Monday, December 17, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Prevent Dry Hands?

“My hands are very dry, so dry that they crack in the winter. I use hand lotion at home once a day, and I have a bottle of lotion that I keep in my desk at work. I think that part of the dryness is caused by washing my hands every time that I go to the bathroom. What are some things that I can do to help my skin retain its moisture and not crack?”

Registered Nurse Rachel Schneiter Responds:

You are probably right that hand washing (among other things, like cool, dry weather; medication use; and genes) may be causing your dry, cracked hands.

Lotions help, but if you are continuing to have a problem despite lotion use, there are a few things you can do that may help more.

Apply vitamins A+D ointment to your hands and rub in well right before bed at night without washing it off. It sounds messy, but if your skin is really dry and cracked, you'll find it soaks in the ointment during the night, and you should awaken to the cracks mostly healed and less redness and soreness. Some people find they get even better results if they wear cotton gloves after applying the ointment.

You can find vitamins A+D ointment at most drug stores.

The real key is to treat your hands before bed for two reasons; you won't be washing off the cream or ointment for a long period of time of time, so it gets a chance to work. Second, our body temperature changes when we sleep so our pores absorb topical treatments better during rest.

You may also need a hand soap that is moisturizing and carry a small container with you when you need to wash your hands during the day.

You might try a different lotion or switch to a cream, such as Curel, or Eucerin which are thicker and tend to work better than the lighter lotions.

Wear winter gloves outside, even if it's not snowing, to protect your skin.

If conservative measures like these do not improve your dry hands in a few days, you may want to see your doctor or a skin specialist called a dermatologist for treatment.

Registered Nurse and Corporate Nurse Educator Yvonne Askew Adds:

Make sure that you use lotion after every hand washing. If you only use lotion once a day, this will be washed or worn away very quickly.

Do not stop washing your hands after each bathroom trip! The emissions we release during these trips are full of things that our body is finished with after we eat/drink. Our body also discards waste from germs and bacteria that can re-grow on our skin. They may not cause us any harm, but they can cause illness for those we shake hands with or if someone touches another item that we have touched. Remember Typhoid Mary?

Getting back to your dry hands, with the winter weather here and dry air everywhere, wear gloves. Even though it is cold, our skin is still allowing moisture to be released. Using gloves and lotion can slow down the process, keeping more moisture next to your skin.

Also, keep drinking water! Keeping your body hydrated can assist in replacing the moisture lost by your body, thus lubricating your skin. Drinking water assists your body in exchanging or flushing old, used fluids, with new fluid ready to keep the cells of the body working at releasing their waste products.

If your problem continues, speak to your primary physician. He or she can assist you in getting help. If you do not have a primary physician, call Health Connection for a referral at (716) 706-2112. They will be able to assist you in locating a specialist.

About Our Experts

Rachel Schneiter, RN

Rachel Schneiter is a Registered Nurse in OB/GYN services at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in Buffalo. The Piver Center provides medical obstetrics, infertility treatment and other services for women.

Yvonne Askew, RN

Yvonne Askew is a Registered Nurse and a Corporate Educator for Catholic Health. She has a Master's Degree in Nursing Education. She is a Faith Community Nurse, the 2012-2013 President of the Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc., and the Faith/Health coordinator for the Buffalo District A.M.E. Zion Churches.
If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.


  1. When the weather is really cold make sure you wear gloves when you are outside as they help prevent some of the cracking and bleeding

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