Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize continued...
Putting moisturizer on once a day is inadequate. "That's probably enough protection for about five minutes," Marmur says.
If you apply moisturizer more frequently, its effects last longer. Five or six applications a day, Marmur says, will provide round-the-clock protection.
To reach that goal, Marmur suggests practicing what she calls "good product placement." Along with keeping a big jar or tube of your favorite over-the-counter moisturizer in your bathroom, stow smaller sizes in your purse, gym bag and on your desk so application becomes a habit.
Remember to rub the hand cream or lotion over your cuticles and nails. "Nails can become dry, just like the skin of the hands," Crutchfield says.
Choosing the Right Moisturizer
You'll find many hand creams and body lotions on your drugstore shelves. Wechsler says to cut through the clutter by remembering that just two types of ingredients do most of the work when it comes to keeping your skin soft and hydrated: emollients and humectants.
Emollients act as lubricants on the surface on the skin. They fill the crevices between cells that are ready to be shed and help the loose edges of the dead skin cells that are left behind stick together.
"The slippery feeling you get after applying a moisturizer is most likely coming from emollients," Wechsler says. "They help keep the skin soft, smooth, and pliable." Look for ingredients such as lanolin, jojoba oil, isopropyl palmitate, propylene glycol linoleate, squalene, and glycerol stearate.
Humectants draw moisture from the environment to the skin's surface, increasing the water content of the skin's outer layer. Scan the ingredients label for common humectants such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, propylene glycerol, urea, and lactic acid.
Thicker Products for More Damaged Skin
If your hands go from just being dry and rough to having little cracks, or fissures, and are tender or bleeding, it's time to move on to more therapeutic moisturizers.
Petroleum jelly is a reliable standby. Or choose a thick, rich moisturizer in a formula that contains heavier ingredients such as dimethicone, cocoa or shea butter, or beeswax.
Slather on at bedtime, slip on a pair of cotton gloves or socks, and keep on overnight.