A Foolproof Plan for Healing Winter-Dry Hands

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Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun and her team share tips on how to keep hands looking their best while still keeping germs at bay.

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Being as diligent about moisturizing as you are about cleaning your hands is the number one way to start having soft skin again.

Between the dry, cold air outdoors, indoor heating, frequent hand-washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, hands really take a beating this time of year. Is there a way to keep hands clean without damaging skin? Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun and her team from the best-selling book Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me reveal a foolproof plan for enduring winter’s chill while keeping hands looking their best (and keeping germs at bay).

“It sounds so simple, but the number one thing you can do is moisturize after every hand-washing or using hand sanitizer,” explains Begoun. “Being as diligent about moisturizing as you are about cleaning your hands is the number one way to start having soft skin again. And all alcohol-based hand sanitizers claiming to be moisturizing are anything but! Given the amount of alcohol these products contain and how drying alcohol is, there isn’t much hope of those products helping dry skin in any way.”

Not just any moisturizer will do, though. As Begoun says, “Whether labeled ‘hand cream’ or something else, make sure whatever you use to hydrate hands contains a brilliant blend of emollients, repairing ingredients, and antioxidants.” Each of these plays a role in repairing skin’s surface, which is chipped away at and damaged with each hand washing or squirt of sanitizer. Find state-of-the-art repairing hand creams and moisturizers here.

What else can be done to take hands from sandpaper to silk? These tips will make a beautiful difference:

  •     Stop using harsh bar soap or drying cleansers to wash hands. These strip skin of vital moisture, making them especially vulnerable in cold weather.
  •     Use a moisturizing body wash to wash hands. This simple trick can make a big difference, and body washes can get hands perfectly clean. Try hydrating body washes from Olay, Dove, or Eucerin.
  •     Don’t forget sunscreen. Hands are almost always exposed to outdoor elements, and sun exposure weakens skin’s defenses (plus leads to thin skin and brown spots). Use a moisturizing sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater, and (this is a pain but SO worth it) reapply after every hand wash. Find Begoun’s top picks for hand creams with sunscreen here.
  •     Check out the travel-sized section of the drugstore for sunscreens and moisturizers that can be tossed in a purse, car, or desk drawer so they’re ready when needed. Also pick up some travel-sized moisturizing body wash to use instead of the drying soaps found in public restrooms.
  •     At night, apply a thin layer of moisturizer and put on a pair of moisturizing gloves. Leave these on overnight and wake up to amazingly soft hands (and nails)! Try Bath & Body Works True Blue Spa Gel Gloves ($25) or Sephora Collection Spa Gloves ($36).
  •     Don’t forget cuticles. Consider a brush-on oil treatment or, at night, massage plain almond, safflower, or jojoba oil around nails and over any tough dry spots.

When hands are looking very dry and flaky, consider a gentle sugar scrub using plain, inexpensive table sugar at home. Here’s how: Dispense a small amount of hand cleanser (again, a moisturizing body wash works great) into the palm of one hand and mix this with a tablespoon of sugar. Next, dampen hands, and gently massage the scrub all over for about 30 seconds, and then rinse. Follow with a moisturizer (be sure it contains sunscreen during daylight hours) and marvel at the difference!

Last, consider switching to an alcohol-free hand sanitizer. They’re less drying and research has shown they’re just as effective against illness-causing germs. The catch is they’re harder to find. HandClens Foaming Sanitizer & Lotion, available from most medical supply stores and Sally Beauty, is worth seeking out. One caveat: When compared to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, alcohol-free sanitizers don’t dry as fast and can leave hands feeling tacky. Apply a rich moisturizer after hand sanitizer has dried, and let the cold winter winds blow, knowing that now hands can handle it!

For more makeup and skin-care advice, follow Begoun at CosmeticsCop.com.

Led by best-selling author and beauty expert Paula Begoun, the Paula’s Choice Research Team evaluates and reviews hundreds of skin-care and makeup products, in books such as "Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me" as well as online at CosmeticsCop.com. Combining cosmetics industry knowledge and expertise, Paula and her team have developed the Paula’s Choice line of state-of-the-art formulations based on reliable, published skin-care research. Products include skin-care, makeup, body, and hair-care products, beauty tools, and accessories. All products are fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and environmentally friendly.

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