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A dermatologist's guide to healing dry hands

What to do about an incredibly common skin issue: dry, irritated skin on your hands.

hand-washing

Washing your hands can strip away the lipids, oils and nutrients from your skin. Lipids are an essential component of the outermost layer of skin, which is critical in preventing water loss from the skin. Important lipids such as ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids are essential for normal skin function. 

Since it’s important to be diligent about washing your hands, be sure to take some precautions to avoid over-drying or irritating your skin. Dr. Christian Murray, a dermatologist at Women’s College Hospital, shares three ways to keep your hands clean and moisturized.  

1. Wash with lukewarm water. 
Washing your hands with water that’s excessively hot or cold is, simply, uncomfortable. Plus, using hot water will dry out your skin even more. Use a comfortable lukewarm water temperature. 

2. Put hand cream on slightly damp hands. 
After washing, dry your hands, but not fully. When they’re still a little bit damp, that’s the perfect time to use your hand cream, because it’ll help to seal the water into the skin. Let the lotion absorb completely before you touch anything. 

3. Look for hand creams with key ingredients. 
Look for ingredients like ceramides and petroleum jelly, which sit on the skin in order to prevent moisture loss. Humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin will help add an extra boost of moisture to your skin. Emollients such as almond oil and octyl dodecanol make the skin soft by filling in spaces between the skin cells with moisturizer. 

THE EXPERT Dr. Christian Murray, dermatologist, Women's College Hospital

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed in August 2020.

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  • Women's College Hospital