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Lotions for Really Dry Hands

Thousands of hand-moisturizing products are widely available, but not all of them are equally effective. The alcohol in scented hand products can exacerbate dry skin, and fragrances and preservatives are common allergens that can cause the skin condition contact dermatitis. Wax- and oil-based moisturizers are typically more effective than lotions, which contain high concentrations of water and alcohol. Fragrance-free moisturizers are also a better option for people with extremely dry hands. Look for products that list key moisturizing ingredients on the packaging.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid Products

Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, are a class of naturally occurring compounds that include glycolic, lactic and citric acids. AHAs chemically exfoliate dead skin cells by loosening surface skin cell bonds. Exfoliation removes the top layer of dull, dry skin, revealing new skin cells underneath. According to New Zealand's DermNet, AHA products are most effective when applied just before bed. AHA hand creams are available over the counter, but a dermatologist may prescribe a cream with a stronger concentration if you have severely dry skin.

Shea Butter Products

Shea butter is a fatty substance derived from the nuts of the shea tree, found in Africa. African tribes have used it for hundreds of years as a moisturizer and healing ointment. Shea butter contains numerous beneficial compounds, such as vitamin E, catechins and lupeol, which perform a range of protective functions from preventing cellular damage to acting as a natural sunscreen. Shea butter also stimulates cells to produce structural proteins that strengthen skin.

Cocoa Butter Products

Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat derived from cacao beans. It has a low melting point, making it easy to apply to the skin. Cocoa butter is an emollient; it replaces lipids, or fats, by filling spaces in skin cells. Lipids serve as barriers to prevent moisture loss from the skin. Cocoa butter is available in solid form as 100 percent pure cocoa butter as well as in cream and lotion formulations.

Lanolin Products

Lanolin is a natural wax derived from the wool of animals such as sheep. It works as a skin moisturizer through a twofold process. When you apply it, it creates a protective barrier that prevents your skin's natural moisture from evaporating. It also absorbs moisture from the air and channels it into your skin. Barrier-type products such as lanolin are most effective if you apply them when your skin is moist---immediately after bathing or washing your hands, for example.

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