Dry Cracked Hands: Protection from the Cold

04 March, 2020
Dry, cracked hands are a common winter condition. This is because, they're exposed to low temperatures, the same as any other part of your body. 

Have you ever had dry, cracked hands? If so, then you must know how annoying and painful they can be. The hands are particularly sensitive to winter weather and people who work with them can’t afford the luxury wearing gloves at all times. So, is there anything we can do to protect them?

The skin that covers our hands often gets dry and cracked. This is because there are hair follicles on the back of them, and minimal fat production. Thus, the back of your hands has very few elements to protect itself against inclement weather and they dehydrate more easily.

It’s a completely different situation with the palms of our hands as these do have protection against harsh weather. For instance, they produce sweat with which to regulate temperature.

Cold weather leads to cracked hands because it tends to be dry and dehydrates the cells. Dry dermis results in cell junction breaks and this produces the cracked look.

Causes associated with dry, cracked hands

Cracked hands aren’t only due to cold temperatures. There are other conditions in winter that one can associate with cracked skin together with some non-weather-related circumstances.

Sudden changes in temperature are pretty common. Many of us live in overly heated interior environments and our skin suffers a thermal shock when we go outside. This change from heat to cold is pretty bad for your dermis.

As we said above, exposure to cold temperatures leads to dryness. Also, you might think that washing your hands frequently will hydrate your skin. However, this isn’t the case at all. Quite the contrary, in fact, humidity can be counterproductive when added to a cold environment, and this can dry the skin further.

A person applying hand lotion.
A sudden change of temperature, as well as contact with some irritants, can lead to excessive dryness and cracks in your hands.

In addition to cold weather, harsh household chemicals such as detergents, insecticides, and even the soaps and lotions we use might dry and crack our skin.

With this in mind, some companies are now developing products to protect your skin from cracking instead of making it worse. Surfactant soaps, for example.

Pre-existing dermatological conditions and autoimmune diseases are also a factor when it comes to skin dryness and cracking. For instance, people with psoriasis notice that their symptoms worsen every year. Other hormonal conditions, such as hypothyroidism and diabetes, also have a negative impact on the skin.

Read on: Caring For Your Hands and Feet

Measures to prevent dry, cracked hands

You don’t need to worry about winter when it comes to your skin. This is because there are certain measures you can take to prevent dry, cracked hands. Here are a few:

  • Wash your hands with warm water. You must wash them often regardless of the weather and it’s best to do so with lukewarm water.
  • Wear gloves whenever possible – both to protect them from inclement weather and harsh substances. Make sure your skin doesn’t come into direct contact with toxic substances. Also, keep your fingers warm.
  • Moisturizers: Not every lotion is useful to prevent dry, cracked hands during winter. So, we advise that you use those that are specifically formulated to moisturize dry skin. Even better if you can find one that contains some sort of substance derived from oats. Don’t just apply it to your skin, but extend it to your nails.
A person warming up their hands.
You must protect your hands with gloves during the winter. In addition, make it a point to wash them with lukewarm water.

Find out more: Seven Recommendations to Care for Aging Hands

Useful homemade preparations

Dry, cracked hands aren’t due to bacteria and so there’s no medication to treat them. All you need are preventive measures and better habits. There are some homemade preparations you can try to obtain relief. These formulas are great for hydrating your skin and the best part is they don’t contain any harsh substances.

Among the useful homemade preparations are:

  • Vaseline: Use it as is, without adding anything to it. Vaseline will form an insulating barrier on the skin and keep it safe when exposed to cold temperatures. We recommend a weekly application.
  • Wheat: Warm wheat bran is another great product for the skin of your hands. Boil it in water and then let it cool down. Soak your hands in it repeatedly, making sure it’s not too hot before you do.
  • Honey: This substance has many overall health properties, especially when it comes to the skin. It’ll form an insulating layer on your hands. Mix it with some melted butter and allow it to cool down. The only problem with this mix is it will stain whatever it touches. Thus, we recommend that you do the treatment when your hands are idle.
  • Egg yolk: This is a natural moisturizer. Beat it slightly and apply it directly to your hands for ten or twenty minutes. Repeat this treatment three times a week. It should be more than enough to keep your hands from cracking due to exposure to cold temperatures.

Conclusion

Cold weather has the perfect conditions to dry and crack your hands. A great way to avoid it is to wear gloves as much as you can. And, as we’ve explained above, there are also many natural products you can rely on as moisturizers.

  • Mañez, V. Muñoz, et al. “Dermatitis atopica (DA): hidratación y plan de cuidados.” Enfermería Dermatológica 1.1 (2007): 16-23.
  • María Eugenia Iglesias Zamora. «Protocolo de Vigilancia Sanitaria Específica para los trabajadores expuestos a Dermatosis Laborales». Comisión Delegada de 25 de
    febrero de 2003. DEPARTAMENTO DE SALUD DEL GOBIERNO DE NAVARRA. https://www.saludcastillayleon.es/profesionales/es/saludlaboral/protocolos-vigilancia-salud-especifica.ficheros/1224226-Dermatosis.pdf.
  • Rupal Christine Gupta, MD (2015). Psoriasis. The Nemours Foundation. https://kidshealth.org/es/teens/psoriasis-esp.html.
  • W. Uter , O. Gefeller , HJ Schwanitz (1998). Un estudio epidemiológico de la influencia de la estación (aire frío y seco) en la aparición de cambios irritantes en la piel de las manos. https://www.infona.pl/resource/bwmeta1.element.elsevier-d3f80497-6401-3c79-9c2a-4e07dc65bf7b/tab/summary.