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Entre Nous: Fixing winter hands
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2016

Are you missing your wonderfully moisturised skin from the summer? Have no fear – you're not alone. High temperatures during the spring and summer cause our bodies to produce more natural oils, and this production slows in the winter.
Winter weather is not fun for the skin. Cold weather and low humidity levels result in dry air, which then takes moisture away from the skin every second of every day. Without immediate care, dry skin can lead to cracking and bleeding, and harsh winter wind makes the problem even worse. Inside, things can be even drier, thanks to the indoor heat that robs the air of moisture, as do hot showers or baths and harsh cleansers.
Additional moisture helps, but you need to do more to counteract these effects and keep skin looking youthful and smooth. Your best defence depends on your skin type, lifestyle, habits, and even skin tone.
Here are some dermatologists' tips for keeping your hands hydrated, smooth and soft all season long:
- Moisturising hands well and often is vital. Be sure to choose a product that is specific to your skin type and skip lightweight lotions heavy in fragrance and use creams or ointments that contain moisturising ingredients like glycerine, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone or ceramides instead. Keep a formula rich in skin-softening glycerine next to your computer, on the edge of your sink, in the cup holder of your car, and in your bag.
- Make your favourite moisturiser anti-microbial. Washing your hands with soap and water isn't always an option, explaining the omnipresent hand sanitiser tucked away in many people's bags that contains formulas heavy in alcohol that can strip skin of hydrating oils and even cause eczema to flare up.
- Look for a moisturising cleanser rather than soap. Wash with warm rather than hot water avoiding formulas billed as antibacterial, and skip hot air hand dryers post-wash.
- Pile on layers for extra protection. Glove liners can boost insulation and warmth without sacrificing dexterity. They should be lightweight and can be made from a variety of materials, including synthetics, silk or wool.
- Treat yourself to an at-home spa. Apply a generous layer of pure aloe, coconut oil or shea butter. If your hands are really chapped, put a plastic bag over them and then wool socks to lock in the moisture for 30 minutes. Another option is to coat hands with an ointment like Vaseline and wrap them with a warm, damp towel for 15 minutes to help drive the moisture in. If burning or parched skin is the problem, soothe the hands by soaking them in warm water with colloidal oatmeal for two to five minutes before applying a hydrating cream.

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