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Painful Winter Hands

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December ends with every good conviction that we are going to take better care of ourselves. In mid-January we are experiencing winter's bite, and finding our once smooth skin is now dry, cracked, and inflamed. All of our positive efforts at skin care can be undone during these next eight weeks of -WEATHER.

Everyone experiences painful winter skin at least once, and as the hands are the most exposed and hardest working member of our body they are often abused. Normally, beautiful well cared for hands, seem to dry overnight. They can become red, chapped, and swollen, the surface tissue breaks, and might even bleed. This is terribly painful and if left without treatment an infection can result from this broken skin. What starts as a beauty issue can quickly become a medical condition.

The reason for painful winter hands is simply a lack of moisture. Winter skin is thirsty skin. Hard working hands quickly become dehydrated in winter. While drinking plenty of water in winter is definitely a good idea, it can not restore our hand tissue when it has become so dy-hydrated. Prevention is the best cold weather policy. 

Dry winter hand conditions are often accelerated by the simple act of washing hands. We have to wash our hands. Healthy hygiene dictates we wash hands dozens of times each day; however, do not allow your hands to stay wet. Additionally, all dish washing, bathing of babies and pet cleaning should be performed while wearing household gloves, and moisturize after each to prevent broken skin. 

During the winter months we need to make some simple yet practical changes, like swapping our harsh detergent based soaps for creamy soaps. Avoid all of the alcohol based cleansing gels, as these gels are hard on skin tissue, and the anti-bacterial ones may aid resistant bacteria to thrive. The best tip is to always follow hand-washing by moisturizing. Do this after each contact with water. If you want beautiful hands, treat them as well as you treat your face, or neck.

Your prevention choices include balms, lotions, butters, creams, and oils and your choice should be based around your skin type. Use one type or several, just get that moisture into your hands every day. Moisturizing can become an innovative adventure, by finding new ways to hydrate. When planning to be outside, apply your moisturizer then slip hands into a pair of white-cotton gloves. This will trap the moisture to your skin. Next, wear a second pair of heavy winter gloves over the first cotton pair. Your hands will soften automatically while walking, driving the kids, removing the snow, etc. Store both pairs of gloves together along with your moisture product. Save time by keeping a jar of moisture cream in the car's glove compartment, then turn your travel-time into restorative-hand-time. The closest thing to magic is sleeping while wearing moisture laden hands tucked into white cotton gloves and hands will feel fabulous all the way to spring.

Keep Moisture Practical, and Available

All summer long we hear, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, so we carry water bottles, and hydration becomes easy, not a chore, not another burden. The same should follow for winter. Make it easy. We might remember to add moisturize our skin; however, we sometimes are so busy that locating product isn't easy. So in the rush and crush of our busy lives it is wise to keep moisture always on hand and in easy to find locations. And if we pack a water bottle – we pack a moisturizer too! Keeping lotions and creams within easy grasp will ensure their use.

If you normally keep lotions and creams only on the dressing table try moving one to your bedside table. Keep both soap and moisture containers together on the kitchen counter and your bathroom vanity. Make it as routine as washing your hands to never consider leaving either the kitchen or bath without first replacing the lotion on your hands. Finally, (and from an ugly personal experience,) always secure the moisture containers in your purse with both a very secure top, and a zip lock bag.

Apply moisturizer in the shower while skin is damp, then follow this application by gently patting skin with towel. We want to trap moisture into skin. When applying any product, make sure you massage the lotions/creams/oils into the skin. Always working the the tip the figures, and making sure you work the cuticles and nails, as they dry out and become brittle. Move moisture up the hand, massaging into the wrist and arm.


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 What Works in May, Doesn't in January      

Light lotions that are so perfect in summer might not be heavy, or emollient enough for February. If you normally deal with drier skin conditions you may need to replace the, “Perfect Lotion,” for a cream like, “ Amber Sage,” made with both  shea and cocoa butters. For extremely dry skin, adding an oil for winter, such as Karen's Botanicals Balm of Gilead Oil is a great solution. Balm of Gilead has no added fragrance, just the sweet smell of organic buds known for their healing power.  Likewise, the normal protective oils found in Oily skin might need a boost. Winter skin support can be achieved for oily skin by adding a sightly heavier lotion to your routine.

Make sure that your winter lotions are free of commercial fragrances, as they are very drying and painful to apply if your hands are already damaged. Karen's Botanicals never uses commercial fragrance. The scented products we formulate at K.B. are made from organic essential oils found in organic plants. We choose the oils we do for a specific job that particular essential oil performs in the skin. We do not fragrance our products for the sake of smell. Essential oil must perform a job of healing and restoration for us to add one to a product.

Finally, apply your sunscreens to your hands. SPF protection is a year round event. 

Have a wonderful winter, and enjoy this season, as it only comes around once a year.

Stay well hydrated, warm and safe.

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