn’t distinguish between what is bacteria, dirt or germs, and what is healthy, skin-friendly oils – so off it all washes. Your skin can attempt to keep up and produce enough oils to keep your skin supple but if it falls short, it can lead to irritation and an impaired barrier.

Repeated exposure to soap can dry out the delicate skin on your hands and if your skin barrier is already compromised, it can worsen the issue. If you suffer from conditions such as rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or even just dry skin, then you are already dealing with a disrupted skin barrier. This means you may find your skin affected before anyone else or feel the negative effects of over-washing more severely!

How over-washing might be affecting your hands

Overwashing your hands can lead to problems if you are not diligent about your moisturising game. If your skin has become very irritated, it can start to crack, which is not only really painful, but it can lead to further issues. This means it is important to do all that we can to keep our skin barrier strong.

Tips for caring for overwashed hands

• Use warm, rather than hot water when washing your hands to avoid skin irritation.

• When you are at home, stick to handwashing rather than using hand sanitiser, which can be harsh on the skin and really sting if you have any cracked areas.

• Stick to a consistent moisturising regime. That means keeping your hand cream or moisturiser handy near places where you wash your hands, or on your desk and bedside table, allowing you to apply it to your hands before you feel you need it, if possible.

• I don’t usually support mechanical exfoliation, but this situation might call for a little. Most traditional exfoliators contain large exfoliating particles, but I’m suggesting something less abrasive. Try a little bit of brown sugar mixed with coconut oil. This blend is best used after handwashing, and washed off afterwards, followed by your chosen moisturiser.

Hand moisturisers I rate

NeoStrata Bionic Lotion, €52

This Nerdie favourite is a light, easily absorbed, fragrance-free balm and suitable for those with very dry skin or for those with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. It can be used on the body, and being super soothing and moisturising, is ideal for treating the hands in their time of need. It contains 12% gluconolactone (a gentle exfoliating acid that works to slough off any dead skin cells) alongside lactobionic acid, which provides the ‘bionic’ complex, helping to balance and improve texture. It also contains vitamin E – an antioxidant that helps to keep your skin feeling its best and fighting free radicals.

Avene Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream, €9

This rich, fast-absorbing hand cream is ideal for nourishing and protecting dry or chapped hands all year round. As it is suitable for both adults and children, it’s perfect for keeping in the bathroom cabinet at all times! It contains beeswax to nourish and comfort skin, as well as protecting it from external aggressors. It also contains reparative sucralfate and the soothing water that Avene products are renowned for. The effects feel immediate and last through five hand washings. I suggest applying it before bed, under a pair of gloves, but it is suitable for all skin, including your face if you are suffering from dry or dehydrated skin.

Solgar Omega 3-6-9 Supplements, €25

Hydrating the skin from the inside is crucial when it comes to providing relief to your super dry skin. Ensure that your diet includes good fats and that you are drinking plenty of water but if you need help alongside your diet, try these food supplements from Solgar. You can also use these topically! Simply split one open and apply it to the irritated areas of your hands for a boost of intensive moisture. If you have more time, apply cling film over the area, too, to truly feel the comfort and benefit of the omegas – and give the skin barrier a real treat!

If you are suffering from psoriasis or eczema and handwashing is causing detrimental issues to your skin, get in touch with your GP as soon as possible for further advice.

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