Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Natural Winter Hand Care for Cracked Fingertips

My winter hiatus is now over, and everyone is feeling much better. Thanks for your kind words! I finished painting my library/craft room and am getting everything put back and organized.  All of the scrubbing, painting and clean-up has taken a toll on my hands, as has this brutally cold weather of late. So today I am sharing some of my winter hand care tips and recipes.

Excessive hand washing removes moisture and natural oils from the skin. Most commercial liquid hand soaps contain unhealthy harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances. The extreme cold also works to dry and damage the skin. This can result in dry, chapped hands or even painful cracks in the fingertips near the edges of the nails. They resemble deep paper cuts, and while they don't look like much they can cause a lot of pain and interfere with simple everyday tasks. Little things like fastening a button, typing, writing, or any craft work become painful and difficult. If you have ever suffered from this, you know how challenging it is to work with bandaids on every fingertip. If you are lucky enough to never suffer from "winter hands", but like to avoid harsh chemicals and  do things as naturally as possible, you may also enjoy my hand care recipes.

I have tried everything to heal cracked fingertips, from lotions and creams to antibiotic ointment, nu skin, and super glueing the cracks together. Super glue really helps, but I don't like using those chemicals on my body.

Having a variety of gloves on hand is a necessity. If you suffer from winter hands, it's best to keep them out of water as much as possible. This means wearing rubber gloves when doing dishes, scrubbing floors, etc. A pair of plastic restaurant-style gloves is great to wear when washing fruits and veggies. And wearing gloves when outdoors in very cold temperatures is extremely important. Just a few minutes unprotected in the bitter cold and wind can cause cracking to begin. Before going to bed, slather on a thick hand cream and slip on a pair of cotton gloves. Your hands will thank you in the morning.

Another thing that has really helped me is to apply tea tree oil once a day to all splits and cracks. Let dry, then apply hand cream. Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and an analgesic, so it stops the pain. Within hours of applying it I have noticed healing has begun. Using tea tree oil and my Rich Winter Hand Cream below, my hands become functional within 24 hours, instead of waiting days for them to heal using other lotions and creams.

I have found that switching to my homemade liquid herbal soap has really helped. I have tried a number of different liquid soap recipes, none is close to store bought since the chemicals are all left out. This one is the best I've come up with so far. In the winter I use soothing chamomile that I dried from my garden in the soap and in summer I often use rosehips. Green tea also works well. I use loose herbs, which I place in a coffee filter and tie with a twist tie, but any herbal tea bag will work fine. I begin with a good quality castile soap, grated in my food processor. It only takes a few minutes to make a whole gallon of liquid soap and it's very economical. My local health food store charges 6.99 for an 8 oz. bottle of liquid castile soap and I can make an entire gallon for less than that. Plus I can control the ingredients to suit my needs.  

Liquid Herbal Hand Soap

2 - 4 oz. bars of castile soap, grated
1 gallon hot water
1 T. dried herb of your choice, tied in a coffee filter, or 1 herbal tea bag
1 T. aloe vera gel
2 tsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. honey

In large pot, heat water and grated soap till soap has melted/dissolved, add herbal tea bag and remove from heat. When cool, remove tea bag, add aloe vera gel, coconut oil and honey. Use hand mixer to blend, cover and let sit overnight, blend once more. Pour into gallon jar to store and fill soap dispensers as needed. Shake before refilling, and add a little more water if necessary.

A good natural hand cream or lotion free of synthetic chemicals is a must. I make mine using the recipe below. It is very thick, rich and creamy. I apply it at bedtime, and cotton gloves are great to put on at this time to allow it to soak in overnight. I add lavender essential oil to it since lavender is antiseptic and antifungal and it also induces sleep. Lavender and tea tree oils should be part of every home first aid kit.

Rich Winter Hand Cream

5 T. shea butter
1 1/2 T. coconut oil
1 tsp. aloe vera gel
2 drops lavender essential oil

Combine ingredients and mix till smooth. Store in glass jar.

For my all-purpose cleaner recipe and the world's easiest way to clean the microwave, see this post on Healthy Natural Cleaning Products .


Vegan Epicurean February 2, 2010 at 3:55 PM  


Thanks so much. I have been waiting for this post. I can't wait to try your recipes. Do you also make the castille bar soap, or is this something you buy? I ask because bar soap is on my list of things to do.

glad you are all feeling better,

Oraphan February 2, 2010 at 5:15 PM  

Hi Janet,
Wow! What a great post! I'm so excited to learn how to make my own hand soap and cream because my hands are always dry and cracked. Thanks so much for sharing these fantastic recipes. You're truly amazing!!!

I'm so glad that everyone is feeling much better:)

janet February 2, 2010 at 8:11 PM  

Alicia, I buy my castile bar soap, usually at our farmers' market, but sometimes at the health food store. Making my own from scratch is also on my list of things that I want to learn to do.

Oraphan, I hope you like the hand cream, it works really well for me. Glad you are feeling better too:)

Fayinagirl (means Free One) February 3, 2010 at 11:58 AM  

I'm so glad you are back and that you accomplished so much! =)

Living in Colorado gives me HUGE sympathy for everyone suffering from dry hands (and bodies for that matter). I'm going to try making your soap in the near future. Thank you for the recipe. The boys and I have always wanted to learn to make bar soap too. Maybe that is something we should take on while it's still cold outside. =)

Claudia February 3, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

My experience with soap-making has never been a success. I do go for the organics, hand-mades at Farmer's Market. And natural non-chemical cleaning products have truly helped my winter hands. So glad you are up and about and life is returning to normal!

janet February 3, 2010 at 4:18 PM  

Julie Lynn, thanks. I was also thinking that soapmaking is a great winter activity, when the weather gets nice I hate to be indoors!

Claudia, now I am more nervous about trying soapmaking;P I do love the farmers' market and being able to get handmade organic soap there:)Thanks so much, it feels good to be back to normal here.

comfrey cottages February 3, 2010 at 9:41 PM  

oh janet i am glad you got your painting finished! that rocks! what also rocks are these marvelous recipes:) i will be sharing these with a friend who has eczema and finds that aloe is one of the best helpers for that. i got to try these recipes myself the next free day i have! thanks for inspiring me:) and glad your hands are much better! big herbal and honey hugs:)

Morgan February 4, 2010 at 8:46 AM  

I just keep learning so much! Make my own hand cream? I think I just might!

beautytipsblog.co.uk June 11, 2012 at 6:46 AM  

I think it is best time to try your recipe. Let me try then I will tell you how it work for me?

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