It’s all hands on deck when caring for delicate digits during winter, as skincare pros explain.
We spoke to four expert sources for the lowdown on handling hands in winter time.
On the challenges of winter:
Patricia Hawthorn-Freund, president, Cuccio: Hand care is critical in the winter months, when the environment saps much-needed moisture from our skin. During this time, we must pay special attention to the palms because they don’t have sebaceous glands to lubricate the skin.
Catherine Baek, director of global education, SpaRitual: In winter, heaters can deplete hydration levels and make the skin dry and itchy. Also, heavy layers of clothes increase our body temperature, which causes us to sweat more and contributes further to skin dehydration. It’s important to consistently moisturize both day and night but also put in place an advanced skin ritual that incorporates serums.
Lydia Sarfati, president and CEO of Repêchage: While we’re bundling up to combat winter weather, our hands are often left open to the elements. Indoor heating can accelerate moisture loss, and UV damage may increase if we’re outdoors, unprotected. Also, extended immersion in water can cause dehydration and dryness, cracking (especially around the cuticles) and even infections.
Shawn Towne, global educator, Jane Iredale: Hands get so much abuse—not just from the elements but from ourselves! How often do we wash our hands in a restaurant without even questioning the ingredients in the soap we’re using? Also, just because it’s cold outside, the sun is no less efficient at doing its job, so UV protection is as important as ever at this time.
On special cold-weather measures:
Hawthorn-Freund: The key is prevention. Exfoliation is crucial, as is using a product that offers intense hydration and time-released emollients to help keep skin hydrated and protected.
Towne: Everyone should have a hand moisturizer with them at all times, and use it after every hand washing, while hands are still slightly damp, to help to seal in moisture. Scrubbing and exfoliating help remove dead skin cells, but they can make the skin more susceptible to UV damage, so sun protection is a must if going outside afterward. Gloves are also useful, especially if hands are coated with moisturizer right before they’re slipped on.
Baek: At SpaRitual, we believe clients should practice a weekly body ritual that extends to the hands and feet. The same essentials that apply to the face should also be applied to the body—namely, exfoliation, and using a serum followed by a moisturizer. They also shouldn’t forget the back of their hands—or their cuticles, which can dry out in winter. Slather on clients’ hands a generous amount of heavy cuticle cream, wrap the fingers for five minutes, then massage in the remaining product. Tell them to do the same at home.
Sarfati: Additional steps should include nourishing, hydrating hand masks. Mild exfoliating peels can be used once or twice a month to gently soften and remove dead skin cells, encourage new cell growth and dramatically reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
On winter-fighting ingredients:
Towne: Organic emollients and humectants make the biggest difference. Rose oil—in particular, rosa damascene flower oil—has extraordinary hydrating and healing properties; jojoba and sunflower seed oils are effective moisturizers as well. Also, make sure that a handcare formula includes physical sun protection ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Baek: Marula seed oil, aka “miracle oil”, is an excellent moisturizer that offers environmental protection too. Also seek out honeybush leaf extract, an antioxidant that helps repair and soften skin as well as protect against the environment.
Hawthorn-Freund: Shea butter, argan oil, aloe vera, honey, vitamin E, grapeseed oil and coconut oil are all important ingredients in handcare products.
Sarfati: Hands need to be nourished daily with ingredients that provide a barrier against water loss and environmental effects. Choose an emollient cream with a coconut or mafura oil base rather than one predominantly formulated with water. In addition, seaweed-based ingredients are anti-inflammatories and natural sources of antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids, trace elements and essential fatty acids, which help support the skin’s barrier. Seaweed extract oil can be massaged directly into the cuticles to maintain suppleness, and prevent drying and cracking.
On what consumers would be surprised to learn about winter hand care:
The use of gloves during the winter months can give the impression that we’re keeping in moisture. The opposite is true: gloves are coming on and off, exposing the hands to harsh winter elements, which depletes moisture much faster than in hot, dry summer months.
Many customers would be shocked at how ineffective mainstream brand hand treatments are. We should always look at the ingredients in anything we’re putting on our hands. They’re much more delicate than we think, and we only realize it when it’s too late. They’re more subject to damage than our faces, so proactive moisture and sun protection are not only necessary, they can be incredibly effective at preventing dry, cracked skin in the winter time. Remember that our hands show our age long before our faces do, yet we still often neglect them in the course of a busy day.
Our clients are most surprised to find out that UV damage can be worse in the winter—hands are left unprotected, and UV light is magnified by reflection off snow and ice. Hyperpigmentation can occur or worsen, as can crêpey skin and extreme dryness. All this can make clients’ hands look far older than they actually are! Using hydrating and nourishing protective products should be an essential part of everyone’s hand care.