Did you know that your hands are the biggest giveaway when it comes to aging?

The good news? The one thing that’s easiest to control is how hydrated and plump they look, which makes a huge difference to your hand’s beauty (yes, it’s a thing!).

So in today’s video I’m going to share the 6 -step strategy you need to have the healthiest, most hydrated hands ever,

So let's think about our hands for a moment. It’s almost as if they were designed to dry out. They’re in water constantly. They’re exposed to UV rays relentlessly. And we use them all the time, without thinking, for work, hobbies and communication.

For these reasons, if you’re born with a dry skin condition, the hands are often the worst affected.

Many of us experienced the impact of our daily habits for the first time over the Pandemic, when we were washing hands with relentless and almost savage thoroughness. So what can we learn from all this, as we head into the cooler seasons to ensure we keep our hands in tip-top shape? And why do hands become drier in winter?

First, let’s think about the skin barrier and why something like handwashing has such an impact. The skin barrier is the stratum corneum, a delightfully complex structure that’s built like a wall - the dead skin cells being the bricks and and the lipid bilayer the mortar that sits around those bricks. It’s incredible design keeps undesirable things out and locks water in. Our hands are even more specialised as we interact with the world with them, so they also contain lots of dedicated nerve endings that detect vibration, touch, temperature and pain.

That complex barrier enables the skin microbiome to flourish and it’s highly specific to different regions of the body. The organisms that live on the surface of the palms are different to those on the face, for example.

Now, it’s very easy for all this careful organisation to be disrupted by basic hand hygiene. When we leach away elements of the skin barrier through exposure to water and soap, that bricks and mortar structure can crumble in places. That allows water to escape (increased trans-epidermal water loss, TEWL) and that impacts the skin’s ability to build a water-resistant stratum corneum. That upsets the microbiome, potentially allowing overgrowth of unfriendly bugs, like staphylococcus…..and you can see where I’m going. More irritants can now pour in. Order is lost, chaos ensues as the barrier is breached.

In winter, this tendency is exacerbated by low humidity outside - cold air can’t hold moisture. This is further compounded by indoor central heating and dry air.

The result? Dry, cracked, sore hands.

So what we can do?

Here’s my 6-step strategy to keeping hands on track before you get into trouble.

  1. Firstly, cleanse with care. Avoid unnecessary irritation by skipping anything fragranced or foaming. Stick to skin cleansers from the French Pharmacy aisle to minimise the impact on barrier function.
  2. Use tepid, not hot water. The temperature of the water doesn’t contribute to hygiene - the length of the rinse does. So protect your skin barrier by keeping the temperature moderate.
  3. Dry hands carefully - pat, don’t rub! Damp skin should be handled with care so dry skin thoroughly but gently.
  4. Moisturise after every wash. Be practical and use a hand cream that allows you to function, or you’ll end up avoiding its use! Look for elegant occlusives that deliver on skin feel and trap water in skin for longer. Again, skip fragrance.
  5. Protect them outdoors. Wearing gloves is really helpful - they help maintain moisture in the air next to the skin so they don’t dry out as much. If you’re at altitude don’t forget water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen as UV rays may also contribute to dry skin.
  6. Boost moisture at night. Bedtime is a good opportunity to repair damage done during the day. Use richer moisturisers, under occlusion with gloves if things are really dry, and seek out ingredients like ceramides and niacinamide to help rebuild the skin barrier.

These steps are easy to implement and will have a big impact if done consistently. It’s what we do daily that really matters when it comes to skincare!

The next video I want you to watch is on how to build your skin barrier for winter - do this right and it can completely prevent dry skin in winter. See you next week!