Moisturizers can help keep the skin on your hands from becoming overly dry and offer protection from the itching, flaking, and cracking that can come with frequent washing and sanitizing. They work by coating your skin, locking in moisture, and preventing the evaporation of water from your skin.
Moisturizers are available in three main formulations—ointments, creams, and lotions:
- Ointments that contain mineral oil or petrolatum are the most effective and long-lasting moisturizers because they have a high oil content and contain little water. You can also use petroleum jelly (Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment) on your hands before bedtime.
- Creams also help seal in moisture. Although they’re less greasy than ointments, they’re also less effective.
- Lotions, which contain more water than creams and ointments, are the least messy of the three but also the least effective.
Choose a moisturizer that’s free of fragrances and dyes, which is less irritating to skin. Finding a moisturizer that works well for you may require some trial and error. If you have eczema, ask your dermatologist for a recommendation.
This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.