Wondering how to get soft hands and wave goodbye to dry hands and fingertips? Our comprehensive guide to hand care outlines the causes of dry, sensitive skin and feelings of discomfort, the signs you need a hand cream (fast!), and the important role the skin barrier plays in protecting dry hands. We also highlight the most beneficial ingredients for dry skin on the hands, explain why a face cream won’t cut it, and provide tips on using hand cream for best results. So, if you’re wondering how to care for dry hands, read on. Here’s how to keep your mitts soft, nourished and feeling comfortable – so they can keep doing all the things you need them to.
How to Get Soft Hands: A Guide for Dry Hands
Wondering how to get soft hands and wave goodbye to dry hands and fingertips? Our comprehensive guide to hand care outlines the causes of dry, sensitive skin and feelings of discomfort, the signs you need a hand cream (fast!), and the important role the skin barrier plays in protecting dry hands.
We also highlight the most beneficial ingredients for dry skin on the hands, explain why a face cream won’t cut it, and provide tips on using hand cream for best results.
So, if you’re wondering how to care for dry hands, read on. Here’s how to keep your mitts soft, nourished and feeling comfortable –so they can keep doing all the things you need them to.
Why are my hands so dry?
Despite many of us following a near religious facial skincare routine, hand care is often neglected. Caring for your hands really is important, though, as the over-worked skin on your hands is particularly susceptible to dryness. As well as sensitivity and signs of ageing.
Common symptoms of dry hands include flaking, redness, itching, chapped or cracked skin, increased sensitivity and a feeling of tightness. Whatever your symptoms, there are a host of different reasons your hands might be dry.
From cleaning to cooking, playing with the kids or dog, typing, handling money and washing dishes – the reality is, you use your hands for the majority of day-to-day tasks. These handy helpers are regularly exposed to the sun (especially while driving), wind, cleaning products, hot water, air conditioning and heating, germs, sudden changes in temperature and – of course – frequent washing. All of this takes its toll, with dry skin the all too frequent result.
Dry hands and the skin barrier
To understand dry hands, we need to discuss the skin barrier, which exists at the outermost layer of your skin. Made up of cells and lipids, the skin barrier is naturally protective. Not only does it help protect against sensitivity by keeping allergens and irritants out, it reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and helps lock in hydration.
Unfortunately, frequent hand washing can weaken this barrier. For the hands, this means dryness can become an uncomfortable issue.
Dry hand causes
Both external (environmental) and intrinsic factors can lead to dry skin. The main factors that contribute to dry skin on the hands include:
- Weather and season – have you noticed your hands seem drier in winter? When humidity is low, the skin is less able to retain moisture and you may experience more uncomfortable, drier hands.
- Artificial heating and air conditioning
- Genetics – dry skin conditions such as dermatitis can be inherited
- Frequent hand washing – soaps can strip hands of natural protective oils
- Washing or submerging hands in hot water (e.g. in the bath, doing the dishes)
- Exposure to chemicals at work or in the home (e.g. in bleach, antibacterial or cleaning products)
- Neglecting to moisturise hands
Why should I use hand cream (rather than face cream or body lotion)?
With naturally thin skin (even thinner than your facial skin) and frequent exposure to external aggressors, the hands are often the first area to show signs of ageing. This means a targeted and regular hand care routine is beneficial if you want youthful looking, soft hands. And for the comfort of those with dry or sensitive hands? It’s a must.
But before you slather some face cream on your hands, pause for a minute. Just as the skin on your face and body have differing requirements, so too do your hands. As there are far fewer oil glands on the hands than on the face (and rest of the body), hand creams usually have much more concentrated and nourishing formulas.
And while facial moisturisers are predominantly concerned with feeding the skin moisture, a good hand cream’s main purpose is to improve the natural skin barrier function without leaving hands feeling sticky or greasy.
What is the best hand cream for dry hands?
As discussed, the skin barrier can be weakened by harsh ingredients such as alcohol in hand sanitiser, as well as UV exposure and frequent washing, among other factors. Therefore, in addition to moisturising, nourishing and softening ingredients, hand creams for dry skin typically include those that support the natural skin barrier.
Since dryness and sensitivity often go hand in hand, hand creams for dry skin may also steer clear of potential irritants such as fragrance.
Intensely nourishing, Cicaplast Mains Barrier Repairing Hand Cream is La Roche-Posay’s fragrance-free hand cream for sensitive, dry hands. Quick absorbing and non-greasy, it forms an invisible wash- and friction-resistant barrier, while it nourishes with 4% niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and smooths with shea butter.
The formula also contains 30% glycerin for intense hydration. A natural humectant, glycerin attracts water to the skin’s surface while preventing evaporation for hydrated, soft hands. In consumer trials, 90% of users found their skin less dry after the first application*.
What handwash is best for dry hands?
As well as choosing a nourishing hand cream, you should also consider a tailored handwash or soap formula specifically for dry and sensitive skin types.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Syndet AP+ is a soap-, paraben- and fragrance-free cleansing body gel formulated to help space out dry skin flare ups. With a neutral pH, it’s also ideal as a daily handwash for sensitive to very sensitive skin.
Gentle enough even for newborns, the minimalist formula cleanses while hydrating with La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water and niacinamide. With prebiotic Aqua Posae Filiformis to help promote a healthy microbiome, it also contains a unique lipid-replenishing complex to strengthen the natural skin barrier for greater resilience.
How and when to apply hand cream
How often you should apply hand cream depends on how often you are washing hands, the handwash you’re using, the weather and, of course, how dry your hands are feeling.
You may need to apply a lighter hand lotion or cream after each time you wash your hands, or a barrier cream a couple of times a day. There are no hard and fast rules. However, when using hand cream after washing your hands, apply within five minutes to prevent moisture escaping.
As often as required, apply your hand cream to clean, dry hands, massaging into the hands, nails and cuticles. Start with a pea-sized amount and add more if needed. Make sure you’re concentrating on the backs of hands as well as the palms, as the skin here is particularly fine. Pay extra attention to any dry areas, such as the knuckles or fingertips.
For an ultra-nourishing overnight treat? Apply hand cream thickly before bed and sleep in a pair of cotton gloves.
Why hands need sun protection - everyday!
While we cover our bodies with clothing, our hands are very often exposed to UV radiation, making them more susceptible to pigmentation and sun spots, fine lines and loss of elasticity. Hand cream should never replace sunscreen, and a high-level, broad-spectrum sunscreen should be applied each morning, and reapplied as needed over a hand cream.
For further information on dry skin conditions or expert advice, please see your health care professional.
*Protocol: Cosmetoclinical study on 53 subjects, working in 23 different professional activities. 4 weeks protocol.