I can’t even remember what show it was, but it was a Monday. Five years ago. During lunch. I was eating spinach.
It was either a rerun of What Not to Wear or 10 Years Younger. And either Carmindy or Damone Roberts (they look so much alike, you know) said:
“The easiest way to tell a woman’s age is by her hands.”
I won’t lie – checking out the back of my hands is a nightly ritual. “Do they look older? Wrinkled? Would anyone be able to tell that I’m really 35? Not 20, like the liquor store owner INSISTS I look?”
(Liquor store owners: Want to be a millionaire? Tell every woman she looks like she’s 20.)
Not only are dry hands more easily wrinkled hands, but they don’t feel good. At all. Yuck.
Here’s what I do to keep my hands and elbows from drying out, cracking, and revealing my true age in the winter (and you probably have all of this stuff in your house right now):
Prevention is Key (Of Course)
1. Skip Obsessive Washing
The A-number-one-soul-sister reason for dry hands (and elbows) is excess washing. Not only does the water do damage, but the soaps you use to wash with – even if they SWEAR they’re moisturizing – are culprits of dry, cracked skin.
Stop washing your hands (and showering) so much. I know it’s tough, ’cause we’ve been told repeatedly and forcefully that germs spread if you don’t wash your hands. I’m here to tell you – if you’re at home, with your unsick loved ones, you don’t need to wash your hands every stinking hour. Just wash them when you’ve done something really dirty.
And try to find a soap that doesn’t contain things like sulfates (lauryl especially). Remember – if a soap promises that it is “tough on grease” it’s also tough on the natural oils in your hands.
2. Omega-3, Omega-3, Omega-3
Of all the foods I’ll put on my skin, absolutely without a doubt the thing that makes my skin glow and look terrific is taking an omega-3 supplement.
Sometimes I forget. (Okay, for months, I’ll forget.) And I can always tell a difference when I remember. What makes me remember the most? Winter. Dry skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids will soothe the holy tabasco out of your dry skin. My favorite happens to be the Barlean’s Lemonade Cod Liver Oil. It doesn’t taste like behind. I promise. It hardly tastes at all.
Get thyself a quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
3. Break Out the Baking Soda When You’re Washing Dishes
Skip the after-dish-washing dryness by putting a tablespoon or two of baking soda in your wash water.
It neutralizes the acids your dirty dishes are coated with, and leaves your hands soft and supple afterward. Just be sure to rinse well after washing and finish with a moisturizer of some sort (which we’ll get to in a second).
Better yet, use gloves when you wash the dishes. And coat your hands in olive oil before you put them on. Double the awesomeness.
Leave These Moisturizers in Key Places
4. Keep a Mixture of Sugar and Dried Coconut Next to Your Sink
I actually came to know the moisturizing miracle that is dried, shredded coconut quite by accident. A few weeks ago, I was looking at my coconut while doing the dishes and, as with most foods, thought: “I wonder what would happen if I put that on my face?”
I did, and it was SO moisturizing. In that vein, please, if you have dry skin on your face, do a very gentle shredded coconut scrub (soak the coconut in milk for 3 minutes before scrubbing lightly) and come back and tell me how awesome it is. But this is about your hands. So let’s talk about that now.
Since that epiphanous day, I’ve been using a combination shredded coconut/sugar scrub on my hands twice a day when I wash in the kitchen. I just leave it right by the sink, so I don’t forget.
How to do this: Mix equal parts dried, shredded coconut and sugar in a small bowl. After you’ve washed your hands regularly, dump a small amount (1-2 teaspoons full) in your wet hand. Scrub hands well, adding water as necessary. Rinse. Do this on your elbows, too, once every two days.
Enjoy the softness.
5. Put a Small Bottle of Olive Oil in Your Bathroom
Forgetfulness = dry skin. Leave these things in plain sight, to remind you. Tie balloons on them. Maybe affix a motion-sensor light to them. Whatever you have to do.
Extra-virgin, expeller-pressed olive oil, used regularly, won’t just prevent dry skin, it’ll help roll back the clock on the look of your skin, as well. It’s SO high in antioxidants and other antiaging properties, it’s ridiculous.
Leave a bottle of olive oil in your bathroom and slather a small amount on every time you go in there. Coat your hands, coat your elbows … coat anywhere that feels dry.
It takes about 3-5 minutes for olive oil to soak in completely, but it’s worth the wait. So worth the wait.
Do this as often as you feel like doing it. Maybe all day. Constantly. No breaks. No fear. JUST DO IT.
Or just a few times a day. Whatever floats your boat.
Exfoliate Once or Twice a Week
6. Fruit-Peel Away the Dry Skin
Nothing whisks away dead skin quite like a citrus fruit. And while this may seem contraindicative to dry hands, it’s actually really effective, if done properly.
You can use any citrus fruit you’d like, but lemons and grapefruits are my personal favorites.
Though you might want to skip this if you have REALLY cracked hands or elbows. On raw skin, it will (I repeat, it will) hurt like the dickens.
Here’s how I do this for the dry skin I manage to accumulate just above my elbows: Using a small slice of lemon or grapefruit, I pour a little sugar on top and scrub the dry places for 1 minute with the sugared fruit. Then, I leave the liquid on for another 5 minutes.
Rinse well. Very well. And then moisturize with the most heavy-duty moisturizer you have. I recommend lanolin, if you’re not sensitive to it.
Or, you could use olive oil or coconut oil or cocoa butter.
I did this yesterday on the dry elbow skin (and it hurt in one cracked place, but I got over it). The dry patch was completely, utterly gone when I was finished moisturizing. Ta-da!
7. Yet Another Reason to Get a Body Brush
Exfoliation is your friend in the battle against dry skin, and a body brush is your secret tool to exfoliation.
Get one. Use it.
Use it on your elbows. Your knees. Your backside. And even your hands. (Use it softly, in a circular motion.)
And then shower all that dead skin off, and use a body oil when you get out.
Got Any Of Your Own Dry Hand/Elbow Remedies?
As always, I love to hear what remedies you’ve found are most helpful. I know dry hands and elbows in the wintertime are a big, giant pain in the coccyx.
So let me hear what you do!
Even if it’s a product, share with all of us what your faves are.
In holding-hands-isn’t-uncomfortable-this-winter crunch!