Today the temperature never rose higher than 39 degrees Fahrenheit at my house in Vermont, and we saw snow on the upper ski slopes of Pico Mountain. Word just came in that Killington opens tomorrow for skiing! Tonight we expect our first frost of the season, even though we're still experiencing the peak foliage of mid-October.
The night-time temperatures have been chilly enough to cause the heat in our house to kick over for the past couple of weeks and I've had the heat on in my car a bunch of times. Already I'm noticing that my hands are drying out and my cuticles are hardening and cracking.
For those of us who work with silk thread when knotting pearls, dry hands can be a big problem. The dried up cuticles and skin can catch on the thread and damage it while we're working. This is also a problem for anyone who handles yarns, threads, and delicate fabrics. In addition, for those who do scrapbooking or work in offices, paper can suck the moisture out of your hands, not to mention the paper cuts that can also catch on and shred your silk thread.
I've already started to use hand lotion a couple of times during the day and always before I go to bed at night, because it's easier to keep the skin from drying out than it is to fix it once it has been damaged. But that's probably not a surprise to anyone.
There are two problems that I think many of us miss.
First, going outside in the cold without gloves or mittens can be very drying to your hands. We usually think of the heat as the culprit, but cold can do damage, too, especially when there is wind. I don't even want to mention the winter F-word (frostbite).
Second, driving your car can dry your hands out! Why? Because when we turn on our car heaters, we often aim the hot airstream straight at our hands to keep them warm as they grip that cold steering wheel. Even when we divert the airstream away from our hands, we're in a confined space with the heater running—meaning that passengers are also getting dried out hands.
The solution is the same in both cases. Wear gloves or mittens when you go outside and when you're in the car. Even better, apply hand lotion under the gloves and mittens. When going outside, be careful to use hand lotion that has little to no water content because the water can freeze and damage your skin—yes, I'm aware of the concept of using hand lotion to trap the moisture into your skin, but not when you're outside in below-freezing temperatures. Avoid using face lotion with water when you're outside in the winter, too. Ask me about the time I went skiing with the wrong lotion on my face. The next day I had quarter-sized, dry, red splotches all over my face. It wasn't pretty and it hurt.
I know that fingerless gloves and fingerless mittens are popular, but they leave those fingertips and cuticles exposed. I've decided that I'm going to wear my fingerless gloves over my driving gloves.
I'm hoping that if I'm careful to protect my cuticles from dryness then my nails won't dry up and crumble again this winter. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Time will tell.
So, what can you do if you've already got parched hands and cuticles and they're catching on your thread/yarn/fabric? Gently smooth the rough cuticles with a fine emery board. Don't scrub. Then apply a grease-free hand lotion so that you don't stain your work.
Save the vaseline and other greasy lotions for bedtime—and wear cotton gloves to keep the lotion on your skin and away from everything else.