Dry hands and sore, cracked cuticles result when the skin loses moisture, often caused by exposure to wind, cold temperatures, sunlight, water, frequent hand-washing, garden soil or use of anti-bacterial cleansers or other harsh chemicals. As moisture is depleted, the skin loses its protective barrier and becomes cracked, itchy and inflamed. The nails and cuticles crack and split, often resulting in painful hangnails. A simple, old-fashioned home remedy involves restoring and maintaining the skin's lost moisture.
Soak your hands in lukewarm water every night at bedtime. Dry your hands gently with a soft towel.
Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly. Avoid lotions and oils, which are too thin to be effective. Coat your fingernails with the petroleum jelly. Massage the jelly generously on your cuticles and under your fingernails. If your fingernails are long, trim them regularly to prevent dirt from accumulating under your them.
Put a pair of cotton gloves over your moisturized hands and leave them on overnight. Gloves increase the penetration of the petroleum jelly, resulting in an intense moisturizing treatment.
Routinely wear appropriate gloves to protect your hands during activities. For gardening, wear leather or cotton cloves. If your hands are constantly exposed to water, wear rubber gloves. Properly fitting rubber gloves are also the best protection from cleansers and chemicals.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Wash your hands with a cleanser that doesn't contain soap, as soap is harsh and dries the skin. Instead, use a non-soap cleanser containing shea butter or other moisturizers.
Apply a moisturizing lotion or hand cream once or twice every day. Massage the lotion into your cuticles and nails.
Never chew or tear hangnails, which may lead to a painful infection. Instead, trim the hangnail with clean, sharp cuticle scissors.