Why Your Hands May Be Peeling This Winter, According to Dermatologists

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Winter takes a toll on your skin — that much is obvious. Less apparent is its impact on your hands, specifically, and why the colder months have coincided with the skin around your fingers and palms starting to peel.

If you’ve found zero relief from slipping your hands into a pair of fleece- lined gloves and bathing them in your cushiest hand creams, it might be time to evaluate what else may be contributing to their current uncomfortable state. We consulted with board-certified dermatologists Dhaval Bhanusali and Joshua Zeichner on what exactly might be causing your winter dryness and peeling. You may be surprised to find that it can be caused by habits you've picked up throughout the season or an underlying skin condition.

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With flu season at its peak, it’s understandable to want to wash your hands repeatedly. However, doing so can actually be what’s causing your hands to dry out and peel. "While soaps can disinfect our hands, they can also strip the skin of essential oils, which can lead to dryness," says Zeichner.

If you find yourself washing your hands frequently, he suggests using a non- soap cleansing lotion. "These cleansers are extremely gentle and offer hydrating benefits while they remove dirt from skin," he explains. "While they can be removed with water, they alternatively can be rubbed on the skin and wiped off."

What counts as overwashing? Bhanusali considers it to be doing so more than 10 times a day. "Less is more, in this case," he says.

Though the urge to drown your hands in hand sanitizer and sizzle off whatever micro-organisms might be lingering on your skin is strong, try to resist. The alcohol-based formula can actually disrupt the outer skin layer, causing irritation and flaking, according to Zeichner. "If you’re using hand sanitizer, make sure to moisturize afterward in order to help repair your skin barrier," he says.

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Zeichner (who works with Vaseline) recommends using Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion because of how it creates a protective seal over the skin that also locks in moisture. We also like CeraVe Healing Ointment for this.

Stepping into a hot, steaming shower after spending the day out in the cold might be one of winter’s most relaxing indulgences, but Bhanusali explains that this may also be a reason why your skin might be peeling. "Taking too hot of a shower for too long may remove the 'good' oils from your skin and actually dry it out," he says. He suggests limiting showers to five to seven minutes and to not let it get too steamy in the bathroom.

Bhanusali explains that the dryness and peeling you might be experiencing can actually be due to eczema. "It’s a relatively common condition," he says, and explains that the cold air of the season can exacerbate its symptoms and cause flare-ups.

To treat the condition, Bhanusali recommends reaching for an over-the-counter cortisone cream for temporary relief, and seeing a board-certified dermatologist for prescription therapies.

ishonest No.142 - Humectant

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No.142 - Humectant

More dry-skin tips:

  • Here's How to Tell If Your Skin Is Dry or Dehydrated
  • 7 Common Dry-Skin Mistakes People Make in the Winter
  • The 13 Best Foot Creams for Dry, Achy Feet

Now watch how allergies affect this person's everyday life:

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