My Hands Have Been Extra Dry This Winter, so I Asked a Derm for Tips

I don’t know about y’all, but my skin has been drier than usual this year—especially my hands. No matter how much hand cream I slather on, it never seems to be enough, and my cuticles and nails are suffering the consequences. (Yes, my nail beds suck.) And even though this happens to some degree every winter, it seems to be worse than ever this year. 

"Hands become more prone to dryness in the winter due to the lack of moisture in the air,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City. "When the temperature begins to drop, the air becomes drier and harsher, which in turn weakens the skin barrier and pulls moisture from vulnerable skin. This often leads to dry, flaking, cracked hands.” And thanks to all of the additional safety measures we’re taking during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our hands are losing even more moisture than usual. From washing our hands more often to all that sanitizer, they need more TLC than ever.

Below, Engelman shares her tips to help combat all these factors for soft, hydrated hands 365 days a year.


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Tip no. 1: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

First and foremost, actually use all those hand creams you stocked up on. "Applying moisturizer to your hands throughout the day, especially after washing, will not only help soothe dryness but also prevent it from occurring in the first place,” explains Engelman.


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Tip no. 2: Try a hand mask.

If hand cream just isn't cutting it, consider a mask. "Overnight hand masks are a great way to treat dry hands,” says the derm. "You can do this at home by applying rich, more occlusive creams or ointments (look for ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid and ceramides) then covering them with gloves or socks while you sleep.” 


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Tip no. 3: Use a humidifier.

The dermatologist also recommends using a humidifier to control the moisture levels in your air. "During the winter months, the air is very dry both outside and inside your living spaces,” says Engelman. "Running a clean humidifier like the Canopy Humidifier improves the quality of your skin and makes your home a more comfortable place to be by adding moisture into the air and keeping your space at an optimal humidity level (40% to 60%).”


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Tip no. 4: Don't forget the gloves.

Depending on how cold it is where you live, you might not need a reminder, but just in case: "Because we are always using our hands, the skin of our hands is some of the most exposed on our whole bodies and, as a result, tends to suffer the most in winter,” says Engelman. "Washing your hands frequently can also strip your hands of their natural oils, worsening dryness. Gloves are a great way to mitigate damage.”


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Tip no. 5: Exfoliate regularly.

Like the skin on the rest of our bodies, our hands benefit from gentle exfoliation. Just be careful not to overdo it: If you get regular manicures, you might already be getting scrubbed down enough—so listen to your skin, and only exfoliate when you need to


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Up next: According to Nail Experts, Winter Will Revolve Around These 8 Trends

Freelance Contributor

Lindy Segal is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. She's originally from Atlanta, but she's sorry to report she doesn't have an accent. However, she does still have her taste for carbohydrates, love of losing sports teams, and fear of driving during rush hour. She's been in editorial for over eight years as a social media manager and writer covering beauty, fashion, and lifestyle at Glamour and People. Most recently, she was the women's editor at Express. These days, in addition to Who What Wear, you can see her byline at places like Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Ipsy, and WeWork. Both a skincare obsessive and a minimalist, she keeps her routine short, sweet, and effective—and she doesn't go a day without sunscreen. She's also deeply passionate about sustainability, and she strives to recommend products she truly believes are worth the investment. When she's not writing about the best and brightest beauty finds, she can usually be found hunting for vintage and secondhand treasures, attempting to find zen at a yoga class, bingeing Bon Appétit YouTube videos, or napping under her weighted blanket.