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Prevent and Soothe Chapped Winter Hands

Dry, cracked hands are a common cold weather complaint. Here's how to get a grip on the problem.

How to Wash Your Hands

To protect your hands while you're protecting your health with frequent hand washing, choose a mild soap, use warm not hot water, pat your hands dry and apply a moisturizer right away.

If you've got severely dry hands or you wash your hands a dozen or more times a day, substitute a hand-sanitizing gel or wipes for some of the soap-and-water sessions.

"These alcohol-based sanitizers do dry the skin," Marmur says, "but for people who do a ton of hand washing -- whether they're doctors, moms, or dog-walkers -- it's actually a bit gentler on the skin than soap and water."

Consider a Humidifier

Using a humidifier can also help your skin.

The higher humidity levels will not only salve your super dry hands, they'll help ease dry itchy skin all over your body (including chapped lips) and soothe a stuffed up nose.

Be sure to maintain the appliance (and clean it) regularly, so it doesn't release bacteria or mold into the air, Marmur says.

Put a Glove on It

Wear gloves or mittens if you're going to be outdoors for longer than a dash to a car on cold days. If your hands get wet, dry them, and then apply moisturizer. 

If redness, peeling, and tenderness persist, see a dermatologist. He or she can prescribe a steroid cream to help fight inflammation, and also check on whether your dry hands may be due to a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis.

If your skin is healthy, basic care -- resisting the urge to warm up in hot water and keeping simple, effective remedies on hand -- you can bear with winter until spring's warmth arrives.

Brush Up on Beauty

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