How to Heal Dry, Chapped Hands (Also Known as Hand Dermatitis)
In my YouTube video below, I talk about hand care and dry, chapped hands. Here, I explain my tips.
The important point to know is that your hands take a lot of abuse. You use them all day long like you've got gloves on, and they get chapped.
They itch, the skin gets tight, it starts to crack, and it can even fissure.
It's more likely to be problem from fall to spring because you are avidly washing your hands trying not to get all the cold and flu germs going around. But hand dermatitis is a problem all year long, especially for people who do a lot of wet work. Their hands are in and out of water all the time. This includes people like restaurant workers, health care workers, etc. My Survival Kit for Busy Hands helps busy hands fend off chapping.
I work in food and beverage where I need to wash my hands constantly! I started putting this on before bed, in the morning, and after work and noticed a huge difference! Alex
Dermatologist's Tips to Heal Chapped Hands or Hand Dermatitis
- There is a right way to wash your hands to help them heal
- Here are the tricks to good hand washing to help prevent hand dermatitis
- Using a really effective hand moisturizer after washing your hands is important to heal chapped hand dermatitis
- Another important aspect of healing hand dermatitis is that you want to minimize the use of hand sanitizers
- Protecting your healing hands are also important
- Bag Balm is a time-honored remedy for severely chapped and cracked hands
- Be patient with your chapped hands
What happens in chapped hand dermatitis is that the hand skin loses some of the important natural lipids
This happens because of exposure to harsh chemicals, solvents, wet work, weather, etc.
Reverse chapped hand dermatitis with skin care:
- Wash your hands in such a way that you are not over-stripping the lipids.
- Then, lock in moisture so that the barrier can heal.
You do this by using effective moisturizers right after toweling your hands dry. But note that they need to be moisturizers that aren't too annoying and greasy because you won't use annoying and greasy hand creams!
There is a right way to wash your hands to help them heal.
I like to teach people to create a public and private side of the hands. The public side is on the palm where the skin is thicker and can take a little bit more abuse.
Hand dermatitis often starts on the back where the skin is thinner and/or between the fingers. Consider the back of your hand “the private side,” and care for it gently.
Here are the tricks to good hand washing to help prevent hand dermatitis:
When you wash your hands, use warm water… not steamy, hot water.
Steamy hot water is going to strip your oils really efficiently just like it gets the grease off pots and pans. You don't want that with your hand skin.
Use a gentle cleanser on your hands, preferably a foaming/lathering cleanser.
Use a soap that lathers easily so that it is distributed more evenly over your hands instead of having thick globs of it that are hard to rinse off. Lather up the public part of your hands (the palms and fingers). You only lather the private part (the thin skin on the back of your hands) if you really did get it into something that needs to be washed off.
After lathering, you need to rinse the hand cleanser off entirely.
Germs will go with it down the drain. Know that if you leave cleanser residue on your skin, like if you use a globular cleanser that does not rinse quickly, it will continue to strip your skin’s natural oils after you've toweled off.
Rinse really well, making certain to rinse behind your rings because hand dermatitis often starts there. Also, be sure to rinse in the web spaces of your hands because this is another location where hand dermatitis often starts.
Using a really effective hand moisturizer after washing your hands is important to heal chapped hand dermatitis
Towel your hands off and immediately apply a really good hand moisturizer on the skin:
- Hand moisturizers are a combination of watery ingredients, oily ingredients and humectants which are often glycerin and/or lanolin in hand care products.
- You can even find hand care products that have protective ingredients in them such as dimethicone, which can act like a protective shield on your hands. That combination is actually one of my favorites.
- You want to moisturize your hands as often as you can to help heal and prevent hand dermatitis.
Another important aspect of healing hand dermatitis is that you want to minimize the use of hand sanitizers.
The alcohol in a hand sanitizer will pull the lipids out of your skin. Of course, if it’s a must, then use it. But, ideally, you want to try to wash your hands with gentle hand cleansers more than using hand sanitizers to keep your hands from spreading germs.
You also want to avoid anti-bacterial soaps.
The FDA has said that anti-bacterial soaps, which contain triclosan, are of no value in preventing infection. In fact, there's some controversy about using them at all. Often, antibacterial hand cleansers are also formulated in ways that make them drying, irritating and hard to rinse off. So, I recommend that we all avoid anti-bacterial soaps.
Protecting your healing hands are also important.
If you are going to put your hands into circumstances that you know will pull the lipids out, such as doing a sink full of dishes, using paint thinner or other drying chemicals, walking in brisk and cold, windy weather, etc., you want to wear gloves to try to protect your hands from those circumstances. They will cost you skin lipids and break your skin barrier down.
Bag Balm is a time-honored remedy for severely chapped and cracked hands
Finally, if your hands are in terrible shape, and you've got fissures and skin that hurts, you can give them a real therapeutic treatment by soaking them at night for five minutes in water, drying them off and then really coating them with Bag Balm.
Bag Balm is an old-time remedy for horse's hoof’s, cow's udders – and human hands. Apply the Bag Balm and then cover your hands with a good pair of cotton gloves and go to sleep. When you wake up in the morning, your hands will be softer, and your cracked and fissured skin will hurt a little less. This is the beginning of healing severe hand dermatitis.
Be patient with your chapped hands ...
Know that once your hands have broken out with hand dermatitis, you've got months and months of good care of your hand skin for them to heal because the barrier on your hand skin is very, very thick. Healing thick skin takes time.
To see the products that I use in my dermatology practice to heal hand dermatitis click these links to learn more and see my use instructions:
This combines my Naturally Best Bar Soap with my Dry Skin Hand Repair Cream. The soap is easy-rinse, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and eco-friendly. Keep a bar at every sink and another in the shower so that you never use harsh or drying soap to wash your hands. After towel drying your hands, apply my very popular, non-greasy hand cream. It's made with the perfect combination of humectant and protective ingredients to help hand skin heal fast.
This includes the Naturally Best Bar Soap, Dry Skin Hand Cream plus Bag Balm and the best therapeutic cotton gloves on the planet! This is the 911/stat kit for severely chapped hands that are suffering from hand dermatitis.
To watch my video on How to Heal Chapped Hands click on the image below.
Author: Dr. Cynthia Bailey M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist practicing dermatology since 1987. She has done well over 200,000 skin exams during her career and authors the longest running physician written skin health blog in the world.