Cheap and Easy Ways to Protect Your Hands in Winter
by Joni Lambert
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Many people look forward to the coming of winter as a time of year that brings such enjoyable activates as the holidays, skiing, and snowboarding. Anyone who has ever lived through a harsh winter, however, knows the havoc the season can wreak on our hands.
According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS,) at least 81 million Americans suffer from dry, uncomfortable skin during winter, blaming factors such as dropping temperatures and indoor heating, both of which result in drier air.
Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center, Dr. Rebecca A. Kazin says, "Keeping warm is a priority, but it sucks the moisture out of your skin."
Additional factors, such as shoveling snow and scraping ice off of windshields, only add to the problem of dry, cracked skin developing on our hands in winter. This condition is not only unsightly, but it also can be painful and even lead to infection. There are inexpensive and simple measures you can take to help you keep your hands as youthful-looking and healthy as possible throughout the winter months.
Avoid Hot Showers
Hot showers may sound attractive in the cold winter when you want to warm up, but they strip the skin on your hands of natural moisturizing lipid. Instead, take a shorter, warm shower. It is also worth noting that alcohol based cleansers contribute to the problem. There are numerous inexpensive body cleansing products available that will get the job done and actually add moisture to the skin.
Make it convenient to moisturize often by keeping bottles of lotion in several locations you frequent, such as by your computer, by each sink in your home, and by your bed side. Also make it a habit to apply moisturizer after showering or washing your hands.
Remove Dead Skin
Exfoliate at least twice a week to remove dead skin cells that may act as a shield preventing moisturizer to penetrate. Exfoliating products, such as sugar or salt scrubs, are inexpensive and readily available anywhere soaps and body washes can be found.
Wearing gloves or mittens as you head outdoors during the winter protects your hands from losing precious moisture. Heated gloves, battery powered gloves that produce heat, may be a temptation when the cold weather comes, but be aware that they may actually add to the problem and further dry the skin on your hands.
Consume plenty of Omega 3 fats, which help keep the skin moisturized. Foods rich in these healthy oils include flaxseeds, walnuts, and wild salmon. Eggs and avocado are also a good source for Omega 3 fats. Eating dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, or romaine lettuce can contribute to hydrating your skin from the inside out. If you're strapped for time, grab an Omega 3 supplement.
You're body needs plenty of water to stay hydrated. Dr. Sheila Tucker, Administrative Dietitian for Boston College, emphasizes the need for replacing moisture lost due to winter conditions, saying with, "Prolonged exposure to heated or recirculated air there is a drying effect to the skin." Tucker recommends consuming between nine and thirteen cups of water daily, depending on your body weight.
The use of humidifiers is a good technique to keep your hands moisturized during the winter. During winter, with the heat on and the windows closed, the air inside your home can become very dry, causing itching and irritation to the skin. Use a humidifier to replace moisture in the air. These fairly inexpensive devices can make a huge difference, so consider getting one for each room of the house that you spend a lot of time in. It is important to clean them regularly to avoid bacteria and fungi buildup.
Protection from the Sun
No matter what season it is, the sun is still shining and you still need a sunscreen to protect the skin on your hands against harmful ultraviolet rays. Try to wear a moisturizer with a minimum of SPF 15 on your hands and all exposed skin throughout the winter. The sunlight-reflecting quality of snow can actually leave you with sunburn, adding to the discomfort of winter hands. Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Eivins says, "With every 1,000 feet in altitude, you will get 10 percent more sun exposure and less atmosphere to filter."
Following these simple steps can help prevent the common issues wintertime can cause on our hands and allow us to enjoy the winter wonderland.
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