How to Heal and Prevent Dry Hands

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, COI on March 27, 2017Written by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN on March 27, 2017

Overview

Having dry hands is common. Although not technically a dangerous condition, it can be a very irritating one.

In most cases, dry hands are caused by environmental conditions. Weather, for example, can cause dry hands. Frequent handwashing, exposure to chemicals, and certain medical conditions can dry out the skin on your hands, too.

That said, there are several ways to keep your thirsty skin hydrated, no matter the cause. Learn more about remedies for dryness, ways to prevent it, and what’s causing it in the first place.

10 remedies for dry hands

To combat dry hands, try some of the following remedies:

1. Moisturize

Apply a quality moisturizing cream or lotion several times per day. Lotions and creams help restore moisture and seal it back into the skin.

2. Wear gloves

If your hands are frequently immersed in water, such as while washing dishes, consider wearing a pair of gloves. Gloves help prevent the water from stripping your skin of its natural oils.

3. Decrease stress

It might sound crazy, but there may be a small association between stress and eczema. So if you notice your hands going haywire from dry skin caused by eczema, take some time for self-care to reduce stress.

4. Consider medication

If you have severe eczema, medications may be necessary to allow your skin a chance to heal. Your doctor might prescribe steroids that you can apply to your skin or even an antibiotic that you would take by mouth.

5. Ask your doctor about UV light therapy

In some cases of severe psoriasis, ultraviolet (UV) therapy can also help the skin heal itself. However, you should talk to your doctor before trying any kind of UV therapy.

6. Treat them overnight

One of the best remedies for dry hands is to slather them at night with lotion or a petroleum-based moisturizer, such as Vaseline. After, cover your hands with a pair of soft gloves or socks. Trapping the moisturizer will help it absorb more fully into your skin, and you’ll wake up with baby-smooth hands.

7. Ask about prescription cream

For skin that’s very dry and scaly, your doctor may recommend special lotion that contains lactic acid or urea. These ingredients help get rid of the dry and scaly skin.

8. Apply hydrocortisone cream

In some cases, dry skin can worsen into a condition called dermatitis, where the skin becomes inflamed and red. In these cases, a lotion containing hydrocortisone may be the most helpful. Hydrocortisone can help soothe the irritated skin.

9. Use a wet dressing

Skin that has cracked from dryness will need to be treated before it can fully heal. Your doctor may recommend a wet dressing as your skin heals.

10. Apply a heavy-duty moisturizer

For deep moisturizing, pick up a moisturizer that was originally intended for animals. Yes, really! Products such as Bag Balm, which was designed to help heal the tough cracks of a cow's udders, can penetrate skin to really help keep it moisturized.

How to prevent dry hands

If your dry hands are being caused by your work conditions, consider carrying a small bottle of lotion around with you so you can reapply moisturizer throughout the day. Look for moisturizers containing ingredients such as:

  • glycerin
  • jojoba oil
  • cocoa butter
  • aloe

If you work in a place that requires frequent hand washing, such as a hospital or restaurant, speak with your manager about installing lotion pumps on the walls. If they already exist, make good use of them.

You should also avoid excessive heat, such as from hand dryers. Like cold conditions, heat can further dry out skin.

Causes of dry hands

Weather

During colder months, it’s common for your skin to become dry. Climate changes, especially cold weather without a lot of moisture in the air, can cause hands to dry out. Decreased moisture in the air draws moisture from the skin.

Read more: Dry skin in winter months »

Workplace conditions

Workplace conditions can also cause dry hands. People with jobs that require extensive handwashing, such as nurses, doctors, or teachers, may notice dry hands. Factory workers or hairdressers may be routinely exposed to chemicals or other harsh irritants. These can lead to dry hands, as well.

Medical conditions

Some medical conditions may also lead to dry hands or put a person at risk of getting dry hands more frequently. For example, people with autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes or lupus, may have lowered blood circulation to the hands. This causes their hands to get irritated more easily. Eczema and psoriasis, two conditions that cause skin inflammation, can also cause dry hands, skin peeling, and cracking.

When should you seek help?

If your dry hands are caused by eczema or another skin condition, you may develop complications such as infection or even deformed fingernails.

Certain symptoms may indicate a severe problem. These include:

  • skin discoloration
  • bleeding
  • extreme redness
  • drainage from opened areas of skin
  • swelling

If your dry hands don’t improve with home treatments or if you have any of the above symptoms, you should seek help from a medical professional.

The bottom line

In most cases, dry hands are a normal part of life. They can usually be treated easily with moisturizer. If your dry hands don’t improve with home remedies or if you show any other symptoms, such as bleeding or infection, seek medical attention.

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