Frigid temperatures do more than raise the gas bill. Cold, frosty days redden and roughen flesh, leading to splitting skin on fingers and hands that hurts as bad as or worse than a paper cut. No matter how much girly girl lotion and cream I applied in January and early February, I couldn’t smooth out either the hangnails that snagged on bulky sweaters and hoodies or soothe away those painful, weather-induced wounds that formed at the edges of my finger and thumbnails and over the tops of knuckles.
I suspect that even if I never left my house during frigid temperatures, the effects of the furnace on my skin would lead to some discomfort. However, I was going outside and coming in several times each day while washing up at least once an hour to discourage flu and cold germs. This combination is a prescription for hamburger hands.
In desperation to ease the increasing pain, I used tried and true remedies that had worked in the past—even sleeping with cotton socks over grease-coated hands and buying dish soap guaranteed to heal raw skin. None of the products worked, and they depleted my bank account as I attempted to halt this attack on my body.
A fellow employee saw me gently massaging lotion into my irritated flesh and told me to avoid products containing petroleum products. She explained those unguents felt soothing when first applied, but they actually dried out skin. That explained why even though I’d just bought a brand new tube of something in that merchandise line a few days before, my hands were now bleeding. No wonder my almost raw digits weren’t improving.
I hadn’t found a cure, and the splits in my hands and fingers grew more painful by the minute. Unexpectedly, during a trip to get my mom some cold medicine, I spied a new product at a local drugstore. The sign above the display case promoted that it healed working hands that crack and split. Just what I needed. As a teacher, I hadn’t considered myself as a person with working hands since most of my labor takes place inside cozy buildings. However, my hands sure acted as if they were an outdoor laborer’s appendages.
When I asked the clerk about this ointment, she said farmers and road crew workers were coming in droves to buy it. After hearing this testimonial, I was sure I’d found the cure to my dry, cracked, bleeding hands.
Sure enough, the ingredient list didn’t contain petroleum. Glycerin, water, and a whole bunch of words I can’t pronounce but didn’t have to do with the banned item filled up the component list. It didn’t smell, it wasn’t gooey, and it most importantly, it worked. Within a couple of days, craters that kept widening and growing tender to the point they awakened me from sleep began to disappear. Within five days, I could barely remember why I’d whined so much.
The lesson here is don’t go to the beauty product aisle when you’re dealing with outdoor hands. Hit the feed store or the place local farmers shop. These folks know what cures winter-roughened hands.