In the middle of flu season and the dead of winter — not to mention during a coronavirus outbreak — we (should be) doing a lot of hand washing.

That’s great for our health and for killing germs but not for our hands. I don’t know about you, but my poor little paws are dry AF. As I’ve mentioned before, I also deal with eczema, so my skin already is at a disadvantage. Compounded with the cold, dry air, I’m doing anything I can to ward off dry, cracked hands.


Here’s how to keep your hands soft and hydrated this time of year.


Cleanse and hydrate simultaneously

In episode 79 of the “Fat Mascara” podcast, New York dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf said, when it comes to eliminating germs, it’s not about how harsh your cleanser is but rather how long you’re washing your hands. As long as you’re singing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing your hands, you can use a moisturizing cleanser such as Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash. On the go, try a hydrating hand sanitizer such as Minnie by OLIKA — made with glycerin, aloe vera and lemon, spearmint and bergamot essential oils — to cut back on sandpaper palms.


No hot water — ever

I know hot water feels so great during the wintertime AND we feel like it’s also killing germs. Hot water is terrible for your skin, though, removing surface lipids (aka fatty acids which make our skin feel soft) and allowing moisture to creep out. Use warm water and wash your hands long enough to have clean hands without all the dryness.


Timing is everything

No matter the cleanser, the second step to hand washing should be applying some sort of lotion or cream. Think of what you learned in high school biology class: water moves from higher concentration to a lower. Your skin has a higher concentration of water compared to the air after your wash your hands. The water on your skin then evaporates pretty fast, making your skin drier than before you washed them. Moisturizing immediately traps that water and keeps in naturals oils so your skin stays hydrated and soft.


Think day vs. night

During the daytime, a fast-absorbing yet hydrating hand cream such as Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hand Gel Cream with hyaluronic acid will leave hands moist and soft without getting everything you touch greasy.
Nighttime is a different story, however, and I love to apply a really rich hand cream before bed, such as CeraVe Moisturizing Cream or dry skin MVP Weleda Skin Food.
And don’t be afraid to add some oils. Skin-loving sweet almond oil is an affordable option to mix into your hand cream. You also can use an oil that’s too heavy for your facial skin. I bought Sundy Riley Juno Oil and realized it made my face break out, but it’s great for dry winter hands.


Clear the way

Exfoliation is the key to a great moisturizing routine. Use a body scrub on your hands in the shower or at the sink a few times a week to clear the way for hydrating ingredients to penetrate skin. I like Bliss Lemon & Sage Satin-Skin Body Polish since it’s made with coconut and jojoba oils that will leave hand skin soft and hydrated.


Be extra

Hand masks are just thin gloves soaked in different butters, oils and serums. They may sound silly, but think of it like a shot of moisture delivered directly to your skin. Aveeno Repairing CICA Hand Mask contains nourishing oat and shea butter. Pop them on while you’re watching “This Is Us” and take them off at the end of the episode. Pat in the excess.
Also, wearing winter gloves when going outside not only keeps us from picking up germs but also helps protect hands from the cold air.