During the winter months it is important to keep your hands healthy. The skin on your hands is an excellent protective barrier and nature has designed it to be the first line of defense against infection causing germs. The outermost layer on the skin, the stratum corneum, fends off the germs and keeps the skin hydrated. Since cold air carries less water vapor, your hands can get chapped and the protective function of the skin may be compromised. So what can you do to keep your skin from drying out in the cold weather?
Here are some simple tips to maintain and promote skin health:
- Hydrate your skin with moisturizers that are oil-based and do not clog the pores. Examples of such oils include mineral oil, coconut oil and avocado oil. This will augment the natural lipids and waxes already present on your skin and boost the vitality and relieve dryness. Effective moisturizers also contain ingredients such as glycerin, sorbitol and hyaluronic acid that absorb moisture and restore skin health. It is recommended to use these moisturizers often and especially when the skin feels dry and tight.
- An ideal time to apply a moisturizer is soon after washing your hands to lock in some of the moisture. Creams that contain jojoba seed oil, petrolatum, dimethicone and glyceryl stearate lock in the moisture. You could also consider using soothing preparations that contain panthenol and oatmeal to heal irritated skin.
- Protect your hands from the cold and dry weather by using gloves when outside. This will prevent peeling and itchiness.
- Minimize your exposure to harsh soaps, detergents and hot water. Wash your hands in lukewarm or cool water and use gentle cleansing soaps with added moisturizers. Hot water can break down the natural oils in your skin. 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 residue 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 irritating the skin.
In addition, remember to practice hand hygiene at key moments since the winter is also flu season. This is the best way to protect yourself. These key moments are:
- Before and after preparing food;
- Before eating;
- 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.
For more information about the health benefits of clean and healthy hands, visit the GOJO Hand Hygiene Hub.