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Dermatologist's Tips For Dry, Cracked Hands

Dermatologist's Tips For Dry, Cracked Hands

Is The Skin On Your Hands Chapped And Painful?

You use your hands constantly, and when your skin finally cracks and chaps, it affects almost everything you do. You can  healthy hand skin all year round if you understand what causes dry, cracked hands and and what you need to do to prevent them.

How does the skin on your hands differ from the rest of your body?

Hand (and foot) skin is much thicker than skin on the rest of your body. That’s why it doesn’t get irritated right away when you touch harsh chemicals (like house cleaning products), and it doesn’t chap as quickly as other areas of your skin (like your face, when you are exposed to harsh weather).

What ingredients should you look for in hand creams and how often should you moisturize your hands?

It’s important to take good care of your hand skin, and that means using the right hand care products. This is especially true in the winter when your hands are the most prone to chapping. 

Use only gentle soaps to wash. And then, apply a good moisturizer immediately after drying your hands as often as you possibly can. Look for gentle cleansers that contain glycerin and moisturizers with glycerin, lanolin and rich hydrating oils.  I talk more about this below.

Here are some important steps to keep your dry, cracked hands looking and feeling their best all year:

Hand Washing Tips to Avoid Drying-out Your Hand Skin

Lather only the tougher dirty palm side of your hands. 
Unless the thinner skin on the back or your hands has also gotten dirty or has come into contact with germs, you want to avoid washing this thinner skin over and over throughout the day.

Be sure to rinse off all hand soap really well. 
Hand soap that stays on your hands will pull out your skin oils and dry and irritate your skin. Pay special attention to the space between your fingers where soap residue often hides.

best hand soap to heal chapped handsUse only very mild hand cleansers for hand washing.

Options include glycerin bar soaps, or liquid soaps with a lot of added glycerin, and foaming gentle hand cleansers that rinse off entirely. Some brands that are available in stores include: Avalon Organic Botanicals Glycerin Hand Soap, and two Neutrogena products: Fresh Foaming Cleanser and Extra Gentle Cleanser. 

Remember, strong soaps like dish soap are harsh on the skin. Plus, adding oil or "moisturizing ingredients" to a harsh soap doesn’t necessarily stop the soap from being harsh on your skin. 

My absolute favorite natural and glycerin-rich hand cleanser is my All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap

I've added it to the products that I sell on my site because it's that good. The foaming soap base cleans well but also rinses off your hands easily. This is important because retained soap residue pulls out the natural oils from your skin, compounding your chapping hand problem. 

Click here to learn more about my All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap.

Using a Hand Moisturizing Cream Is Important.

best hand cream for sensitive skinMoisturize your hands often with a good quality hand cream immediately after toweling dry
It needs to be non-greasy so that you don't mind using it during the day.  My favorite is my Dry Skin Hand Cream, which I use all day long.

This much-loved hand cream contains glycerin and dimethicone to hydrate and protect hand skin without giving you a greasy grip. I keep a tube at every sink in my home and in my lab-coat pocket at work.

Don't bother applying hand cream if you haven't just gotten your hands wet.

It makes your hands feel greasy and it won't work to moisturize your skin because moisturizers lock in the water that your hand skin just soaked up during washing.

  • Apply the cream to your entire hand, but especially the back, which has thinner skin and is more likely to chap.
  • Wipe off the excess cream from the palm side to keep from getting it on everything and having a slippery grip.

The most effective non-greasy hydrating ingredients are glycerin and lanolin. 

For use during the day, find a product that is non-greasy.  At night, give your hands a real therapeutic hydrating treatment with a rich and heavy product. 

Get both my favorite gentle hand cleanser and my favorite hand cream in my Survival Kit for Busy Hands

Remedy for dry and chapped hands

If you want entirely natural skin care ingredients, take a look at my Hand Care Kit for Naturally Busy Hands

natural healing for chapped hands

Healing Night Treatment for Severely Chapped Hand Skin

Bag Balm 1 oz best hand moisturizer for extremely chapped handsBefore bed, soak your hands in warm (not hot) water for 5 minutes, towel dry and then apply a generous layer of a thick and rich, highly therapeutic ointment like Bag Balm (which contains lanolin from wool).

In fact, I'm such a fan of Bag Balm that I've added this time-honored home remedy for chapped hands to my website.  Click here to see more about why I love Bag Balm. 

Cover your hands with cotton gloves to lock in the ointment, and wear the gloves overnight. If your wool allergic, try pure shea butter (available in the skin care section of your natural food store) or ShiKai’s Borage Dry Skin Therapy.

What should you do if your dry, cracked hands are already severely chapped?

If you have chapped hands, you need to protect them from further irritation. This means wearing rubber gloves when you are touching irritating things like dish soap, house cleaners and even some foods like tomatoes, citrus etc.

A good rule of thumb (no pun intended) is that for contact with things that would be too harsh to apply to your facial skin, you need gloves to touch them with your chapped hands.

Yes, this is surprising and inconvenient. But, think about what you ask your hands to do over and over again! You use them like they are gloved to touch harsh chemicals. Normally, they can handle it because healthy hand skin is a pretty good barrier, but chapped skin is broken. Harsh chemicals get through chapped skin, irritating it (like putting lemon juice on a cut).

Your chapped hands just won’t heal unless you protect them until they are completely recovered. 

This means that you need to keep using the gloves until the skin is entirely back to normal... plus at least a week or two. This is pretty inconvenient so it’s best to just take really good care of your hands before they become chapped by washing with gentle soaps, regularly moisturizing and not over using hand sanitizers.

best intense skin care to heal brittle nails and severe chapped handsI've created a complete hand care kit to heal chapped hands and keep them healthy.  

I call it my Dry Skin Hand Repair Kit and I depend on it for my own hard-working hands. My kit has all the essential products you need. 

Click here to jump to the page for my Dry Skin Hand Repair Kit and get more skin care advice on exactly how to care for your hands.



Photo: Gratitude and Thanks to Agustin Ruiz