These are strange and difficult times that we’re in, and nobody needs painful, sore, and cracked hands from washing them more than usual. Surfactants are what make a soap a soap, and are long molecules with a water-loving head and an oil-attracted tail.
Opposites attract, and this force allows oily substances to be lifted from the surface upon which the soap is being used. This is how soap works to keep us clean and safe.
If you have been paying attention to my column for a while, you’ll know that the core component of our skin that allows it to remain hydrated and happy is our barrier, a layer of lipids (oils) and dead skin cells that sits on the very top of it. Unfortunately, surfactants cannot take some oils but leave others.
They don’t discriminate, meaning our skin is left oil-free. Being that it’s an organ with oil-pumping glands, it will replenish its oils, but when we’re washing frequently, we’re removing oils faster than we can make them, leading to painful, cracked, irritated, dry skin.
This is where the glorious invention of the hand cream comes in, a product often designed to mimic our skin’s barrier that works to rehydrate our skin by supplying it with lipidic ingredients. Hand creams are typically thicker than a standard moisturiser, but it’s not the title “hand cream” that you necessarily need to look for.
If your hands need attention, there are a few types of ingredients to look for, being anti-inflammatory ingredients, occlusive ingredients and emollient ingredients. Anti-inflammatory ingredients work to soothe the skin, occlusives work as a thin layer that assists the skin in locking moisture in and keeping irritants out, and emollients work to attract water to the upper layers of the skin.
Beeswax is an emollient ingredient that is incredibly nourishing and soothing. Because of these qualities, a hand cream that contains beeswax plus ingredients that assist the skin’s barrier is a good bet. Avene’s Cold Cream Hand Cream (€9.00, 50ml, theskinnerd.com and selected online retailers) has beeswax, Avene’s soothing thermal water and a reparative ingredient called sucralfate. This is particularly great for those with sensitive skin, or those whose hands are in need of a lot of TLC.
Ceramides are a type of lipid that help to make up our skin’s own barrier, so a hand cream with ceramides can give the skin back what it usually has itself. Cerave Reparative Hand Cream (€5.50, 50ml, selected online retailers) contains three ceramides and hyaluronic acid to draw moisture into the skin and lock it in while helping to bring your barrier back to health.
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream (€5.29, 50ml, selected online retailers) is the hand cream we all envision when we think hand cream, with the iconic blue lid and Norwegian flag. Many like to believe that the fanciest and most niche hand creams are best, but Norwegian Formula is successful for a reason. It’s high in glycerin, a humectant ingredient meaning it pulls moisture towards it. It actually has a grand total of ten ingredients — simple, yet effective.
Right now, what’s best is whatever you can get your hands on. Excuse the pun. You’re perfectly fine to use your typical body moisturiser, your foot butter, or if you’re really in a pinch, your fancy serum, on your hands. For a super simple hand treatment, lather your hands up in whatever you have and pop on some gloves for half an hour to seal in that hydration.
I have been receiving lots of contact from frontline staff whose skin is annoyed and dehydrated from very long and very difficult shifts. One of my favourite masks for skin that is incredibly irritated is the REN Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask. It has gotu kola or centella asiatica within it, a healing and soothing botanical extract that has been used for centuries, plus white mushroom extract to reduce discomfort.
It’s particularly known for helping with redness, so also good to take note of it here for Rosacea Awareness Month!
(€32, 50ml, theskinnerd.com)