Tips for Winter Dry Skin and Hands

Winter's arrival means more than just bundling up, it can also be a real test for our skin. The bone-dry winter air, combined with biting winds and snow, tends to irritate it. To add to the problem, your skin’s natural barrier takes a hit from prolonged exposure to indoor heating, leading to dry, cracked hands, which can be especially painful for those with conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Alleviating most, if not all, of these issues involves replenishing your skin's moisture. But we often neglect this until winter and dry skin are already upon us. The key is taking deliberate action, and we’re here to show you how.

Here are some tips to keep your skin happy all season long.

SOS: Signs of Winter Skin Stress

It’s time for an intervention if your hands and face are feeling tight or itchy, the skin around your nails is dry and cracked, and/or your nails are breaking and peeling more than usual.

To get the full picture, it's important to understand what contributes to dry skin in winter. The skin’s barrier, which is primarily composed of oils, proteins, and water-retaining molecules, acts as our body's natural defense against external stressors. Low humidity and overexposure to the elements can compromise this barrier, causing the skin to lose its ability to hold moisture and replenish its natural oils.

Thus, keeping your skin hydrated and supple is all about barrier repair and protection.

How To Avoid Winter Dry Skin and Hands

1. Make Moisturizing a Habit, Not a Chore

It goes without saying that you should keep your hands moisturized, but we usually only remember to do this when it’s too late. The secret to combating winter dry skin lies in consistency.

Take a few moments regularly to apply moisturizer, concentrating on your hands, elbows, and any areas prone to dryness or irritation. Give your nails a cuticle oil massage while you’re at it.

To make this a seamless part of your routine, strategically place lotions or moisturizers in easily accessible spots like your purse, gym bag, bathroom, kitchen, and desk. This way you're never more than an arm's reach away from a quick hydration fix.

2. Find the Right Moisturizer for You

Person Applying Moisturizing Cream to Hands

Using a moisturizer is one thing, but using the right moisturizer is another. Look for products containing emollients and humectants, which work together to lock in moisture and prevent dryness.

Emollients act as lubricants on the skin’s surface, keeping it soft and smooth, while humectants hydrate it by attracting and retaining water from the environment.

Below are some common emollient and humectant ingredients to look for in your hand lotion:


Coconut oil, almond oil, lanolin, jojoba oil, squalane, propylene glycol linoleate, isopropyl palmitate, glyceryl stearate


Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, butylene glycol, urea, sodium PCA, sorbitol, beta-glucan


For extreme winter dry skin, consider using moisturizers with occlusives, which are ingredients that form a barrier on the skin's surface to lock in moisture. Occlusive agents include petroleum jelly, mineral oil, shea butter, and beeswax. These heavier ingredients give your winter-dry hands an extra layer of defense against the elements.

3. Use Gentle Soaps

Flu season means frequent hand washing and sanitizing, but not all soaps are created equal. Choose mild, moisturizing hand washes with gentle formulas as they cleanse your hands without stripping the skin's natural moisture barrier. Additionally, look for products containing moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or aloe vera to help counteract the drying effects of frequent handwashing.

Antibacterial soaps and alcohol sanitizers should be avoided as they can be overly drying. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers use ingredients like benzalkonium chloride or other antimicrobial agents. They are effective in reducing bacteria and viruses on the hands while being more gentle to winter dry skin.

4. Lower Water Temperature

Indulging in a steamy shower during cold weather might be tempting, but your skin may not appreciate it. Hot water stresses the skin’s barrier by stripping it of its natural oils. The result? Pesky dehydration and irritation.

Instead, opt for lukewarm water and keep your showers or hand washing sessions brief to ward off dry skin in winter and throughout the year.

Gently pat your skin dry after washing, leaving some moisture, and then promptly apply a moisturizer to lock in hydration. This simple adjustment can go a long way in preventing the discomfort of winter-dry hands.

5. Hand Masks to the Rescue

As we spend more time indoors during the winter, why not treat our hands to some at-home pampering? Hand masks are a great tool to combat winter dry skin. Just like face masks, hand masks offer a variety of benefits depending on their ingredients. Look for masks that are specifically formulated for moisture, repair, and soothing. Set yourself up for a full day of pampering and follow your hand mask with a gel polish manicure that will withstand all the winter hand washing.

6. Start a Nighttime Glove Ritual

Person Applying Clear Cuticle Oil on Nails With Black Polish

Finally, heal your hands while you sleep with a nightly routine for your winter dry skin.

Before bed, generously apply a rich hand cream and nail treatment, ensuring your cuticles and knuckles receive special attention. Slip on a pair of soft cotton gloves to lock in the moisture as you sleep. This simple but effective practice provides an intense overnight hydration boost, leaving your hands soft, supple, and ready to face the challenges of winter.

A Little Extra Care Goes a Long Way

Remember, the goal is to combat the ultimate enemy; dryness. Incorporate the above tips into your self-care for happy and healthy skin all season.

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