Dry, itchy hands are both unpleasant and inconvenient—it’s hard to get anything done when your hands are irritated. The skin barrier on every person is different; its lipids, proteins, and oils protect the skin. Genetics determine a lot of how well your own barrier works. Weak derma barriers are prone to sensitivities, like inflammation, eczema, itching, and dryness. Winter weather also contributes to dryness. Before running out to buy expensive hand lotions (many of which contain artificial ingredients and chemical fragrances), try a natural treatment for dry hands.
1. Coconut oil
The two main elements that moisturize the skin are emollients and humectants; emollients lubricate the surface of the skin, humectants draw moisture from the air to the skin surface. Coconut oil is an emollient, and kind of a wonder oil—it has many uses in cooking and cosmetics. Lather coconut oil on dry hands and cuticles for a powerful moisturizer. A few teaspoons in a warm bath are another way to lubricate the skin.
2. Aloe vera
The aloe vera plant is very helpful in treating skin trouble, both irritations and burns. A succulent, aloe vera is easy to grow in a sunny window, and a well-loved aloe will live for decades. To calm dry hands, cut off the end of an aloe tentacle and squeeze its clear gel right onto the dry skin. The plant is a strong healer, and will reseal itself over the cut. If you can’t keep a plant at home, try an organic aloe vera gel or lotion.
3. Olive oil
Another emollient, olive oil is the base ingredient for many commercially produced moisturizers. When you use just the pure oil, you cut out the artificially added chemicals (mostly these are added for color and fragrance, and actually detract from the emollient power of the oil). Olive oil contains antioxidants, very helpful plant chemicals, which repair irritated, dry, and inflamed skin. For the same reason, olive oil repairs damages from sun exposure. An easy way to apply olive oil is with cotton swabs, dabbed onto the dry skin and allowed to sit for a few minutes, before rinsing it off with warm water. A calming scrub can be made with olive oil, sea salt, and calendula petals (marigolds).
4. Baking soda
Sodium bicarbonite is a very useful compound. An abrasive substance, baking soda works as shampoo, toothpaste, and household cleaner. Since it’s a naturally occurring compound free of added chemicals, it’s gentler on skin than dish detergent; use it in the dishwasher instead of chemical detergent (two tablespoons for a full dishwasher is about right). Soaking in a warm bath with a cup of baking soda will relieve itchy, dry skin, and help you shed the dead skin cells. It’s also great for putting out kitchen fires.
Oatmeal has been used to treat dry hands for centuries—that’s why so many soaps are made with oatmeal. Oats contain vitamin E, which is essential for healthy skin, along with fiber, which heals damage to cells caused by stress. Adding a cup of oatmeal to the bath will calm both nerves and dry skin. Rubbing your hands in wet oatmeal, then drying them with a towel and rubbing them again in a little dry oatmeal will ease the irritation of dry hands.
6. Vinyl gloves
It’s good to protect your hands when handling chemicals; this includes cleaning bathrooms, polishing furniture, washing dishes, etc. Vinyl gloves are an excellent way to keep the chemicals off, and adding a little baby powder inside will keep your hands from sweating.
Similar to baking soda, salt is a gentle abrasive, and loosens up dead skin cells when applied externally. A good way to do this is by massaging a handful of sea salt into wet skin after a warm shower or bath. This will leave your skin feeling smooth and looking healthy and lustrous.
8. Temperate waters
When you have itchy skin, the temptation is to take a really hot shower, to scratch the itch: resist this urge. Hot water sucks the oils out of the skin’s surface, which further dries out the skin. Take warm showers, every other day or less to maintain a healthy level of skin oil.
9. Moisturize with care
The best time to apply lotion to dry skin is when the skin is damp, not wet. After a shower or bath, pat, don’t rub, some of the excess water off (enough so you’re not dripping water). Spread some non-chemically altered lotion on your skin while it’s damp, to seal the moisture in.
10. Avoid alcohol, all kinds
Drinking alcohol is dehydrating; too much alcohol consumption makes the body drain water from the skin (this is why long term alcoholics have a grayish pallor). Alcohol-based cosmetics products, like astringents, will also dry out the skin; skip these if you are prone to dry skin. Likewise, stay away from perfume-heavy soaps; frequently these contain irritating artificial ingredients.