If your hands are more dry than they've ever been, you are not alone. The current season has us all fully focused on hand hygiene to help keep ourselves and those around us healthy. From washing like crazy to heavily relying on hand sanitizer, all that soap and water and alcohol can certainly dry out the skin. And because our skin serves as a crucial component of our physical immune system, we want to keep it in intact ~ which means taking good care of it in between all that washing and sanitizing. 

Finding the Right Soap

Before I discuss ways to treat dry skin on your hands, let me first talk about soap. Soap is a miraculous molecule ~ it has a super unique ability to bind to both water and oil (a rarity in the molecular kingdom) which makes it so good at attaching to literally anything on your hands and washing everything away. Because soap works so well in its simplest form, that is exactly how you should use it ~ in its simplest form. Nowadays you can find an endless array of soaps with artificial detergents and fragrances and antibiotics and colors and preservatives and guess what... none of it is necessary. All of those extra ingredients in soap just make it less effective, and depending on what they are can potentially be harmful for your body.

Many hand soaps and body washes use synthetic detergents & surfactants like Laureth Sulfate & Cocamidopropyl Betaine. These lab-created cleansing chemicals can potentially contain skin-irritating or downright toxic substances, are harsh on the skin and are honestly not as great at washing as traditionally-made soap.'Natural' fragrances, despite their misleading adjective, are far from natural ~ these proprietary compounds can contain a vast number of different chemicals, but the composition of their ingredients remains trade secretes of the fragrance industry. Fragrances can potentially contain substances that irritate the skin, and are in no way needed for proper cleansing. Antibacterial soaps were all the rage a few years back, but it turns out that using them can wreak havoc on the delicate balance of bacteria naturally on your skin (which is absolutely supposed to be there) and can make antibiotics less effective when you actually need them. Don't get me started on color additives ~ they are never necessary in soaps and rarely in body care in general. As for preservatives, real soap doesn't need them and can last for years in its pure form. 

When I say 'real soap,' I am referring to soaps created the time-tested, traditional way with just cold pressed oils (like olive, coconut, etc.), lye (a type of sodium salt made from combusted plant material) and water. Through an ancient natural process called saponification, the lye causes the oil to transform into fatty acids (what you know as soap) and glycerin (a sugar alcohol); as a result, none of the lye salts remain in the final product. This means that you can get an amazing cleanse from soap that barely has anything in it ~ just saponified, cold pressed oils. 

So what soap should you be using? In my opinion, pure Castile soap or authentic African Black Soap are the best options. Castile soaps, named for their origin in Castile, Spain and the Levant, were traditionally made with olive oil and with the inclusion of common salt (also known as a hard soap). I personally love Dr. Bronner's Pure Liquid Castile Soaps and honestly use them for everything ~ I swear this isn't an ad, I'm just a huge fan. I always dilute their soap with water in a 1:1 ratio, and find that this is perfect for hand washing (and also as shampoo, body wash and dishwashing, for the record). One of the benefits over liquid vs. bar is that, if your skin is particularly dry, you can add a cold pressed oil of your choice (I prefer olive oil) to replace some of the added water and create a more hydrating soap. If you're taking this route, you might need to play around with the ratios a bit but a good place to start would be 3 parts soap, 2 parts water, and 1 part oil ~ just be sure to shake well before each use. 

If your skin is generally on the more sensitive or irritated side, African Black Soap is a wonderful option. Originating from West Africa, the magic of this soap starts with lye - known in this case as potash - made from locally abundant plant materials like cacao pods and plantain peels. Often crafted with Shea butter and local oils, this traditional recipe is exceptionally mild and gentle on the skin. It's honestly the only soap I use to wash my face, but I also highly recommend it for washing your hands and body. There are many products out their that claim to be African Black Soap, but the real stuff is mottled tan to brown in color, pliable to the touch (like play-dough) and has a very subtle earthy aroma. Look for formulations that have minimal ingredients (without fragrances or activated charcoal to make it appear black), like this organic, fair trade bar (again, not endorsed, just one I can personally vouch for). 

In regards to hand sanitizer, you want to make sure you're using one that is at least 60% but less than 85% alcohol to successfully kill gems. Keep in mind that the higher the alcohol content, the more drying the sanitizer will be. For more on making and using hand sanitizer, please check out my previous journal post on DIY Hand Sanitizer + All the Facts

Hydration for Dry Hands

Dry skin was one of the key driving factors behind Indigo Elixirs ~ even as a kid, my hands and knees were always so dry that I tried almost every lotion in the drug store. I remember reading 'guaranteed to work' labels on bottles of moisturizes and being confused as a small child, asking my mom why these lotions with lofty promises still didn't work when they said it would. As I grew older and began to understand what the ingredients were on the back of the bottles, it was no wonder that these formulations made mostly with water, alcohol and glycerin were leaving my hanging dry. 

Enter plant oils, butters and beeswax ~ nature's most nourishing fatty substances are the salvation for dry skin. When you're using a truly nourishing moisturizer, the difference will be significant: your skin will feel and look healthier, and therefore you'll need to apply less frequently as your epidermis holds on to the hydration better and has improved elasticity. Oils and butters pressed from seeds are nutrient-rich, antioxidant and soothing to chronically raw, dry and chapped skin. Beeswax is a natural emollient that helps to give natural formulations a longer shelf life while protecting your delicate complexion.

Because the alchemist behind the elixirs is no stranger to chapped skin, several products on the line are designed specifically to relieve it. Below I'll walk you through my top picks not just for dry, over-washed hands but for dry areas anywhere on the body. 

1. Whipped Love Face & Body Butter 

This is an I.E. classic ~ first formulated a decade ago, Whipped Love has gone through many iterations on the quest to be the best possible version of itself. The base of cold pressed local Macadamia and organic Coconut & Olive oils is infused with fresh O'ahu grown herbs to soothe the skin. This potent oil is then literally whipped with organic Fair Trade Cacao & Shea butters for a thick, creamy consistency that looks like cake frosting. Whipped Love is what I recommend to start with for dry, chapped skin anywhere on your body from your face to your feet. The blend is thick but soaks in well after a few minutes, and leaves just a subtle chocolatey aroma on the skin. The best time to apply is after bathing, when your skin is warm and locks in moisture optimally. This product is great for after sun care, and also works well to protect your skin when braving the cold elements. For moderately dry to very dry skin, Whipped Love is the one for you. 

2. Savior Salve

This nourishing creamy salve provides sweet relief for irritated skin. Savior is crafted with gentle, skin-soothing local herbs infused into an organic Olive & Coconut oil base and then whipped to perfection with raw organic Fair Trade Shea butter. The formulation was designed specifically to help alleviate raw, chapped areas of skin that are itchy, inflamed or irritated. Those with particularly sensitive skin, dry-type dermatitis or eczema may find this especially soothing for chronic or acute flare ups. The texture is softer and lighter than Whipped Love, and soaks into the skin a bit more quickly. The salve can be applied as needed throughout the day but soaks in best after bathing, and may be used anywhere on the scalp, face, and body. 

3. Seven Seeds Moisture Balm

The most recent addition to the Moisturizer collection, Seven Seeds is truly the most hydrating product on the Indigo Elixirs line. This thick, true salve is made for the driest skin under the sun (or snow) ~ exceptionally chapped, painfully raw and chronically parched complexions will be nurtured back to health with the seven nutritive seed oils & butters that make up this blend. Four cold-pressed oils, including organic Sea Buckthorn & local Macadamia, fair trade organic Shea & Cacao, Hawaiian beeswax and O'ahu Vanilla beans come together in a soft, buttery elixir that soaks in deeply while leaving a protective glow on the skin. Originally created for expecting mamas, Seven Seeds consists entirely of ingredients that are generally safe to use during pregnancy ~ it works wonders as a belly balm but can be used anywhere on the body {including the face & hair} and for just about anything. Massage onto warm skin after bathing and use as needed throughout the day. This one also moonlights as a luxurious lip balm!

4. Forest Bather Balm

Infused with two of Hawaii's most beloved woodsy scents ~ Sandalwood & Vetiver ~ the Forest Bather pairs grounding aromatics with a supremely moisturizing base. Cold pressed local Macadamia & organic Coconut oils are infused with the pair of local essential oils, then blended into a base of Hawaiian Beeswax, Cacao & Shea butters. The texture is similar to the Seven Seeds ~ deeply moisturizing, thick & buttery but with that lovely forest aura.  Available in a 1 oz tin, this balm is the perfect solution for dry skin on the go ~ keep a tin in your bag and use it when you're out to hydrate body, face & hair. 

5. Solve All Salve

My multi-purpose herbal balm isn't named Solve All Salve for nothing ~ this little wonder in a tin is truly a jane of all trades. While I normally recommend it for healing & relieving minor abrasions & irritations, Solve All works well at soothing small areas of dry skin in a pinch. I keep one in my wallet at all times so I never leave home without it, and the botanically-infused base of oils and local beeswax does the trick to hydrate wherever needed

See all the details about each of these products under the Moisturizers and Skin Healers collections in the shop. 

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