July 16th, 2018

To Your Health: Keep your hands healthy

By Gillian Slade on November 27, 2017.

Even with the best of intentions about keeping my hands moisturized when the cold weather starts, they are already very dry.

Dry, flaky skin can be itchy and uncomfortable. Those little cracks in the corners are another level of pain altogether — out of all proportion for the size of the little fissures.

Wearing rubber gloves while washing dishes and using detergent certainly is a good preventative measure but we are all guilty of skipping that step when we are rushed.

So, then it comes down to the frequent use of a really good hand repair cream but it can be difficult to choose. Sometimes the product is available in several compounds — cream, lotion or ointment. Apparently they all include a certain amount of oil and water but the ratios are different and they will feel different on your hands.

Typically an ointment will have a higher concentration of oil and feel more greasy. While that may not be appropriate during the day it may be ideal when you are going to bed. For years I have used a petroleum jelly last thing at night, particularly around the cuticle area and then just rubbing the rest in generally. If you are concerned about greasy marks on your bedding wear a pair of white cotton gloves after you have rubbed the ointment in. When you wake up in the morning your hands will feel well nourished.

An ointment is great at reducing the evaporation of the moisture in your hands, which is particularly important in winter.

A lotion on the other hand, no pun intended, has more water in the compound and feels lighter on the skin and obviously less greasy. This may be your best option during the day when you don’t want to leave a greasy residue on everything you touch.

If you see a formulation called a “cream” it is likely something between an ointment and a lotion.

So ointments and creams probably do a better job in winter and if you have very dry skin an ointment at night may be the answer.

One of my favourites is to warm some olive oil and rub it into my hands thoroughly for several minutes — almost as though you are washing your hands with the stuff. Then add a teaspoon of granulated sugar to the mix as you contiunue that “washing” motion with your hands. Keep going for another 30 seconds or so. The granules of sugar do a good job sloughing off the dry skin cells. After that, rinse it all off under warm flowing water from the faucet and dry your hands with paper towel. Your hands will feel amazingly soft.

When you have not been successful at warding off those little cuts that are so painful there is one little trick that reduces the pain. After your hands are washed and thoroughly dry, paint a little clear nail polish in the crack. I think it works best to do that last thing at night.

Here’s to healthy hands during winter and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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