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 .