Defeating Dry, Cracked Hands in Winter
posted by Brad Huber, MD | January 2, 2016
Winter is upon us, and for many people that means dry, cracked hands. Understand what causes dry hands and how you can prevent and treat it at home.
There are many conditions that cause dry, cracked hands: psoriasis, dyshidrotic eczema, contact allergy and other skin diseases, but the most common cause is an irritant dermatitis. Irritant dermatitis occurs when irritants such as soap, water, dry air, chemicals, paper, cardboard, detergents, etc. overcome the body’s own protective mechanisms.
This disrupts the skin barrier and dries it out. This barrier cracks and allows environmental allergens in, leading to inflammation, redness and itching. You can develop visible fissures, which burn and become very painful.
Look for lotions with an ingredient called dimethicone; this acts as an added barrier to protect the skin.
However, if your skin is too broken down and fissured, the alcohols in lotions may sting and burn. If this happens, use an ointment such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. Lastly, use a thick cream or ointment-based moisturizer overnight. Wearing cotton gloves after applying the moisturizer helps it penetrate better.
If your skin is too inflamed, good skin care alone won’t be enough to treat the irritant dermatitis. You must use medication to calm the inflammation and help the skin barrier to heal. Hydrocortisone is the best over-the-counter medication to help irritant dermatitis, in some cases even at medication strength it may not be strong enough to solve your problem.
If the above measures do not help, a dermatologist can help you heal and keep your hands feeling healthy and soft.
Dr. Huber completed his Dermatology Residency and his Internal Medicine Internship at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama. He focuses on general, medical, pediatric and surgical dermatology.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.