Why it happens The air in a harsh, windy winter climate is often dehumidified, which means it doesn’t just pull moisture out of the environment but your skin as well. Use of indoor heaters has the same effect. Meanwhile, people tend to wash their hands more often during cold and flu season, and exposure to harsh soaps and solvents can strip your skin of its oils.
Wash carefully Try to only cleanse the palms of your hands and rinse well, as soap residue is drying and irritating. Opt for mild glycerin soap if possible; glycerin is a humectant, which means it will bind water in the skin, helping to reduce water loss.
Soothe your skin Moisturize your hands immediately after washing them (applying moisturizer without wetting and drying your hands first won’t help as much, as the purpose of moisturizer is to lock in the water that your skin just soaked up). At night, soak your hands in warm water for five minutes, towel dry, then apply a thick layer of ointment, shea butter or oil (almond, jojoba and olive work well). Cover them with cotton gloves to lock in the ointment and wear them overnight. — Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a dermatologist in Sebastopol, Calif.
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