Oftentimes, people focus so much attention on tending to their facial skincare routines that they completely forget that the rest of the body needs extra TLC to look and feel its best, too. Namely, the hands.
“The skin on the backs of the hands is just as sensitive and susceptible to drying out as skin on other areas of the body,” explains board-certified dermatologist Susan Van Dyke, MD. “Water ironically accelerates dryness because the natural skin oils can be removed. This, paired with the fact that many people are washing their hands more than ever before [these days], is exactly why you may feel that the skin on your hands is looking older and drier than normal."
Meet the Expert
- Susan Van Dyke, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who works with Crepe Erase.
- Onyeka Obioha, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles.
- Mona Gohara, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Dove spokesperson.
- Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon based in New York City.
Of course, weather plays a role, too. According to board-certified dermatologist Onyeka Obioha, MD, cold weather can dry out the skin’s natural oils, breaking down the lipid-rich barrier on the hands that’s responsible for maintaining moisture and protecting the hands against external environmental aggressors. “The result is dry, cracked skin,” she says. “Unlike facial skin, the skin on the hands has fewer oil glands, thus is particularly vulnerable to dryness and irritation with frequent exposure to water and oil-stripping soaps. So cold weather, frequent hand washing, harsh soaps, and hand sanitizer use can cause the skin on the hands to be dry.”
So what's the solution? We asked Van Dyke, Obioha, and board-certified dermatologists Mona Gohara, MD, and Dendy Engelman, MD, for their tips on keeping hands soft, supple, and moisturized. Read on for their tips.
Just like your face can benefit from hyaluronic acid—an ingredient known to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water—so can your hands. “After you apply your hyaluronic acid serum to your face, add a few drops to the back of your hands for plumping,” suggests Gohara, who notes that hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that acts like a sponge to absorb water. As a result, just a few drops can work a world of wonder on the back of your hands.
Another facial skincare technique that can benefit dry hands is masking. “A great way to pack in tons of moisture to your hands is a hand mask,” says Engelman. “If your hands are extremely dry and desperate for moisture, I recommend a DIY-at-home mask: Before bed, lather them in an extremely thick moisturizer or healing ointment, put on washable gloves or socks, and let the product seep into your skin throughout the night. For a more luxurious experience (if your hands are not in critical condition) you can also purchase single-use hand masks, which help soften skin and add an extra dose of moisture.”
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Engelman says that moisturizing is absolutely crucial for maintaining the health and youthful appearance of your hands, especially during colder months when we tend to see more dryness and cracking. “Look for a cream with intensely hydrating and soothing ingredients,” she instructs. “I love La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Hand Cream because it offers rapid relief for dryness, and continuously hydrates hands for up to 48 hours, even through washes.”
If you choose to source a different hand cream, Obioha says the key is to look for thick hand creams rich in emollients with ceramides. She suggests products made with glycerin, petrolatum, dimethicone, fats, and oils, as all of these ingredients help to really reinforce the skin barrier and prevent moisture from being lost. As a general rule of thumb, though, she says to opt for thick hand creams and ointments rather than water-based lotions.
Be Mindful When it Comes to Hand Sanitizer
This is two-fold. First, let’s talk specifically about hand sanitizer. “Certain hand sanitizers contain bacteria-killing ingredients that are very harsh on the skin,” Engelman warns. "Frequent hand sanitizer use can wreak havoc on the skin of our hands. To prevent this, seek out a gentle hand sanitizer with ingredients that won’t dry out the skin—like Touchland, which utilizes ethyl alcohol (a safe germ-killing ingredient, when used as recommended), essential oils, and aloe vera to keep both you and your hands protected.”
What you wash your hands with matters, too. Gohara recommends steering clear of harsh foaming formulas and reaching for a gentle hydrating cleanser, like Dove Deep Cleansing Moisturizing Hand Wash in Deep Moisture. “It’s made with 100 percent gentle cleansers and a blend of nutrients and moisturizers that leave the hands soft and nourished,” she shares.
Inside, outside—anywhere it warrants. “This is an easy way to prevent your hands from not only becoming dry and cracked but also from developing premature signs of aging,” Engelman says. “Wearing the appropriate type of gloves when handling dishes and spending time outside in the winter can help save your hands from unnecessary damage. To further boost your skin’s health, apply moisturizer before putting on the gloves; this traps in all the hydrating, soothing ingredients while preventing the product from rubbing off, so your hands can reap the full moisturizing, healing benefits.”
Avoid Heavy Fragrances
Obioha reminds us that, no matter the hand care product you’re stocking up on, if dryness and irritation are of concern it’s best to avoid heavy fragrances, as they can exacerbate the issue. “Dionis Unscented Goat Milk Hand Cream is fragrance-free and jam-packed with hydrating ingredients such as goat milk, glycerin, and dimethicone,” she shares.
If your hands are especially dry, you may feel inclined to exfoliate them. “Avoid harsh mechanical exfoliants such as those with beads,” Obioha says. “Opt for cleansers and creams with gentle exfoliants such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid, all of which break bonds and slough off dead skin cells."
Sure, by now you know to always apply sunscreen on your face before leaving the house—but can you say the same for your hands?
“Environmental aggressors like UV rays and pollution are extremely damaging to the skin because they introduce free radicals, which are unstable atoms that ‘steal’ electrons from other atoms, creating a domino effect of instability in the skin which weakens the skin barrier and speeds up the aging process—giving your skin fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and other signs of aging,” Engelman explains. “To protect against this, apply SPF to your hands every day, just as you would (or should!) do to your face.”
Use a Humidifier
A not-so-obvious hand rejuvenation method is to address the very air that you live in. “Running a humidifier in your home is a great way to prevent your skin from drying out, as it helps keep the humidity at an ideal level to prevent moisture loss,” Engelman explains. “I recommend the Canopy Humidifier because it’s the cleanest option out there, and it’s hassle-free—all you have to do is fill the tank with water, plug it in, press a button, and enjoy healthier, more hydrated skin. The Canopy Humidifier does not emit mist, and it’s built with technology that prevents mold and bacteria from growing—meaning you can enjoy easy, pure hydration without any nasty side effects.”
Consider In-Office Treatments
If these maintenance methods aren’t delivering the results you’d like—and especially if you’re hoping to turn back the clock on your hands—in-office treatments are an option.
“Hands can look boney and veins can look enormous as the hands lose fat and muscle,” explains Van Dyke. “Volume replacement with fillers such as Restylane Lyft or Radiesse is FDA-approved for the hands and works very well to give a more youthful contour. Laser resurfacing is another great way to rejuvenate the skin on the hands, reduce sun damage and fine lines, and improve thinning skin. And Fraxel, and its more gentle cousin Clear and Brilliant, both use laser energy to remove damaged tissue and stimulate new elastin and collagen.”
Which is all to say, you have options. To determine which is best for you, seek the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist.
John HE, Price RD. Perspectives in the selection of hyaluronic acid fillers for facial wrinkles and aging skin. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2009;3:225-230.