Painfully dry and cracked hands can be the result of frequent hand washing, sensitive skin or a dry winter climate. Whatever the cause, cracking skin hurts and requires gentle care to prevent and heal damage. Finding lotions that work well for your skin can be challenging. In order to treat very dry skin, moisturizing lotion should be quite thick, contain rich moisturizing ingredients, and be free of common allergens.
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Causes and Considerations
Dry skin is a common problem for many people, particularly during the winter months. Dryness typically leads to itching; and the associated rubbing or scratching may thicken skin. Thickened skin is prone to fissures or cracks, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. These cracks can make daily life painful and may be difficult to treat. Both prevention strategies and moisturizing lotions are essential to help reduce or eliminate painful cracking and irritating dryness.
Lotions for dry hands can prevent cracking, add moisture, and even help your damaged skin to heal. Moisturizers trap water in the skin, preventing dryness and keeping skin soft. To use moisturizing lotion, wash your hands with warm water and a gentle soap or a lotion-based cleanser, like Cetaphil. Pat your hands dry and apply a moisturizing lotion every time you wash your hands, and consider using a heavier, greasier lotion before bed each night.
Choosing Hand Creams
There are three basic types of hand moisturizers. Ointments are quite greasy, but very effective. Cream-based lotions absorb into the skin, but do leave greasy reside. Lighter lotions are the most popular choice; however, they are also the least effective. Choose a thicker ointment or cream formulation rather than a lighter lotion and avoid hand lotions containing potentially drying alcohol.
Double up on lotion applications for the best effect. Apply a thin layer of lotion after washing your hands. Allow the lotion to soak into your skin for several minutes, then apply a second layer, recommends dermatologist Dr. Joseph Bark of Lexington, Kentucky. You might also apply a rich cream or ointment hand lotion to your hands, then cover with cotton gloves. Leave the gloves on overnight to help heal your dry hands.
Cortisone Cream Caution
While over-the-counter cortisone and other anti-itch creams may be tempting, be conscientious about their use on dry winter skin. Limit cortisone cream use to red patches of dermatitis on the hands and always follow up with a rich moisturizing lotion. If dermatitis is severe, see a dermatologist or your regular health care provider for a prescription. Avoid any anti-inflammatory or anti-itch products that worsen redness or burning, recommends the University of Iowa.