Did you know that healthy skin on your hands is important for a healthy body because it is an excellent barrier to infectious microbes? So as the harsh winter weather begins to take its toll on your hands, it’s important to know that there are some measures you can take to keep them healthy.
Some simple tips to keep your hands healthy during the harsh winter months include:
- Hydrate your skin and augment its natural oils and waxes with moisturizers. Good moisturizers contain hydrophilic (water-loving) ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to attract moisture to your skin. They contain non-irritating, skin compatible oils and waxes like jojoba seed oil, petrolatum, dimethicone and glyceryl stearate to lock in the moisture. Apply often and especially whenever your skin feels tight – an indicator that the skin is not sufficiently hydrated and plasticized.
- An ideal time to apply a moisturizer is soon after washing your hands to lock in some of the moisture. Some moisturizers also contain soothing and anti-inflammatory agents like aloe vera, panthenol and bisabolol; these can be helpful if your skin is already irritated.
- Protect your hands from the cold by using gloves when outside.
- Minimize your exposure to oil and wax removing solvents, soaps and detergents. This includes washing your hands with warm water and harsh soaps. Wash your hands in cool water and use gentle cleansing soaps with added moisturizers; avoid cleansers with harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate. If you prefer natural soaps, choose soaps with low sodium cocoate content and wash using soft water (hard water combines with natural soaps to deposit irritating soap scum on your skin). Your skin should feel smooth and soft after washing. If it feels dry or tight, you may need to use a different soap. Gently pat your skin dry to minimize abrasion.
If your hands are not visibly soiled, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially those with added moisturizers and skin care agents, are a better hand hygiene option than soap and water. While many believe the frequent use of hand sanitizers will dry out your hands or your skin, the truth is that formulation matters. PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer has been developed to be used repeatedly without damaging the skin.
In addition, remember to practice hand hygiene at key moments since the winter is also winter-germ season. This will help you to reduce the risk of becoming ill. These key moments are:
Before and after preparing food;
Before and after caring for someone that is sick or around someone who is ill;
After using the bathroom;
After sneezing or coughing; and
After touching anything that is in a high traffic area that may have been touched by many different hands, such as the grocery cart handle, counter-tops, handles, a phone or a handrail.
So there you have it. Keep your hands healthy by keeping the skin on your hands healthy by protecting its uppermost layer, the stratum corneum barrier. Moisturize it often with effective moisturizers, use cool water and mild soaps with added moisturizers to wash your hands, dry your hands gently, and use ethanol-based sanitizers with added moisturizers for hand hygiene when the hands are not soiled.
For more information about the health benefits of clean and healthy hands, check out the GOJO Hand Hygiene Hub.