Raise your hand if you carry germ-fighting sanitizer in your bag and apply it multiple times a day. Now raise a hand if you wash them in a you're-scrubbing-them-for-surgery kind of way. Mmm-hmm, just as we suspected. You're all busted. Why? Because the primary cause of severe hand dryness is, yup, excess water exposure and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, says New York City dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. Here, he helps you figure out how to treat the level of dryness you're dealing with for good.
If your hands are dry …
"My number one recommendation is the use of thick ointment like Aquaphor Healing Ointment at night before bed. Apply white cotton gloves over them to lock in moisture," says Zeichner.
If your hands are dry and scaly …
Use "creams with lactic acid in them. They can help remove dead skin cells and moisturize at the same time," he says. Try Burts Bees Naturally Ageless Skin Smoothing Hand Cream. You can also opt to use a cream containing urea like Lierac Paris Age Defense Hand Cream, which softens and moisturizes skin at the same time, says Zeichner. Just remember to reapply your cream after every hand washing.
If you find that moisturizing with one of the products above still doesn't quench your skin's thirst, use a water-repelling product that will create a barrier to your skin. A "great over-the-counter option is called Theraseal," says Zeichner.
If your hands are dry, scaly and cracked …
You must "moisturize, moisturize, moisturize," he says. He also recommends an ointment moisturizer like the Aquaphor mentioned above, which contains white petrolatum and lanolin—or try Vaseline. Just avoid anything with lactic acid, which may sting when applied to open cracks. And, "eliminate any fragranced hand creams or exposure to potentially irritating products, such as household cleansers," says Zeichner. They will only make your dry condition worse.
You should also avoid excess water exposure. How should you wash your hands then, you ask? Simple. "Use a non-soap cleanser. Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser can be applied to the skin and wiped off without using water," he says. Oh, and avoid hand sanitizers too. Although they don't require water, the alcohol in them will seriously dry out your skin.
Finally, if you're not seeing improvement after slathering your hands with moisturizers day and night, it may be time to see your dermatologist. They can prescribe an inflammation-reducing cream to help soothe your skin.
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