How to Heal Dry, Cracked Hands

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Our hands help us to make physical connections with the people around us -- from wiping the tears from a toddler's cheek to shaking the hand of a business associate. When dry skin strikes, the right combination of TLC and moisturizing skin products can restore the health of your hands, and smooth your social interactions.

Dry Skin Symptoms and Causes

When the skin on your hands is rough, red, flaking and even cracking -- you are probably suffering from dry skin. Cracks caused by extremely dry skin can even bleed. Medical conditions including psoriasis or eczema can result in dry skin. Most commonly, overexposure to environmental conditions such as cold temperatures, low humidity, chemicals and water causes dry skin -- and often these conditions are found in careers like construction, automotive repair, landscaping, and in the beauty industry's hair stylist and nail technician professions. Although medical conditions need to be treated by a dermatologist, you can treat environmentally caused dry hand skin with some at-home treatments and over-the-counter products.

Essential Skin-Care Ingredients

Over-the-counter skin treatments are categorized by their abilities to moisturize, soothe and protect damaged skin. Essential ingredients for dry-skin care include: glycerin, shea butter, aloe, lanolin, and petroleum jelly. Glycerin and shea butter infuse moisture deep into skin to restore dried-out cells. Aloe is so successful at healing and soothing dried-out or damaged skin that it is regularly used to treat burns. Lanolin also soothes irritated skin and can ease the pain of cracked skin along the knuckles and fingers. Petroleum jelly protects dry skin from further environmental damage by blocking the outside elements from entering the skin, and by keeping in any moisture that the skin already contains.

Prep Treatment for At-Home Hand Therapy

Before you can soothe your hands with a deeply moisturizing treatment, your skin needs to be prepared. Start by soaking your hands in warm water and washing them with a gentle soap. Because your hands are already dry, soak them for a maximum of 10 minutes -- too much exposure to water will further dehydrate your skin. Then, tenderly scrub your hands with a loofah or sponge to remove dead, dry skin. Pat your hands dry with a towel, then let your hands sit for 10 to 15 minutes to dry out before you apply the skin lotions.

Soothing Skin Treatment to Restore Dry Hands

Once hands are prepped, you can restore your dried-out hands through a soothing skin treatment. Start by rubbing generous amounts of a rich moisturizing lotion into your hands for 10 minutes so that your skin absorbs the lotion fully. Then, add a protective barrier to your skin by rubbing your hands with petroleum jelly. Put on a pair of white cotton gloves -- made for dermatological purposes -- and wear them for at least two hours. Ideally, this treatment is done before you go to sleep so your skin can absorb moisture overnight. Reapply moisturizing lotion when you wake up, and continue to reapply every few hours throughout the day. If you do your deep-moisturizing treatment during the day, reapply lotion after removing the cotton gloves, and continue to put lotion on your hands every few hours, especially if they start to feel dry.

Maintain and Prevent Future Cases of Dry Hands

After your skin has healed, maintain the health of your hands by protecting them from the outside elements. Wear personal protective equipment -- either thick gloves to keep out cold air or latex gloves to block chemicals and water -- while working. Apply moisturizing lotion to hands after washing your hands to stop your skin from drying out. If your skin begins to feel tight and dry again, apply lotion additional times throughout the day to maintain moisture.