I used to rely on hot water to help warm up my hands prior to playing. However, in recent months I’ve run into a problem where my fingers are too dry and are not getting that “gripiness” you’ve described. I posted a thread here about it a couple of months ago.
The only way I can describe it is a lack of traction, as if the string is sliding across the surface of the rounded part of the finger, rather than being gripped, and plucked. I don’t know what’s causing this. I am using Lubriderm hand lotion everyday to try to counteract this.
I’ve always had pretty durable fingers that have never given me problems. But now, I’ve noticed that the more playing I do, the smoother my fingertips get – instead of rougher, and calloused, as you’d expect. It’s bizarre. It’s like my fingerprints are getting rubbed off.
My sound is practically gone. Literally, in a matter of months, my fingers feel different on the strings, and I don’t sound like myself. It’s depressing.
I’m have appointments with two different dermatologists in the next few weeks. I have no idea what could be causing this, although I’ve done a lot of reading about dry fingertips online and have discovered a few possible causes, including: insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) and/or celiac disease (inability to process gluten), Vitamin A deficiency, fungal infection, dermatitis, or eczema.
Back to your question – in some cases, I’ve heard hot water can actually dry out your skin. But it does feel really good right before playing and helps loosen everything up. In terms of lotions, I would stick to ones that don’t feel greasy.