Help my dry hands!
February 14, 2007 7:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my hands moisturized without lotion?

I think I have some kind of obsessive disorder or something, and I wash my hands A LOT. As a result of this, during the winter months, my hands get very badly chapped and cracked, to the point of bleeding. I cannot stand lotion, as it always feels greasy and sticky, even hours after, thus making me wash my hands again. Help!
posted by Hargrimm to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Try Eucerin.
Yes, lotion-y.
No greasy, no sticky.
posted by Dizzy at 7:20 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Gloves, whenever you're outside. Hell, even if you're inside, if you don't mind looking a little nutso.

But I must add: talk to a doctor. It isn't healthy to worry about lotion hours after you've put it on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:21 PM on February 14, 2007

I use bag balm on my hands. It's sticky at first but then soaks in and you can't really feel it. I swim in addition to being around in the cold and my hands are always feeling pretty dry. You may also want to look into your hand-washing thing to see if 1) you could find a way to tone it down some or 2) barring that if there is something you could be washing your hands with that would not do such a number on them.
posted by jessamyn at 7:25 PM on February 14, 2007

Dry skin and chapped lips are often signs of dehydration. Drink lots of water, especially if you are drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol (or any other diuretic).

Use a less harsh soap and try a moisturizing soap. Also note that lotion followed by washing is probably better than no lotion at all.
posted by mharper3 at 7:27 PM on February 14, 2007

I'm honestly not trying to be a jerk, and I apologize if it comes across that way. This is an honest question:

Have you considered trying to refrain from washing your hands so much, instead of trying to figure out how to deal with the consequences of washing your hands so much?
posted by Flunkie at 7:35 PM on February 14, 2007

I get what you mean about feeling the lotion. I now like that feeling, but I can certainly feel it. I get super weird about washing my hands if there's residue on my fingertips.

I suggest wearing some strong lotion to bed with sleeping gloves. It soaks in and you can sleep through the feeling.

Also, don't oversoap. You don't need it every time if you're washing your hands more than five times a day. Don't use the hottest water every time, either.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:35 PM on February 14, 2007

Use soap that has skin softener in it. I don't like lotion either as it doesn't really do the trick and just makes my hands feel greasy. But I've found that soap with skin softener works well.
posted by nickerbocker at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2007

origins makes a good, nongreasy lotion called urgent moisture. i think handwashing is an excellent idea, it being the #1 preventative against transmitting flus, colds, staph, etc. use a moisturizing soap if you can.

also, you can apply moisturizer just to the backs of your hands (which are usually what feel dryest) with a cotton ball or something, leaving your fingertips and palms greaseless.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:45 PM on February 14, 2007

A few ideas:

1.) Drink more water.
2.) Get a humidifier for your bedroom.
3.) Increase your intake of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 fish oil, flaxseed oil). Last winter I consumed 1 Tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily. My hands were fine. This year I have not been taking it and my hands are chapped and dry. Do as I say, not as I do!
posted by Soda-Da at 7:54 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm with Flunky since you're washing obsessively to the point of making yourself bleed. This doesn't seem healthy. Maybe there's some help you can get to treat the cause instead of the symptom.

I notice my hands are dry in the morning after I shower (I use a strong soap that dries the skin a bit), and they aren't "right" until maybe noon. I only wash them after using the bathroom, and that's often just a quick rinse without soap. If I kept washing all day long, they'd be a mess.

I suggest trying a week where you only wash in the shower or after using the bathroom, if you can do it. If you can't, maybe it's time to get an evaluation from a mental health specialist. I've read handwashing is a classic OCD symptom but IANAD.
posted by putril at 8:01 PM on February 14, 2007

You can try washing with moisturizer rather than soap and then applying Gloves In a Bottle. This stuff goes right in and you can’t feel it at all. In my experience it's the best of the products containing dimethicone which protects against moisture loss.
posted by firstdrop at 8:11 PM on February 14, 2007

I don't like to have lotion on my palms or fingertips, because I feel like it will get on whatever I'm working with. I've noticed, though, that it is usually only the backs of my hands and the tops of my fingers that get dry, so now instead of squirting the lotion on the palm of my hand, I squirt it on the back and rub the two backs of my hands together. I don't even notice the lotiony feeling on the backs of my hands.
posted by textilephile at 8:27 PM on February 14, 2007

Seriously, find out how to treat the OCD handwashing instead of just going after the side-effects of it. Keeping your hands moisturized in winter is going to be an uphill battle if you're washing them every 30 minutes.
posted by knave at 8:35 PM on February 14, 2007

Response by poster: Perhaps I should write a bit more about my handwashing.

I don't wash them for no reason every 30 minutes, I just wash them for a lot of reasons, some of them out of my control. For example, I have a mild allergy to cats, but my family has two of them. My doctor has recommended that I wash my hands after I pet them so I don't get dander in my eyes or anything, so I do.

Also, I wash my hands after I eat anything using my hands. I have no problem getting them dirty while I'm eating, only afterwards I like to have them clean again before I touch anything else.

Also, I wash my hands at all the normal times: after the bathroom, handling raw foods, etc.
posted by Hargrimm at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2007

That sounds reasonable, Hargrimm. Unless washing your hands is causing problems with your life, I wouldn't think a doctor would call that OCD.

I have to wash my hands a lot because I have a toddler. For two years in a row, I've had some sort of rashy-exczema-like problem with my hands. I can't stand moisturizer. I hate the feeling. Last year, I started using a soap with moisturizer in it and it made a big difference. When it flared up this winter, I found the moisturizer soap helped again.

You may also want to use a milder soap. Don't use an anti-bac soap or anything with alcohol in it.
posted by acoutu at 8:55 PM on February 14, 2007

That "lotiony" feel squicks me out, too. Here's what I do:

Shower gel. I don't shower with shower gel, because it makes me feel like some kind of slimy eel even when I've spent many minutes trying to rinse the damn stuff off my body. I use real soap for bathing.

But what I've discovered is (and I am a big hand-washer like yourself -- ever since I started doing that I am sick much less often than I used to be) that if I wash my hands with shower gel, and then rub good old soap only between my palms and fingers, then rinse, the backs of my hands don't turn into alligator skin (or cracked and bleeding), but my palms (like the rest of my soap-washed body) still feel nice and clean.
posted by trip and a half at 8:56 PM on February 14, 2007

Hargrim, your habits don't sound any different than mine. At work, my hands do get really dry from the chemical soap the office provides, but at home I use a very gentle 'all natural' bar soap from the local food co-op, and it has worked wonders. Also, I know you've probably tried multiple lotions, but just in case you haven't, Aveeno isn't very greasy.

Also seconding the omega-3 fatty acid advice.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:04 PM on February 14, 2007

I do the exact thing as you and have the same problem.

The ONLY lotion that I've liked is ATOPALM (link to
posted by mphuie at 9:37 PM on February 14, 2007

Frequent hand washing is a very common symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You might want to attack the source of the problem and consult a doctor--there are various treatments for OCD.
posted by zardoz at 10:34 PM on February 14, 2007

This sounds a lot like OCD. You should really see someone about this. OCD isnt just about obsessively doing things, its about being excessively paranoid. You wash your hands a lot because you feel like they are never clean and then when you moisturize them you feel like its making them dirty again. If you are doing this to the point of your hands bleeding this is classic OCD. Probably mild, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. Without attention it could easily get more serious. Just be smart and look into it and know how to deal with the obsessive-compulsive / paranoid tendencies.
posted by dino terror at 10:50 PM on February 14, 2007

Seconding: drink more water, get a humidifier for the bedroom, get more essential fatty acids.

I have found these products help, too:
1. Wash hands with Cetaphil cleanser instead of soap. It gets you clean but isn't nearly as drying as soap (either liquid or bar soap).
2. Try different lotions. I have found that they vary hugely in which ones leave me feeling super-lotionny (eg Eucerin bothers me). I have liked:
a. Alba Botanica "Very Emollient" lotion - white bottle with purple stripes, available a drug stores in US and Canada. Lotionny at first, but IME that feeling goes away within 5 minutes. Unscented, too.
b. something with shea butter (eg many L'Occitane products, online or in single-brand mall stores) is great for hard-to-fix dryness. It may leave too much of a lotionny feeling for you, but might be a good once-a-day treatment.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:14 AM on February 15, 2007

I get that too, and I also dislike the greasy "lotiony" feel (which I've noticed seems to come with more heavy-duty lotions). Two things help with it:

1)I do the thing textilephile mentioned, and use the sides of my hands to get it into the knuckle valleys. That way it doesn't get on my fingers and I don't feel like I can't touch anything afterwards. I also try to use just enough to do both my hands (usually less than a full squirt) and wipe them off with a tissue if it seems like there's any left on top. (Also, I don't think lotion soaks in as well on the fronts of my hands.)
2)Avalon Organics hand and body lotion. Specifically, the lemon-scented lotion (it smells amazing; it's like lemon icing). It soaks in really well and I don't feel it there afterwards--no greasy or sticky feel. The rosemary-scented lotion, while it soaks in fairly well, seems thicker to me and it seems to stay on the surface longer and also not soften the skin as well. Also, it doesn't smell as nice. I haven't tried the peppermint-scented, so I don't know how good it is. You can probably find it at whatever grocery store you go to (I think I've seen it at Albertsons and King Soopers) for maybe $5 or so, in 12 oz pump bottles that look like this.

Also, have you looked at the ingredients lists in the lotions you don't like? They might have something in common that gives it the greasy, sticky feel.

Also also, have you tried just plain aloe vera gel, the kind you put on sunburns? That stuff soaks right in.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:21 AM on February 15, 2007

On poking around their site, either it's more expensive than I remembered, or it's just more expensive on their site than it is at the grocery store. o.O
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:24 AM on February 15, 2007

2nd aloe vera gel. it can feel a little sticky at first but it is definitely soothing and not at all greasy, and the sticky or wet feeling goes away completely after a minute or so.
posted by lgyre at 12:43 AM on February 15, 2007

Aquatain was, IIRC, developed as a base for topical medications after too many people weren't using their topical medications because the carrier was, well, lotion-y.

I think they did too good a job; it's more a skin lotion than a prescription base (though it is used for that).

I moisturise my hands a lot, and all else is intolerable. Not, I don't think, easy to find in the States, but when there, I ordered it from here. Anything else bothers me. It's not the most efficient moisturiser, but it is 'gone' moments after it's put on.
posted by kmennie at 3:33 AM on February 15, 2007

I have a similar lotion problem. Moisturizing my hands is like getting the 5 year old version of me to eat my broccoli. I hate it. I tried starting to use one of those anti-bacterial hand sanitizers with aloe in it, but ick, still too sticky. And I think those might be drying me out too.

Thank you for asking this question, the responses are incredibly helpful to me too!
posted by zackola at 6:45 AM on February 15, 2007

I too have non-OCD cracked & dry hands, especially in winter. I second and third and fourth the following:
1) Humidifier
2) Dove or Cetaphil cleanser for washing 'em
3) Bag Balm or Aquaphor for overnight intense moisturizing- you can apply it and then wear sran wrap or sox or medical exam gloves (available at any drugstore, latext or non) on your hands to pack it in and avoid getting suspicious stains on your sheets.
If these don't help, you may want to consider seeing a dermatologist to determine if this might be dishydrosis or a mild form of eczema.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:52 AM on February 15, 2007

I'm pretty similar--hideously dry and cracking skin, continuously washing my hands and using Purell. I've found that Softsoap's Milk and Honey keeps my hands just fine, though.
posted by J-Train at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2007

Corn Huskers Lotion says it's oil free. It soaks right in. 60 seconds ago I put some on my fingertips and here I am typing. It can be hard to find but be sure to have some on hand for your next husking bee. Your fellow cornhuskers will thank you.

Beg Balm is for emergency use, overnight, topped by knit gloves you'll want to throw out afterwards.
posted by sevenstars at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2007

Drink plenty of water. Another folk remedy I've heard of -- but never tried -- is wrapping your hands in towels soaked in white vinegar. Something about the vinegar works to alleviate dryness. Someone else mentioned Corn Huskers Lotion. It's good stuff. Not greasy, and it works.
posted by gb77 at 8:23 AM on February 15, 2007

Aside from the mention of OCD in the original question (which may have been an exaggeration), the OP has indicated that the handwashing takes place after contact with normal contaminants/allergens. The OP has not indicated that the handwashing interferes with daily life, although skin breakdown may be a symptom of OCD. IANAD, but it sounds like the OP should take steps to mitigate the skin condition and perhaps follow up with a doctor. But I think making a diagnosis of OCD is premature, at least based on the info here.
posted by acoutu at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2007

I have OCD, and while my hand washing problems have decreased, I've been left with chronic eczema on my hands. The only, and I mean ONLY lotion to ever help me is Cetaphil, the kind in a tube with "Shea butter."

It is not greasy, and helps immensely. I can only find it at Target in my area these days, but sometimes it is at Walgreens.

And yes to all the above - if you need help with this problem other than lotions, please seek it out.
posted by agregoli at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2007

I work at a library and because of handling dirty books all day I also have to wash my hands several times throughout, ending up with bleeding cracks like you. The only thing that has worked for me (also an eczema sufferer) has been washing with Cetaphil skin cleanser, and following it up with Cetaphil lotion (thanks askmefi). thinkingwoman has it right, apply it to your hands with a swab or something else...
posted by sneakyalien at 11:32 AM on February 15, 2007

I don't think it's OCD. Handwashing after handling animals, food, using the bathroom is a good health habit. Better dry skin than another cold.

Try different products. Lotion generally has some sort of oil as well as skin softener, fragrance and maybe additional products that the maker attributes special qualities to. You could vaseline your hands and wear cotton gloves for a couple of hours and get good results. Try a lot of different hand creams. You may be able to find something with a scent you love, or a bearable texture. Second the back of hands recommendation.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2007

If you think it's OCD, see a doctor. Otherwise, maybe try a very mild and/or moisturizing soap? Dermatologists recommend Dove for dry/sensitive skin (they really do, because it contains a very mild cleanser instead of actual soap). I also really like Jason's handsoap.
posted by walla at 1:05 PM on February 15, 2007

Further note: Cetaphil cleanser is expensive, but most drugstores make their own store brand for 1/3 the price. Check to see that the ingredient lists are the same, and the generic brand will be fine, IME.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:34 PM on February 15, 2007

Consider not just using a mild natural liquid soap but also significantly diluting it. I would recommend Dr. Bronner's pure castille soap, diluted at least twice as much as the bottle suggests. This way you can get the sensation of washing with soap, and a lot of the cleansing effect, without so much actual drying effect.
posted by lorimer at 3:33 PM on February 15, 2007

Vitamin E supplements seem to make my skin softer.

Also, I swear by Lush's Dream Cream. I don't like lotion hands either so I apply liberally, rub for a while, and then wipe the excess off on a hand towel. I find it keeps my hands soft for hours, without the lotion feel.
posted by macinchik at 5:46 PM on February 15, 2007

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