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Jul 14, 2020

Why Does Dirt Dry Out Your Hands?

Why Does Dirt Dry Out Your Hands?

The sun is out and the garden is looking lush, but why do your hands suffer so much after a day spent digging and weeding?

It’s a common problem for hardy gardeners: digging in the dirt can leave hands sore, dry and cracked. In the worst case scenario, dry skin can get cracked, leaving you vulnerable to infection. So what’s going on, and what can you do about it?!

Spending a long time with your skin in contact with soil can be problematic, because gardening involves a perfect storm of factors that do no good for skin. Here we look at five reasons why your skin gets dried out when gardening.

1. If your hands are in contact with moist soil then the water it contains is damaging to the skin (as any prolonged contact with water is dehydrating to skin). If the soil is dry then it pulls the water from your skin.

2. If you’re digging all day, you might be in prolonged contact with fertiliser and other gardening chemicals that will strip the oils from your skin and dry out your hands.

3. Soil can be abrasive: little particles of grit, dirt and plant matter act to damage the protective top layer of skin, leaving it vulnerable to moisture loss.

4. Once the skin’s barrier function is impaired by damage or moisture-loss, it loses its suppleness and is likely to lose more moisture and crack. 

5. Not necessarily directly related to the soil itself, but if your hands are dirty, you have to wash your hands more often and more thoroughly: both water and soap dry out skin, especially if you’re using powerful highly alkaline household soap which tends to remove the skin’s natural oils along with the dirt.

What can you do about it? Here are our three top tips for soothing dry gardener’s hands:

  • Wear gloves: keep skin dry and clean at all times
  • Wash hands with a gentle low-alkaline cleanser, not soap
  • Apply and reapply an emollient oil-based ointment (not a cream or lotion or oil) frequently throughout the day

Recommended product for gardener’s hands:

Balmonds Skin Salvation balm with hemp and beeswax (from £7.99 for 30ml)

Important Note

If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.

If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.

Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

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