If you’re reading this article, you’re probably dealing with the same problem I had up until two years ago. The skin of my hands was so extremely dry and tight, it frequently tore and even bled. This wasn’t just uncomfortable and inconvenient, it also posed a risk of infection. Quite ironic, given that this problem mostly resulted from washing my hands too often.
For years I suffered from this problem, especially in Winter. I tried everything I could think of and settled on an especially soft liquid soap, and the hemp hand protector by body shop. The result, you can see in the images below. With other products, it was much worse.
I consulted five dermatologists over the years, all of which helpfully informed me that I had dry skin, and sold me their extremely expensive hand creme of choice, ranging from worthless to “just not as good as the body shop one”.
Eventually, and much too late, I finally realized something about liquid soap and decided to try something everybody from dermatologists to web “doctors” warn against: Bar soap.
The Cause of Extremely Dry Hands: Liquid “Soap”
First of all:
Liquid soap (usually) doesn’t contain any actual soap
Which is (probably) why (in the US) manufacturers aren’t allowed to use the word soap in their labels, calling it “creme wash”, “Liquid Hand Wash Lotion”, or similar. The actual ingredients often list a barrage of chemicals, none of which have anything to do with soap . The soft Nivea soap I had been using came off rather well in the aggressive chemicals department, but go ahead and read the ingredients of your “soap” more closely.
What finally helped: Bar soap.
After a lot of research, I found a bar soap that contains nothing but saponified plant oils and milk fat (to protect the skin): The Arztseife by Speick.
Not only did I immediately notice an absence of the pain I had grown so accustomed to when I first washed my hands with this soap, within two days all the cuts and tears had been closed and after a bit over a week, they had almost completely healed.
I couldn’t believe how dramatic the change- and how simple the solution was. For years I suffered from painful, bleeding dry hands and all I needed to do was switch to bar soap, despite everybody’s best advice to use a soft liquid soap. My hands still weren’t, and aren’t perfect, but considering I still have to use liquid soap at work, and I still only use hand cream at night because I can’t stand the feeling of anything but dry, clean hands, my skin is doing remarkably well with this soap. Usually it has time to heal back up over the weekend, ready to withstand another work week’s barrage. Thank you, Speick.
Since then I switched to bar soap for showering as well and have been able to kiss my itchy, dry skin goodbye, mostly. The Hemp Hand Protector by BodyShop (Amazon (Affiliate Link*)) still helps my hands through the roughest work weeks in winter. With these two products, I can finally live a normal life. At least concerning the skin of my hands.
Unfortunately, the soap recommendation doesn’t help you much as it’s a German product and doesn’t seem to be available anywhere in the US, but you should be able to find something similar. Look for a bar soap that doesn’t contain any chemicals beyond soap (see example below), including fragrances. Do not go for something like the Dove Cream Bar, as that seems to be essentially the same as the liquid soap that doesn’t contain any soap.
Some examples that I cannot test myself but that do look promising based on their ingredients are
An finally, the ingredients of the Speick Doctor’s Soap as an example of what a skin friendly ingredient list should/could look like:
- Sodium Palmate (Saponified Palm Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
- Sodium Cocoate (Saponified Coconut Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
- Aqua (water)
- Sodium Olivate (Saponified Olive Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
- Glycerin* (refattening agent)
- Butyris Lac Powder (Dried Butter Milk (refattening agent))
- Cera Alba (Beeswax (refattening agent))
- Cetearyl Alcohol*
- Glyceryl Stearate*
- Potassium Stearate*
- Potassium Palmitate*
- Sodium Gluconate*
- Sodium Chloride*
- Sodium Thiosulfate*
*Normal, non-concerning soap stuff
Note that this is not ideal yet, as the ingredients could be organic and vegan, but in terms of skin friendliness this is the best I have found so far. Will update if this changes.
Do you suffer from extremely dry, cracked skin? Try switching to bar soap for a week and get back to us with your results in the comment section below 🙂
*Affiliate Links placed on this site mean that if you click one of them and end up buying a product, roman-reviews will receive a commission on that sale at no extra cost to you. I only link to products I believe in, as you can tell from some of my less favorable product reviews on this site.