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Happy Winter Hands

 

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Due to the hands’ thin skin, they bear the brunt of winter weather — more than any other part of the body. The drier and colder air of the upcoming winter months can certainly be merciless to your hands. So too can be the more frequent washings to avoid cold and flu bugs.

And with all of the cooking, cleaning, crafting and wrapping that come with the holiday season,  your hands will be doing a lot more work than usual.  Chapped, sore and flaky hands certainly won’t go well with your holiday party attire, now will they?!

The most important element for happy hands?  Moisture…. humidity.  Plugging in some small humidifiers around the house can add some much-needed moisture to the air, your hands, face and more.  And don’t forget your sunscreen; it’s not just a summer time staple.  Even in the winter, exposure to the sun’s rays speeds up the aging process. This exposure increases the risk of developing dry skin, wrinkles, age spots and spider veins.  Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on all skin that will be exposed, especially the hands.

The main goal of moisturizing your hands is to protect the body’s own built-in humectant system.  The skin’s outer layer contains a collection of compounds that doctors refer to as the “natural moisturizing factor” (NMF).  Components in the NMF actually absorb moisture from the atmosphere to keep skin supple even when exposed to harsh elements.

The bad news?  The NMF is water soluble, meaning the more you wash your hands — a common wintertime illness-avoiding tactic — the more you remove your body’s natural defense against dryness.

Some of the top active ingredients you should look for when shopping for hand soaps, moisturizers and treatments:

• Dimethicone and glycerin help draw water to the skin and keep it there. Products that contain lactic acid and urea help relieve dry skin, even severe cases. Lanolin, mineral oil and petrolatum (petroleum jelly) effectively trap water in the skin.

• Consider a hand cream with skin brighteners like vitamin C, licorice or bearberry extract, or with alpha-hydroxy acids (for gentle exfoliation), and/or with hyaluronic acid (for extra moisturizing). Neem oil oral supplements help improve skin texture all over the body, including the hands.

• Calendula has demonstrated healing properties, and studies have been conducted specifically in the winter that have demonstrated argan oil’s beneficial effect on regulating sebum production resulting in improved skin condition. Sea buckthorn oil is an excellent agent for the process of cellular rejuvenation.

The number-one factor that contributes to dry hands is soap and water, especially hot water. Antibacterial soaps are especially harsh and drying, so avoid them.  Minimizing contact with soap and water can help preserve the moisture of the hands, and moisturizing immediately after washing is crucial.

It’s also essential to avoid certain products.  Hand sanitizers that contain alcohol are especially drying and should only be used in a pinch — say, if you are out to eat, have soiled hands and can’t get to a sink to wash with soap and water.  Also, look for a hand wash without sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate; this ingredient is too harsh, especially on winter-ravaged hands.  When cleaning up, say experts, avoid deodorant soaps and those with added fragrance.

Preventative care goes a long way.  Make certain to wear gloves when you venture out into the cold.  And inside, though it may conjure up images of your grandmother, wearing good old-fashioned rubber gloves when washing dishes or doing other water-based housecleaning can go a long way toward preserving your hands, especially in winter.

Proper nail care is also imperative in the winter months.  Strong nails will protect your fingertips from injury.  Keep nails clean, at an appropriate length, and make sure to hydrate the cuticles — use essential oil or cuticle cream.  If you wear nail polish, apply nail oil every other night to help polish last longer and to reduce dryness from the chemicals in polish.

Pamper your hands a little more than usual… treat yourself to an affordable and relaxing manicure at Health and Style Institute!

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