Evaporation aside, hot water also has the ability to strip the natural oils and lipids in your skin. When your lipid barrier is continuously compromised, cracks and scaly, itchy skin tend to follow suit. That’s why many derms recommend sticking to lukewarm water when showering or washing your face—sure, a steamy spray might feel pleasant, but your skin pays the price. Again, arid weather can weaken your skin barrier function already, so you don’t want to aggravate it further.
So when frequently washing your hands this winter (as you should!), keep the water temperature cool. You might think that only hot, scalding water can effectively kill the bacteria lingering on your palms, but rest assured it’s not so much the water itself as it is the soap. As the CDC notes in their “Handwashing” guidelines: “The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal.”
That said, find yourself a soothing, hydrating hand soap, and stick to a room temperature (or slightly warm if you so desire) rinse. Your skin barrier will happily reward you with smooth, scale-free hands.