THE best way for people to keep their hands smooth and soft is to stop using detergent, according to a study by Austrian dermatologists published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

In the study 18 volunteers soaked their hands in a detergent solution three times a day for 15 minutes: each had one hand exposed and the other protected by a rubber glove. In 13 of the exposed hands excessive moisture loss from the skin occurred within two weeks; scaling, fissures, itching, dryness and smarting followed. Soaking the hands in tap water alone produced no changes in the levels of moisture loss from the skin.