Winter is over (yahoo!), but my hands are still dry and scaly (boo hoo). When I went to the store for some lotion, I came home empty-handed because the commercial products all seemed to have ingredients I didn’t want. For instance: Alcohol, which can leave skin even more parched…mineral oil, which can clog pores…preservatives, which can dry and damage skin…and/or a high water content, which makes the products less emollient and thus less able to penetrate and hydrate the skin.
So I called Laurie Steelsmith, ND, a naturopathic physician in Honolulu and author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health, for advice. She kindly listened to my complaints and then shared four simple recipes for hand-healing remedies. Each can be made at home with inexpensive, all-natural ingredients you already have or can easily find at the health-food store. Use any or all of the following remedies as often as you like.
For dry, dehydrated hands: Milk Soak. In a medium-size glass bowl, heat two cups of whole milk in the microwave until pleasantly warm to the touch—do not overheat. Soak your hands in the milk for five to 10 minutes, then rinse hands well. Dr. Steelsmith explained that milk (especially whole milk) contains fats that moisturize and hydrate the skin…plus calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E that nourish the skin cells (nails, too).
For scaly, flaky hands: Oatmeal-Sea Salt Scrub. In a small bowl, sift one cup of instant oats (which are finer than steel-cut or rolled oats) between your fingers, removing any sharp hulls. Mix in one tablespoon of finely ground sea salt. Stir in one to two tablespoons of whole milk, a bit at a time, until the mixture is moist and sticky. Rub the oats mixture all over your hands, massaging it in for several minutes—this acts as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells. Rinse hands well.
For irritated or itchy hands: Nighttime Nourisher. In a small bowl, combine two tablespoons of olive oil, two drops of calendula extract and two drops of chamomile extract. At bedtime, rub the oil mixture into your hands for several minutes, then put on cotton gloves and leave on overnight. In the morning, remove gloves and wash hands with gentle soap. Olive oil is a natural nonirritating moisturizer…and calendula and chamomile have healing properties that soothe sensitive skin, Dr. Steelsmith explained.
For multiple hand woes: All-in-One Honey Treatment. In a bowl, combine one-quarter cup of lard, one egg yolk, one-half tablespoon of honey, one-half tablespoon of ground almonds and a few drops of rosewater for scent. Massage the mixture into your hands, then leave it on until it hardens, about 15 to 30 minutes. Wash off with warm water and a gentle soap. Although this treatment requires more ingredients than the other remedies, Dr. Steelsmith said that its many benefits—moisturizing, nourishing, exfoliating, healing—make it worth the effort when you need extra help.