Caring for our hands
Our hands play a vital role in our day to day lives. We are usually unaware of the toll everyday life takes on our hands, because they’re just so integral to who we are and what we do. We use them daily, and they go through a lot. Beyond daily exposure to the elements, we also expose them to several external substances and chemicals, potentially without realising. All this use can result in dry skin on hands, and dry chapped hands in general. Caring for our hands and skin is very important; prolonged skincare ensures that we protect our skin for years to come. When we expose our hands as we do every day, if we fail to take care of our hands properly, over time you will find them to deteriorate. Just as we moisturise and care for the rest of our body with body lotions and skin routines, why should we not for our hands?
Why is caring for our hands important?
Caring for our hands is important because, like any kind of skincare, you can better protect your skin cells, helping to maintain healthy skincare, avoiding irritation and dry skin. Dry skin and poor skin care can lead to premature ageing in regards to skin condition, and handcare is a vital step to locking in that all-important moisture that keeps our hands smooth, supple, healthy and clean. No matter how we use our hands – whether to hold something, hug someone, wash something – we are exposing it to external irritants, and if you think about what our hands go through in a day, of course, it makes sense to care for them as we do other parts of the body.
A hand care routine should be part of your everyday skincare regardless, but if you are unsure of trying to work out if you need to care for your hands more, then look out for the following.
Why use hand cream in your skincare?
Keeping our hands moisturised has never been so important! The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our lives in so many ways, and protecting our hands has become more prevalent with an increase in daily handwashing. Consistent handwashing can result in dry, damaged and chapped skin if you aren’t careful.
Here at The Somerset Toiletry Company, we have championed hand care for years, and this year is no different. We’ve decided to put together a blog post featuring the main reasons why you should use hand cream regularly as part of your skincare routine.
What are the benefits of hand cream?
The use of antiseptic gels along with the continual hand washing that we are all rightly doing at the moment wreak havoc on the sensitive skin on our hands. Studies have clearly shown, what most of us already know, that hands are rougher and drier when not using hand moisturiser. As we are all washing our hands more frequently this for some, can lead to irritant contact dermatitis. Using hand cream after washing can quite quickly give moisture back and help prevent dry, rough and damaged skin.
When should I use hand cream?
Our hands are one of the first places to show signs of ageing. Most of us understand the need for a healthy facial skincare routine to keep our youthful looks as long as we can, but if we don’t look after our hands they can easily give the game away. Using a moisturising hand cream not only keeps our skin soft and smooth but also helps keep them looking younger for longer.
How does hand cream work?
The skin on the back of our hands is decidedly different to the skin on our palms. The skin on the top of our hands is really quite thin and has fewer sebaceous glands, meaning it can become dry very quickly. Conversely, the skin on our palms is much thicker and consequently, the moisture requirement to penetrate this area of the hands needs to be rich and full of moisture-binding ingredients. It is for this reason that we have created hand creams that have been formulated to ensure the entirety of the hand is looked after.
Signs you need to care for your hands:
Very dry skin
Excessively sweaty hands
Rough skin and callouses
Itchy hands and palms
What causes dry hands ?
COVID 19 has understandably seen more of us washing our hands far more frequently. Handwashing is still seen as one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the virus. Although washing your hands frequently helps stop the spread, it can lead to very dry skin from overwashing, meaning our hands are more at risk of getting eczema or dermatitis.
Harsh soaps and shampoos
When we’re washing our hands, or taking a shower or bath, we don’t think twice about the products we use. It’s easy to assume our hands are protected by the hand and body wash products we’re using. However occasionally, the soaps you use actually contain harsh ingredients that could be causing more harm than good. This is certainly the case if you have sensitive skin, which can flare up more easily. Mild or gentler soaps, or soaps designed for sensitive skin, may be perfect for you and will ensure you’re not making things worse every time you wash your hands.
Exposure to elements
Exposure to the weather, in particular colder temperatures, is a leading factor in causing dry and cracked hands. When the weather gets cold, the air is dryer, and there are lower humidity levels. With less moisture around, our body struggles to hold onto moisture, which causes dry skin and hands. Along with harsh winter winds and dry air, dry, artificial heat doesn’t help things. This can lead to cracked skin, and those with skin conditions may find that they experience flare-ups of eczema or psoriasis.
Depending on your occupation, you may find yourself needing more handcare than other jobs. Some jobs require you to consistently work with your hands, meaning you have to wash your hands more than usual.Certain occupations that require extensive hand washing can lead to dry hands, such as:
- Healthcare (Doctors, Nurses, General Practitioners, Vets
- Beauty (Nail technicians, hairdressers, beauty therapists, beauticians)
Essentially, any job where you are consistently working with your hands can naturally lead to exposure to rough textures, surfaces and materials. Depending on your job, you may also be exposed to harsh chemicals or formulas, or if you wear surgical gloves, this can decrease the amount of natural moisture and air getting to your hands. Bearing this in mind, it’s always worth building a handcare routine into your daily skincare regime anyway, to keep your hands moisturised and to decrease chances of dryness.
Artificial heating / temperature change
This can be a problem both in the summer and the winter. Changes in temperature and humidity levels can affect your hands. This means that in the harsher winter months, artificial heating can dry out your hands. There’s less natural moisture in artificially heated air. Similarly, in the hotter months, as your hands react to sweat and excessive moisture, this can build up on your hands. When you then expose your hands to air-conditioned air, these temperature changes reduce the moisture in the air and cause our skin to become dry and tight.
Hand sanitisers have been used far more since the pandemic began, with constant daily use to help stop the spread of viruses. Although antibacterial gels kill any bacteria on the hands, the residue may still exist on your hands. Similarly, constant use of hand sanitisers can cause your hands to feel dry and rough. This is why it’s important to make sure you care for your hands daily if you consistently use a hand sanitiser.
Hot showers and baths
Although a hot bath or shower may sound right up your street, (particularly in the colder months) it’s best to avoid hot water when washing. It is better to bathe in warm water, as hot water dries our skin out and can strip our skin of important oils.
Latest expert advice on hand care to keep in mind
“With all of the handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitiser use, we are seeing a huge increase in cases of hand dermatitis. If the skin on your hands is getting dry and irritated, don’t stop washing and sanitising, but here are some tips:
It’s fine to use a hand sanitiser that contains moisturisers as long as the alcohol content is at least 60%.
It’s fine to use gentle soap as long as you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. It doesn’t matter what soap you use – it’s the combination of soap plus mechanical disruption that works to rid hands of the virus. There is no advantage to using antibacterial soap when it comes to covid.
Detergents can strip the skin of oils and lead to dryness and irritation, but water alone is enough to dry out the skin as well. This may sound counterintuitive but water, especially hot water, can dry out the skin. Use lukewarm water and minimize the time and frequency in the water as much as possible.
Immediately after you’ve sanitized or washed, before your hands have dried, apply a moisturizer to help lock in the moisture.”
For more of her tips and advice, follow Dr Hadley King on Instagram @drhadleyking
Tips for hand care
Use gentle handwash
Gentle hand washes that are suited for sensitive skin can help avoid irritation or rashes. If you regularly flare-up, you can find a hand wash that is suited for your skin type with dermatologically safe, free from parabens.
Exfoliate your hands regularly
Exfoliating your hands is different from moisturising your hands. Exfoliants are naturally a rougher consistency than hand creams, and they work to extract any dead skin cells or remnants from constant use and interaction with the elements. This more granular substance should be worked into the skin in a circular motion. Our skin naturally sheds around 30 skin cells a day, and by including exfoliation into your routine about once a week.
Check out some of our favourite exfoliators
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the skin as ultraviolet light can burn the skin, reducing its elasticity and damaging the outer layer of melanin. Too much sun exposure allows UV rays to penetrate the lower layers of your skin that can cause long term damage, so by wearing suncream you’re protecting yourself from being burnt.
Don’t forget to moisturise
Moisturising hand and body lotions will be thinner than hand creams, as they have higher water content. Hand creams will be thicker in texture because of their high oil percentage. It’s important to remember to moisturise as well as use hand cream, as they treat your hands in different ways. For more on this, read our guide: Hand Cream vs Hand Lotion
Avoid very hot water when you wash your hands
As mentioned above, very hot water can dry out your hands, doing more harm than good. Warm water is kinder to our hands and helps to lock in moisture when we bathe and wash.
Avoid hand dryers
Hand dryers can cause our hands to dry out, as we are rapidly applying artificial hot air to our hands that immediately reduces the moisture out of our hands. It is better to gently pat your hands dry with a towel.
Apply hand cream and body lotion after bathing
After a long bath or shower, we need to restore the moisture in our hands and condition with a formula that works to protect and nourish the skin.
Wear gloves if you’re doing a task that could impact your hands (cleaning, gardening, everyday work).
You can go a long way in protecting your hands by simply wearing gloves whenever you expose your hands to harsh chemicals or tools. Work gloves, medical gloves or rubber gloves are great and simple ways to protect your hands from harsh exterior elements.
Have a handcare routine
Building a regular hand care routine is the easiest way to keep on top of your hand care. You can either do this in the morning, the evening or throughout the day. We teamed up with Dermatologist Dr Hadley King to find out what the best hand care routine consists of. Here is what she recommends:
Wash hands well
Wash your hands thoroughly with gentle hand soap and water. Dry skin on your hands can be softened and smoothes by using a hand soap that’s kind to your skin, and has ingredients that help to lock in moisture as well as clean your hands. It’s important to wash hands after using the bathroom and after visibly soiling the hands, and before food preparation or eating.
Use a hand cream
By using a hand cream straight after you’ve washed your hands, it helps to lock in the moisture that can be removed from the water and drying your hands. Hand creams work to nourish and moisturise your hands, and you easily find the best hand cream for your skin type. Depending on whether you suffer from very dry hands, or have sensitive skin, or need a heavy-duty hand cream to help with dry hands caused by your job, you’ll be able to find one that suits you.
Moisturisers hydrate, support the skin barrier and help to lock in moisture. Moisturisers for the hands, as well as for any other areas of skin, ideally contain three components: humectants, emollients and occlusives. All three components will be very important for those with dry skin!
Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, are mostly low molecular weight substances that bind water into the stratum corneum. They need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content.
Emollients are saturated and unsaturated variable-length hydrocarbons that help in skin barrier function, membrane fluidity and cell signalling leading to an overall improvement in skin texture and appearance. Often used in combination with emulsifiers. Examples include cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and ceramides.
Occlusives are oils and waxes which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss. Examples include petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide.
Best natural hand cream to use
All of our hand creams have been developed using a range of ingredients, that are as natural as possible, to nourish and deeply moisturise. When looking at the ingredients we use you will notice Shea Butter features in all of them. It is our belief that Rich Shea Butter is the best moisturising and protecting ingredient for the hands. It is a skin superfood that comes from the seeds of the fruit of the Karite tree.
Shea Butter benefits
Shea butter contains a host of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and compounds that form a protective barrier on the skin while it moisturises deeper into the dermis. It may offer mild UV protection and provides the skin with essential fatty acids and the nutrients necessary for collagen protection/production. The natural vitamins and fatty acids found in shea make it extremely nourishing and moisturising for skin. It contains cinnamic acid and other natural properties such as lupeol cinnamate which have been found to reduce skin inflammation. Shea helps in the skin’s natural collagen production and contains stearic, palmitic and linolenic acids that help in protecting and nourishing the skin which helps prevent drying and chapping.
Shea has been described as forming a natural barrier that helps protect against the adverse effects of water when we wash our hands. It is able to feed the skin on the back of the hands as well as penetrate the thick layer of the palm. Shea aids in the skin’s natural collagen production and contains oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linolenic acids that protect and nourish the skin to prevent drying, soften skin and anecdotally it is observed that it helps in keeping the signs of ageing at bay.
Should we use a hand cream every time we wash our hands?
Yes! Even thick moisturisers with occlusives will be at least partially removed by hand washing so it’s important to reapply.
Consider targeted skin products
Make sure you consider any targeted skincare products based on your skin. For example, if you suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis, then include necessary creams or hand care products to combat this at this stage. This helps to make them an ideal fit for the skin area and skin type. Essential oils are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, and many hand washes contain essential oils so it is important to avoid these if you are sensitized.
Regular exfoliation is key to glowing skin. Physical and chemical exfoliation help to brighten the skin by sloughing off the old dead skin cells and revealing the fresh new cells underneath. Follow exfoliation immediately with a good moisturizer to lock in moisture and protect the newly revealed surface skin cells.
Exfoliation removes the outermost layers of the epidermis to reveal the newer skin beneath. This shedding of the outer layer keeps skin clean and also smoothes and polishes the skin, decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and evening out the texture. Exfoliation also exposes a fresh layer of skin that is ready to retain hydration when moisturizer is applied afterwards, helping to plump the skin with moisture, which makes it look younger, smoother and healthier. And over time, regular exfoliation can increase cell turnover and stimulate collagen production.
When adding exfoliation into your routine I generally recommend starting twice per week. The frequency can be increased as tolerated if the skin is not too dry or irritated.
Types of exfoliation
Exfoliation can be either chemical or physical.
Chemical exfoliants include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, citric acid, or malic acid, which may be applied in high concentrations by a dermatologist, or in lower concentrations in over-the-counter products. Chemical exfoliation may involve the use of products that contain alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids, or enzymes that act to loosen the glue-like substance that holds the cells together, allowing them to ease away.
For the hands, chemical exfoliation can come in the form of hand washes, hand serums or hand moisturisers that contain acids or enzymes.
Mechanical exfoliation often involves physically scrubbing the skin with an abrasive. Mechanical exfoliants include microfiber cloths, adhesive exfoliation sheets, micro-bead facial scrubs, crepe paper, crushed apricot kernels or almond shells, sugar or salt crystals, pumice, and abrasive materials such as sponges, loofahs and brushes. I recommend gentle forms of mechanical exfoliation– small, fine particles rather than large more abrasive particles which can leave many tiny micro-tears and cause too much irritation, or gentle devices. And for particularly sensitive skin, it may be safer to stick with chemical exfoliation.
Start your hand care routine with these top picks: