How to make my hands less dry!
March 7, 2012 9:34 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to stop my hands from turning into a scaley, flakey, mess?

For work-related reasons, I go, multiple times a day, into places where I must thoroughly wash my hands each time I leave due to public health issues. I also just moved to an apartment without a dishwasher, located in a near-desert climate. Oh, and my sport of choice involves a lot of time in the water.

I've always had dry skin, but my hands are getting out of control. They've turned simultaneously flakey, scaley, and super-dry. I'm moisturizing throughout the day, but that doesn't seem to solve the problem for more than an hour or so (and it ultimately gets kind of gross, after awhile).

Does anyone have any suggestions for actions I could take to minimize damage to my hands or products (different lotions perhaps) that might do a good job? I am already washing dishes in gloves, which, although they don't keep all the water out, do a better job than just doing the dishes by hand without them.
posted by Nx to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You could start by adding super-duper moisturizing at night -- I like Eucerin. Do it right after you get out of the shower, and then cover your hands with socks (better than gloves) for the night. Be religious about doing this every night.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:42 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, one other idea: At work, when you go into the area with the public health issues -- what if you wore gloves when you go in, and then remove/discard the gloves when you come out to spare yourself having to wash so many times. Is that acceptable? Exam gloves or surgical gloves or something like that?
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:44 PM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: The only thing that keeps my hands moisturized the whole day (seriously, my mom's hands are like friggin' lizard hands and dry skin runs in the family) is to put a heavy duty moisturizer on immediately after I shower. Like, you just stepped out of the shower, still nude, just toweled off and a little damp. I use the Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream everywhere in the morning except for my face. I use it on my face/neck and hands at night. It is SO GOOD.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like Lush's Helping Hands hand cream - it's very emollient but non greasy, and good for ultra dry, flaky hands.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:56 PM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: Using a humidifier at night (specifically this one) has made a million times difference with my dry skin -- granted it's not as bad as yours sounds, but it ought to help.
posted by brainmouse at 10:10 PM on March 7, 2012

Can you wear surgical gloves for part of your working day to cut down on the hand washing?
posted by Jubey at 10:17 PM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, folks! Keep 'em coming!

As to those who have asked if I could wear gloves during the relevant part of my working day: Unfortunately for my hands, no I cannot. It's really non-negotiable.
posted by Nx at 10:21 PM on March 7, 2012

I use pure coconut oil for all my moisturizing needs. I also use it on my son, who has such sensitive skin that even just using water to wash his hands turns them red and flaky, and in the winter they chap so bad they crack. It's really worked wonders, and it's super cheap - a $7 tub lasts months.
posted by dotgirl at 10:38 PM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: Could you possibly use a barrier cream at the start of the day? I've only used the Avon one, which is better than nothing but not exactly miraculous, but I know there are much more heavy duty ones including some that you spray on. Also, it's important to really dry your hands each time you wash - it's counter-intuitive, but leaving water on your hands dries them out really badly. Even using the hot air dryer is better!
posted by Cheese Monster at 10:52 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mr. K must have used every product on every store shelf in our town -- bag balm, Norwegian fishermen, superduperextraspecial -- and his hands got worse and worse, especially in winter. But like two lights, he was rescued by Cetaphil moisturizing cream. All he does is put it on his hands just before he goes to sleep. You might need to add gloves at night, or to use it multiple times, but it really did work a miracle at our house. (It also healed my torn curticles, which have been a wreck since the late '60s.)
posted by kestralwing at 10:55 PM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: Is it possible that you're allergic to or sensitive to the soap at your work? That might explain the irritation, especially if it's a harsh antibac. You might look into bringing your own, gentler soap.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:57 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

O'Keeffe's Working Hands applied immediately after a shower or before bedtime.
posted by plokent at 11:07 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like Lush's Charity Pot. I also have very dry hands (we're talking bleeding here...literally) and I realized years ago that certain moisturizers actually make it worse, in the sense that they either make my hands "addicted" to it or they only give the illusion of moisturizing momentarily by "wetting" the skin (which is what a lot of drugstore moisturizers do...). Now, I stick to the less ingredients possible, with the most moisturizing ones up the list. Check out the Skin Deep cosmetic database if you want to see where your lotion stands and what's in it. Pure almond oil is the best moisturizer I've found. Likewise, anything with almond oil in it will usually be very effective for me. My sister used to sip a tablespoon of virgin olive oil a day to help with her dry skin and it helped, too.
Honestly, one of my favorite hand creams is from my local health food store, it's made here in quebec and has few and very simple ingredients, no fuss packaging, and it works great.
Also seconding bringing your own soap if your line of work allows it, and drying your hands.
posted by kitsuloukos at 12:00 AM on March 8, 2012

Best answer: If you have eczema, your doctor can give you a prescription for a steroid cream that will help with the flakiness. Might be worth getting it checked out regardless.

The two things I've changed in my daily habits - eliminated using soaps and detergents with sodium sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate) and religiously use a moisturizer after washing my hands. SLS is in just about everything so it's pretty hard to avoid (I do use the supplied soap in the office bathroom, which has it) but you could carry your own soap around that does not include it.

My doctor recommended using Cera Ve over Cetaphil and Eucerin, but I'm not sure how much of that is just personal preference. It does seem to help my skin more than the other two.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:13 AM on March 8, 2012

Gloves In A Bottle.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

O'Keeffe's Working Hands REALLY, really works. Try it! I get mine from Amazon.
posted by houseofdanie at 5:33 AM on March 8, 2012

In my hospital volunteering position, I have the same issue. Alternating between antibacterial gel and the full scrub helps. Also get some Palmolive dishwashing gloves. They're not as thick as normal dishwashing gloves.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:04 AM on March 8, 2012

Two things that work for me:

1- Do not use antibacterial soaps with Triclosan in them.
2- Do not use moisturizers with oatmeal components.
3- Use straight Nivea after showering.
posted by gjc at 6:07 AM on March 8, 2012

You could also attack this from the inside out: start eating flax seed oil. You have to get the nice stuff kept in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. Blitz three tablespoons with yogurt and some jam to make a little morning shake. I know it sounds like a lot of oil to eat every day, but it's full of the fatty acids that are extremely good for you, and for your skin.
posted by Specklet at 6:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

An old roommate swore by Corn Huskers Lotion.
posted by BlooPen at 7:06 AM on March 8, 2012

My sister is a dermatologist, and the solution she recommends is pretty basic -- coating hands in petroleum jelly at night (underneath gloves).
posted by Falwless at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have eczema and once I get into the scaly-hands cycle, which happens a couple of times a year, the only thing that will fix it is a prescription-strength steroid ointment. YMMV.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:30 AM on March 8, 2012

Do you moisturize your hands every single time they come into contact with soap and water? My dry skin has improved markedly since I started carrying my own thick, high-quality hand cream and using it religiously every time I wash my hands.
posted by decathecting at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have eczema, your doctor can give you a prescription for a steroid cream that will help with the flakiness.

They'll give you hydrocortisone, most likely, which you can buy without a prescription -- the prescription version is just slightly stronger.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:08 AM on March 8, 2012

Best answer: Rubber gloves for washing dishes, humidifier when you're home and heavy moisturizer in cotton gloves at night.

Moisturizer after a shower is also good (I use Cetaphil myself) but once you wash your hands with soap, most of the protective properties of moisturizer leave.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2012

I've mostly solved this with two things:

1. I bring my own soap to work: a bottle of Dr. Bronner's baby liquid soap that I keep next to every sink I use

2. Shea butter when it gets really bad, especially at night so it has time to work

Also, I guess I should add (though this may just be me:

3. Cutting out sugar and white flour and, for some reason, especially any non-dariy creamers. These things will make my hands itch and scale and crack even if I am being farily good about 1 and 2.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:16 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you have to use sanitizer when you wash your hands for work? I've known a couple people (nurse, food service) who've had this problem and sanitizer is hell on hands. One person's work finally switched to a moisturizing version of sanitizer which seemed to help. If it's just soap, they make moisturizing versions of that too. See if your manager can switch. You probably aren't the only one having problems with this.
posted by stray thoughts at 9:22 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Drinking water will not hurt.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Gloves in a Bottle (stopped my problems!) -- starting first thing in the morning after washing, and right before going to bed at night after you wash your face or whatever, and carry a small bottle with you. Also, definitely no alcohol-based sanitizers, and avoid lotions with Vitamin E -- my dermatologist and the American Dermatological Association say it's a common cause of dermatitis.
posted by wintersweet at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, these are all fantastic suggestions! So far, I've started religiously drying my hands every time I wash them so that there is no more "air drying." I've also started putting moisturizer on my hands NEARLY every time I wash them. (It is just not practical to do it EVERY time.) I don't use hand sanitizer regularly -- just plain old soap and water. I already drink a ton of water and moisturize after showering, but now I'll focus more on my hands in particular.

I hadn't thought to carry around my own soap, but I am betting that might make a big difference too. I cannot imagine the places I go are using anything other than the cheapest available soap. I'll also look into a humidifier and gloves.

Thanks, all!
posted by Nx at 10:36 AM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: Months later, here's what I did:
(1) Really and truly dry my hands completely each time I wash them.

(2) Get better at my job so that I don't have to keep going in and out and in and out of the handwashing areas. After I finished my probationary period, it turned out I could restructure my time so that I could get more done per visit, which has minimized the number of handwashings per day.

(3) Keep a big tub of the old school Nivea creme beside my computer. I used it more or less whenever I got back to the office, and repeated use seemed to help.

(4) Replaced the soap (at my own very minor expense) at the sink nearest my desk with gentler soap.

(5) Moisturizing after showers and before bed.

(6) Carry small bottle of moisturizing lotion with me everywhere. That way if I miss a step somewhere or feel an attack of the flakiness coming on, I can discreetly moisturize my hands and head the problem off at the pass.
posted by Nx at 11:50 AM on September 3, 2012

« Older Training for a century but not that seriously   |   File organization for fools Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.