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Prepping Butternut Squash = Dry Skin?

I couldn't find a definitive answer about this online, so I hoped you all could help. I was cutting up some butternut squash for a potluck tonight, and i noticed that after I had put everything in the oven, my left hand felt really rigid. This is the hand that held the squash while I peeled it with a ridged vegetable peeler. I've read that peeling it this way and holding it with your bare hand can cause dry skin, but this is beyond dry. It cracks and peels away the top layer of my palm and fingers. I'm not sure, but it seems like a chemical peel? Maybe too much vitamin A? Is this similar to those alpha-hydroxy products that women use on their face and hands? If so... maybe I discovered a cheap face peel? lol

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  1. hmm, not sure, but my daughter has allergic skin reactions to the flesh of pumpkins and some fruit. Her skin gets itchy & red, some cracking & some hives. Maybe an allergy?

    1. That's ODD! There is something in plants in the squash family that makes cut pieces particularly stick together. And I'm sure that's the same stuff that makes your skin feel vaguely shrink wrapped after you've handled a lot of peeled winter squash.

      I thought that's what your post would be about. But it sounds much more extreme than that! Like you have an allergy to it or something.

      Did using lotion after you discovered this give you any relief?

      1. The effect has been noted before
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/299095
        (a thread with posts dating from 2004 to this month).

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          Heh, one year later... thanks for the link. I'll try baking the entire squash first next time.

        2. This happens to me too. Wikipedia has a little bit about it, calling it a type of contact dermatitis. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butternu...

          )

          After a particularly bad reaction, I now use gloves when peeling and chopping butternut squash.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chrischris

            I hate having gloves on my hand. Another alternative is to split the squash in half lengthwise. Then it will sit stable-ly (is that a word?) on a cutting board so you can draw the peeler along it and chop it into uniform chunks with a minimum of handling.

            A stainless ice cream scoop with the sweeper blade is a great way to get the seeds out. The steel edge is strong enough to get down to the flesh and the sweeper blade ejects the seeds into your compost pail without handling.

            1. re: chrischris

              I can't manage wearing gloves and peeling all at the same time, but, since I get this reaction too, I find that it helps if I coat the inside of my hand with olive oil before handling the squash.

            2. Happens to me too with pumpkins as well.

              1. I am very glad for the internet! I just finished scooping & chopping a Cinderella pumpkin and a Cheese pumpkin. After 10 minutes or so I noticed my left hand (I'm right handed) was stiff and looked like it was coated with something. So, thinking I had pumpkin goo coating my hand (I thought that in itself was strange) I scrubbed it a few times. But it didn't help so I pulled at it and peeled it off. EWW! I am sure it was skin that I was peeling off as underneath my skin felt kind of smooth and fresh (and slightly sensitive), like it was a layer that just was seeing the light of day. I'm not sure which pumpkin did it but I'm wearing gloves next time! I might have minimized a bigger reaction as I'm very quick to wash my hands after handing gooey guck.

                1 Reply
                1. re: subarusooz

                  As I mentioned, I've had this happen to me in the past. I recently bought a large butternut squash and prepped it using a pair of food-handler's gloves and that seems to have done the trick. But even in the grocery store after sifting through a few squash with my bare hands, they started feeling dry and a bit cracked. Who knew squash were so evil! lol

                2. That happens to me too. Even when I wash my hands off immediately after and when done cooking dinner put cream on it is still odd/dry. When possible I get someone else like my prep cook (Mr. Vanilla) to peel them. Otherwise, I put on my rubber gloves and do it. Yep. Plain old yellow gloves. I would just suffer through it, but my hands are gnarly enough.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                    You might want to try NOT peeling the squash.

                    tonicart mentioned baking it whole.

                    I cut the squash in half and steam them face down in the microwave (put a little water in the bottom of the dish). Then I use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds and cut the squash out (similar to how I would cut up a cantalope) and cook (roast, sautee, steam, etc.). You have to be careful not to steam it too long if you plan to roast it in the oven or it will get too mushy . . .

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                      Sounds like a good solution for some people, but I would still have to use gloves even with this preparation since my skin started to become dry and crack even when touching the squash in the store while choosing one.

                  2. This just happened to me, it feels and looks like my hand is covered in dried superglue.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: lpparlee

                      I always wear kitchen gloves now when I deal with raw squash- annoying, but beats the heck out of the skin reaction I get otherwise

                      1. re: DrMag

                        Same here. I even have to use a plastic bag wrapped around my hand when picking out a butternut squash at the grocery store. That's how reactive my skin is to it.

                      2. re: lpparlee

                        I'll be using gloves next time but found that hemp oil hand moisturizer helped relieve the dryness that night then scrapping off the layer of dead skin the next day with a pumice stone brought my hands back to feeling normal. They should bottle that stuff as a facial peel...

                        1. re: lpparlee

                          actually, they do...sorta. I've had a "pumkin peel" at the spa which was shockingly effective at removing freckles....then i got a sample of Kate Sommerville Exfolicate and it behaved in a similar way. So, I looked at the ingredients, and "pumkin enzyme" was one of them.

                          So apparently, it's not just butternut that has the same effect, pumkin apparently too. I have never had the sensation on my hands when prepping these vegetables....maybe that means they were no where near under-ripe, per Simplymarie's post below.

                      3. I belong to a local CSA and the first year at the end of the season, the farm owner gave everyone boxes of butternut squash that they had picked due to an impending frost. He specifically said to wait at least couple of weeks before I started using them since they were picked slightly under-ripe. He said while the taste would be fine, there can be a painful and unpleasant skin reaction due to the squash's natural self defenses in wanting to ripen.
                        So, what I have noticed is that this only happens to me when I handle raw squash that is not quite ripe. Once it reaches complete maturity, the enzyme or whatever it is called starts to go away. Whatever the enzyme is, it allows the squash to be stored for a long time.
                        Since I never know from supermarket squash, I always wear gloves.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: SimplyMarie

                          "He said while the taste would be fine, there can be a painful and unpleasant skin reaction due to the squash's natural self defenses in wanting to ripen. "

                          Fascinating! Thanks for the info SimplyMarie.

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            Wow, SimplyMarie, that is very interesting! A few years ago I had to stop peeling raw butternut with bare hands, as it felt like someone threw battery acid on my hand when I would touch it. My hands felt awful for hours afterward. From then on, I have always wear latex gloves when peeling.