How to nourish and heal dry, winter-ravaged hands

By Fiona Embleton

Photo: Getty

Apply the same approach to your hands as you do your beauty routine and reap the skin-softening rewards

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The skin on our hands goes through a lot. It's exposed to multiple stressors, including chemicals, alcohol and perfume courtesy of hand soap, sanitiser and detergent, as well as experiencing repeated contact with water. Our hands also inadvertently soak up the gnarlier skincare actives we apply to our faces, such as acids and retinol.

Not to mention being directly exposed to sun and arctic blasts of wind at this time of year. All of which strips lipids from the skin and causes water to evaporate from minuscule cracks in the skin barrier.

Finally, hands are an ageing hotspot. Over time they lose fat and elasticity, which results in wrinkles and sun spots – symptoms that neglect only accelerates. So without a cosseting layer of moisture, a criss-crossed pattern of crepey skin can appear across the tops, while the knuckles get scaly and nails start to peel.

Ahead, how to turn the clock back on your hands and restore a silky, smooth canvas.

Photo: Getty


With flu season upon us, it's only natural that we wash our hands more rigorously and lean on hand sanitisers every time we touch a surface in public. Where possible, use hand wash laden with skin-friendly botanical oils. Dr Barbara Sturm's Hand Wash leaves hands squeaky clean without stripping away its natural oils and moisture. Fragrance and colour-free, it contains plant-based foaming agents from coconut oil, while aloe vera and glycerin hydrate and purslane adds a layer of antioxidant protection.

When it comes to hand sanitiser, look for a balance of purifying and hydrating ingredients as alcohol can be exceptionally drying. Tromborg Deluxe Purification Hand Gel blitzes germs with a formula powered by 80 per cent alcohol while calendula steps in to nourish. Likewise Aesop Geranium Leaf Rinse-Free Hand Wash, with it's zingy scent of geranium leaf, mandarin and bergamot rind. alongside a lefty dose of hydrating glycerin, is a world away from your average moisture-sapping, clinical-smelling hand sanitiser.


The skin on your hands has very specific needs as it isn't uniform all over. The top is thinner, and with age becomes almost transparent, while your palms have one of the thickest layers of skin on the entire body.

In order for your hand cream to make a dent, try exfoliating your hands with a mild alpha hydroxy acid to lift away dead skin cells and replace them with fresh, smooth new ones. If you're already using a retinol serum, though, there's no need for additional exfoliation as you're already getting an unintentional dose of chemical exfoliation.

The most common area that people neglect when applying SPF protection is the backs of the hands

Dr Firas Al-Niaimi

Don't forget your nails, either. Board-certified dermatologist Dr Dray is currently going viral with a TikTok video advocating the use of acids for healthier-looking nails. "Use a moisturiser with an alpha hydroxy acid in it, whether it be glycolic [acid] or lactic [acid]," she recommends, sweeping it over her nail beds.


While you may think you’ve covered all bases by buying a broad spectrum suncream, chances are you're neglecting the backs of your hands.

“The most common area that people neglect when applying SPF protection is the backs of the hands,” says dermatologist, Dr Firas Al-Niaimi. And yet this part of the body is almost always exposed to sunlight when you’re outdoors, not to mention UVA rays, which are strong enough to penetrate clouds on grey winter days.

“Historically, people associate sun protection with their faces only and they forget to wear it when they’re driving," adds Dr Al-Niaimi about our sunscreen habits at this time of year. "But UVA rays go straight through windows year-round, causing pigmentation on the backs of the hands. So always reapply SPF after washing your hands and before getting behind the wheel of your car."

Supergroup! Hand Screen has been designed specifically to soak rapidly into the skin on your hands, while protecting with an SPF40.


Repeated exposure to harsh soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitisers can deplete the lipids (fats) in the uppermost layer of skin and cause moisture to evaporate from our skin. The best way to replenish moisture reserves is to "carry a non-fragranced hand cream at all times and get into the habit of moisturising after washing," says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, noting that "fragrances can potentially worsen dermatitis".

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, key ingredients to look for in a hand cream are ceramides, humectants (including glycerin and hyaluronic acid) and occlusives such as petrolatum.

Good options include L:A Bruket 159 Hand Cream, the non-greasy Restoring Antioxidant Hand Lotion from Woods Copenhagen and Skandinavisk OY Hand Cream, which additionally contains mineral-rich Danish spring water.

As a final step before bed, try 'hand slugging', which involves combining a hyaluronic acid serum, hand cream and a topcoat of Vaseline or Aquaphor.
Then, put on cotton gloves and prepare to wake up with hands that look reborn.