Winter weather can be challenging. Here in New Jersey, we’ll have a day or two in the 50’s, and then a bone chilling slide down to 7°. There will be chilling rain, bright sun, the fluffy snow then sleet. Let’s face it – if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours and it’s likely to change.
All those changes, coupled with the drying effect of indoor heating, can dehydrate your skin and make it itchy, flaky, and irritated. Hands seem to take the worst of it. Cuticles and nails crack more easily, especially when stressing conditions like hot showers, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and washing dishes are added.
This drying happens because of moisture loss. Our nails are about 18 percent water. All the extremes in temperature draw out the water from you nails and cuticles. The cold also makes the proteins in your nails more rigid, causing them to be susceptible to breaks and splits.
So how can you keep your hands and nails from becoming split, cracked, tender messes? Here’s a few tips that I’ve found helpful.
1) Hydrate – but don’t get wet. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is good for your general health, so in that respect it will help you skin. Using a humidifier to ease the dry air from household heat will assist your skin as well as your breathing. But don’t let your hands be wet and cold. Use gloves when washing dishes. The dish detergent is made to remove oils, and it will do the same with your hands. Wear gloves outside and dry them right away.
And, as inviting as they are, don’t go for the super hot bath or shower. It may sound wonderful, and may even feel really wonderful temporarily, but the heat will actually break up the lipid barriers in the skin causing moisture loss and dryness. Warm is OK, just don’t go for toasty hot baths and showers.
2) Be Gentle with Dryness. It’s tempting to give a mighty scrubbing to remove flaky skin. If you feel a scrub is needed, do it gently. Use a wash cloth with warm water or a sugar scrub, not salt. And be cautious trimming up your cuticles with scissors or clippers. Nails grow from the bed up and cutting can actually cause more cracks and allow in germs.
3) Up the Moisturizing. Moisturizing is always a part of good skin care, but it’s even more essential in the chill of winter. This is especially true for your hands, where the skin is thinner and there are fewer oil glands. Use oil based moisturizers for soothing properties and better overall protection from the elements.
To aid extra dried cuticles and hands, try massaging in a thin coating of coconut or olive oil.
In a pinch, you can even use lip balm on your cuticles for a quick moisturizing treat.
Don’t fear the challenges winter presents. You can handle the cold and keep your hands soft until spring.
Perpetual herbal and aromatherapy learner.
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