Give your Hands a Leg up this Winter
The winter weather can do a number on your skin. If you're not careful, small problems like slight dryness could quickly turn into painful itching and fissures that sting in the cold air. Because we often associate the winter season with increased risk of colds and flu, many people inadvertently exacerbate the dryness problem with excessive hand-washing. Here, we want to discuss how you can protect the delicate skin on your hands to prevent discomfort, not to mention premature aging.
The Skin Barrier
In order for your skin to remain as healthy as possible, it needs a barrier between cells and the outside world. The skin's natural barrier is found on the uppermost layer of the epidermis. It is referred to as the stratum corneum. This barrier is similar in makeup to a brick-and-mortar wall. The "bricks" on the stratum corneum are composed of the cells that are ready to be shed. Another important aspect of dermatologic health is the lipid layer, or mortar, that holds the ready-to-shed cells together. The lipids do more than act as cement; they give the skin its softness, firmness, and hydration.
Protecting your Skin's Covering
Damage to the stratum corneum means an increased risk of irritation. Skin that is unable to hold adequate moisture may become itchy, cracked, and uncomfortable. Winter weather is harsh enough on this barrier. Because there is little that can be done to change Mother Nature, we must take care to avoid harsh products and chemicals that leach the skin of its natural protective layer. We can do this by:
- Limiting use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Washing hands less frequently, and only with mild soap.
- Using thicker moisturizing cream, and applying cream while hands are damp after washing.
- Wearing gloves when washing dishes or cleaning house.
Individuals who are prone to dry skin, or who have a chronic skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, may benefit from emollient-type moisturizer. This thicker formulation is especially useful for nighttime application, and may be complemented by wearing cotton gloves overnight.
Chronic inflammation is an unnecessary pain. If your hands are already showing signs of irritation, call us. We can help you develop a care plan for healthy skin. (832) 770-6388.