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Long Soaking May Help Dry Hands

But sealing in absorbed water is key to success

TUESDAY, Feb. 24, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Done correctly, soaking in water can help ease the dry skin that plagues the hands of so many people during winter, says a skin expert at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

"The most important treatment for dry skin is to put water back in it," Noreen Nicol, the hospital's chief clinical officer, says in a prepared statement.

"The best way to do that is to soak in a bath or shower. Then you must seal in the absorbed water with a thick layer of moisturizer. At National Jewish, the 'soak and seal' hydration method is a fundamental element of our therapy for atopic dermatitis patients with severely dry and cracked skin," Nicol says.

She notes that moisturizer is 10 times more effective when it's applied to skin that has been soaked in water. That's because the moisturizer can soak more deeply into the top layer of skin, creating a more effective barrier against water loss.

Soaking hands for only a short time and then drying them doesn't allow enough time for the water to soak in, so the moisture inside the skin evaporates more easily. Skin can become more susceptible to harsh soaps and other irritants. However, applying moisturizer immediately after drying your hands helps reduce this water loss.

Let your hands soak for 15 to 20 minutes, Nicol advises. Then pat your skin dry and immediately apply a thick layer of occlusive moisturizer to seal in the water your skin has absorbed. This 'soak and seal' should be done just before you go to bed.

More information

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology has more about dry skin.

SOURCE: National Jewish Medical and Research Center, news release, February 2004
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