Protect Hands from Winter’s Chill

Winter can be beautiful with a blanket of snow covering the ground, but what can be less beautiful are the effects of the bitter cold on our skin – especially our hands.

Posted: Jan. 24, 2018 7:39 AM
Updated: Jan. 24, 2018 7:39 AM

CLEVELAND – Winter can be beautiful with a blanket of snow covering the ground, but what can be less beautiful are the effects of the bitter cold on our skin – especially our hands.

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According to Thomas Knackstedt, M.D., a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, when it comes to beating dry winter skin, some products work better than others.

“I generally recommend that my patients stick to creams to treat dry skin,” said Dr. Knackstedt. “They tend to have more oils in them than the comparable lotion, often times by the same brand. The creams are usually what you find in tubs rather than in any sort of pump bottles.”

Dr. Knackstedt said dry winter skin is a very common problem this time of year.

He said most people start to notice it as early as November and it’s a problem that can hang around until early spring.

Dr. Knackstedt recommends using hand creams that contain ceramides, which can help re-create the oil barrier that we normally have on the skin’s surface.

For those with very dry skin, he said few things beat regular petroleum jelly – especially when we know that we’re going to be outside in the very cold weather.

Dr. Knackstedt said the severity of dry winter skin can depend on how cold it gets where a person lives, but one thing is for sure – we all have break-down of the skin barrier as we age.

“The skin barrier breaks down, and so elderly people are much more prone to having break-outs like this than younger people,” he said. “Also, those with underlying conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis are going to find that they are more susceptible to flares during winter months.”

Dr. Knackstedt admitted it can be tricky during the winter – because it’s also cold and flu season – we want to keep our hands clean at all times, but the constant washing can really dry them out.

He recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer which can clean hands, but help retain some moisture.

Also, being mindful of the water temperature – by dialing it down a notch during the winter months – can go a long way.

“Warm water gets rid of a lot of the oils that we have on our skin,” said Dr. Knackstedt. “If you just picture what happens when you’re washing the dishes, how hot water will get rid of a lot of the cooking oils, it’s the same thing with our hands.”

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