So, working in the nursing industry, I wash my hands a lot. Because I don't do the laundry or dishes much at home (Kim's office is by the laundry room and he does it most of the time and we have a dishwasher) and haven't been changing baby diapers in quite a while I don't wash my hands ridiculously often at home. I wash them, let me clear, but just not as much as I did when the kids were little. On the other hand, I wash my hands countless times a day at work, and I hand wash dishes a lot for my clients while I am there. As a result, this past week my hands have become terribly chapped. On the verge of having cracking knuckles, which would make using hand sanitizer intensely uncomfortable, I set about repairing my hands with vigor.
So, my guide for preventing and caring for chapped, cracking hands:
1. Don't wash your hands in hot water. Use warm water. It works just fine and will dry your hands out a lot less.
2. Pat your hands dry instead of rubbing.
3. Use hand sanitizer if you can instead. For me, this is a lot less often than you would think at work because I have to wash my hands between patients, and after dealing with patient incontinence, including diaper changes and taking out the incontinence briefs in the trash. I wear gloves the whole time, but regulations state you should actually wash your hands with soap and water. I use hand sanitizer as much as I can in between.
4. Use gloves when you do dishes. At work, I use medical gloves, but dish gloves would be more cost effective and ideal at home. This protects your hands from the hot water you should use on dishes.
5. Use hand cream after you wash your hands. Honestly I don't have much time for this at work. It makes the gloves slide around and I don't like that. But if you can prevent your hands from getting over dry with plain old hand lotion, why not try to do that? At home I use lotion every other time I wash my hands.
6. Let's assume you abused your hands this past week. The baby was sick and you had to wash hands every 10 minutes. Now for the choose your own adventure portion of the post!
If they are:
a. chapped (looking like a dry dessert or red, but not cracked open) put on an intensive hand cream and some cotton gloves to lock in the lotion. I am typing with a pair on as we...type..er... poor English.
b. If the lotion stings, or if your hands are cracked and possibly bleeding, break out the aloe with lidocaine from summer. Put some of this on the sensitive/cracked areas, then follow up with an unscented, dye free balm like A&D ointment or Aquaphor. After THAT you can put on the hand lotion and gloves. If you have one of those paraffin hand things like my sister does, this would be the time to break it out.
Your hands could potentially look swollen and very red after moisturizing them because they are damaged. Mine looked like I had a run in with a toxic chemical and were very VERY attractive. Throw in some ragged cuticles and... can we say hand model awesomeness? Or not. At all. But the next morning they looked much better. Still dry, but not horrible. Or red and puffy. You will have to keep on top of them until they are normal, which for my OCD hand washing sister is never, or for the non-OCD folks reading the post probably a few days. Start protecting them now, because cracked hands are awful.
Sally Hansen Salon Severely Dry and Chapped Hand Remedy
Neutrogena Hand Cream (the ointment stuff)
Gloves in a Bottle Shielding Lotion
Feel free to post your suggestions in the comments and I will add them to the post.