Bitter cold, drying central heating and constant soaping to ward off winter bugs combine to create the perfect storm for chapped hands.
No wonder Waitrose reports that sales of hand cream have shot up 42% in October. But is there anything else you can do to ensure your poor hands don’t suffer with the seasonal chill?
“Cold temperatures, dry air and constant washing are dehydrating in themselves, but together they seriously sap moisture from your skin,” says hand and foot expert Margaret Dabbs.
“Fortunately, a little regular care can keep your hands healthy all winter.”
Let’s start with hand washing. Because we do this so often every day, it’s important to choose the right product.
“Use a soap with naturally occurring antibacterial plant extracts like Pears,” says Margaret Dabbs.
“It gets rid of just as many germs, yet doesn’t dry your hands like an alcohol-based anti-bacterial lotion would.”
Next up, hand cream. You need a lotion that seeps into skin, rather than a greasy balm that creates a barrier.
“Balms may protect externally, but only transdermal products – ones that pass through the skin’s outer layers – feed your skin internally,” says Margaret Dabbs.
“Look for products containing lanolin, as this is one of the most effective non-greasy hydrating ingredients.”
Try Lanolips Rose Intense for Hands & Nails, a bestseller in Waitrose. It contains pure medical grade lanolin, which is used in hospitals to aid healing and repair skin.
Apply extra cream to the backs of your hands where the skin is much thinner, and also to the spaces between your fingers where dry skin is prone to cracking and chapping.
As Madonna may well testify, dry or veiny hands can be a real age giveaway. If you want to splash out to avoid the tell-tale signs, Omorovicza Nourishing Hand Treatment (omorovicza.co.uk) contains shea butter to nourish skin.
The cold can also cause previously healthy nails to become brittle and flaky, so to prevent this, focus on your cuticles.
“The cuticle is a waterproof barrier that protects the nail from physical damage,” says Margaret Dabbs.
“As it dries out, the cuticle can become brittle and tear.”
Her Nourishing Nail & Cuticle Serum (margaretdabbs.co.uk) is made with a special blend of antiseptic tea tree oil to treat infections, and emu oil to strengthen, protect and hydrate.
For a slightly cheaper alternative, try the Body Shop’s Almond Nail & Cuticle Oil, which is dispensed using a pen-style applicator that tidies ragged cuticles while moisturizing them with sweet almond oil.
Margaret also recommends having varnish-free days.
“Nail polish adds to the dehydration of the nail,” she says.
“Paint your nails for the weekend, but remove the color for the week.”
Margaret Dabbs recommends using a removal product that doesn’t strip nails, like Boots Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover.
For an at-home intensive treatment, apply hand cream before you go to bed, then pop on a pair of silk gloves (amazon.co.uk). You may look like a mad magician, but you’ll wake up with velvety-soft hands.
Alternatively, try Bliss Glamour Gloves, which soothe hands in 20 minutes. Doing all this should ward off the ill-effects of winter, but if your skin is already split, Margaret Dabbs suggests Compeed plasters, (Superdrug) the kind you normally use on blistered feet.
Finally, wear gloves to protect your hands when washing up or out in the cold. But make sure they’re two different pairs, or you’ll get some strange looks.