7 Products for Dry Cracked Hands in Winter, According to Skin Experts
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Try these dermatologist-recommended hydrating creams and lotions for smooth, moisturized hands.
Soothing dry cracked skin
Dry skin can be a chronic issue for some people, especially during winter when the harsh, cold, and humidity-depleted air strips skin of its moisture. The lengths we go to stay warm certainly don’t help, from running heaters and furnaces which create a dry internal environment, as well as taking longer, hotter showers that cause further damage to our skin, notes Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. (Here’s how to fight dry winter skin.)
While you can cover up most areas of your body, your hands are usually exposed to the elements, because you need to use them for just about everything you do. And, though washing your hands regularly to prevent sickness is critical, doing so can also result in dry cracked hands. (Try these home remedies for dry hands and feet.)
How common is dry skin?
Virtually any person can be prone to dry skin, however, individuals with a history of childhood eczema and seasonal allergies are more prone to it, according to Rina Allawh, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. (Here’s the best eczema cream for your type.)
Occupation is also a factor when it comes to dry skin. “Individuals where they frequently wash their hands during the workday are more prone to dry skin, specifically hand rashes and dry hands,” says Dr. Allawh. “For example, individuals who work in healthcare, food and cleaning industry, and childcare are at an increased risk for dry skin.”
How to prevent dry skin
The best way to prevent dry skin, according to Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, New York City-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center, is by providing a skin barrier (protective layer) to protect your vulnerable skin from “the elements,” which include handwashing, hand sanitizing gels and solutions, cleaning products, and dry, cold, windy air.
“Avoid excessive handwashing as much as possible while maintaining good hygiene and viral protection and apply a hand moisturizer every time you wash,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. (Try these dry skin remedy foods.)
For her eczema-prone patients and those with sensitive or dry skin, Dr. Murphy-Rose often recommends moisturizing before and after handwashing to get the best protection for your skin. “Once the skin breaks or cracks, microorganisms can enter and actually cause skin infection, so always wear gloves while touching cleaning products at home and when outdoors,” she says.
What to look for in a product meant to treat dry, cracked hands
The good news is that there are countless products on the market that are formulated to soften and hydrate dry, cracked skin. Here are some of the key ingredients that dermatologists recommend looking for when purchasing lotions, creams, and gels.
According to Dr. Murphy-Rose, all great moisturizers contain essential ceramides, as they help prevent transepidermal water loss. That’s the amount of moisture lost from the skin into the atmosphere. “Ceramides are waxy fats that are found naturally in high concentrations in the outer layers of the skin,” she says. “They help form a shield-like barrier to keep moisture in and to protect skin from the environment.”
This well-known humectant has the impressive ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, notes Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. “It is a naturally occurring molecule that exists in the dermal matrix, the gel between cells and other skin structures, and contributes to moisture by attracting water to the skin,” he says.
Essential fatty acids
Dr. Murphy-Rose also recommends looking for moisturizers and skin-soothing ingredients rich in essential fatty acids, like shea butter and cocoa butter as well as colloidal oatmeal, which has the ability to calm and soothe irritated skin.
Best products for treating dry cracked hands
Here are some of the best products that dermatologists recommend to their patients suffering from dry, cracked skin. (Also, here are some natural moisturizers you can find at home.)
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
One of the most tried-and-true treatments for dry hands that dermatologists still recommend is old-fashioned petroleum jelly. That’s the main ingredient in this Aquaphor ointment which helps keep hands feeling smooth and moisturized.
“It has been a staple in numerous households for a majority of my patients for various ailments including dry skin, rashes, nosebleeds, and cosmetic purposes,” says Dr. Allawh. “In my patients suffering from dry skin, especially in the winter months, I recommend greasing their body after showers with petroleum jelly—leaving your skin feeling silky smooth after showers. Ingredients are safe and effective and gentle for patients with sensitive, dry skin,” she says. (Also, follow these dermatologist skin care tips.)
Aveeno Skin Relief Intense Moisture Hand Cream
“Formulated with protective ceramides, emollients, and occlusive ingredients, this intensely hydrating and rich moisturizer will help soothe and protect your hands,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. This Aveeno formula also contains oat flour and oat oil extracts to help soothe and calm flared and irritated skin. This can be especially beneficial for those dealing with psoriasis and eczema.
Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream
The skin care brand Eucerin was formulated to specifically remedy dry, cracked skin. “It is rich in ceramides to help strengthen the skin’s barrier and replenish moisture, as well as glycerin, shea butter, and lactic acid,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.
Although it says it contains cetearyl alcohol, it’s worth noting that this “fatty alcohol” behaves more like an emollient than an alcohol so it’s neither drying or irritating, notes Dr. Murphy-Rose. (Psst, here are some DIY skin care treatments from dermatologists.)
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream
“The search for a non-greasy, yet hydrating hand cream can be a daunting task for many of my patients, especially those with hand dermatitis,” says Dr. Allawh. She highly recommends this hand cream from Neutrogena, which contains a high concentration of glycerin.
Dr. Allawh says glycerin is an important player in restoring moisture and the protective skin barrier. It’s also ideal for frequent hand washers since it’s fragrance-free, lightweight, non-greasy, and translucent.
Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve
This hydrating salve from Kiehl’s is great to keep with you year-round, thanks to its high-quality list of nourishing ingredients, including avocado, sesame seed, and olive and eucalyptus oils. It soothes and nourishes deeply dehydrated hands. You can purchase it in a larger, 5.1-ounce bottle for use in the home as well as a smaller, 2.5-ounce bottle for on-the-go use. (These are the signs your skin care products are bad for you.)
CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream Skin Protectant
“Developed with dermatologists, this drug-store hand cream [CeraVe] includes multiple ingredients like dimethicone, an emollient that protects the skin, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides to moisturizer and restore the skin barrier,” says Dr. Camp. It’s fragrance-free and non-irritating, so it’s a great option for those with sensitive skin or eczema.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Body Lotion
If you’re looking for an overall body lotion that you can also use on your hands to fight dryness, this one from La Roche-Posay is a great choice. It is lightweight, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and non-greasy, so Dr. Allawh recommends it to all her patients, even those with eczema and psoriasis.
“It is excellent for dry, cracked skin to further supplement prescription topical steroid use,” she says. “Ingredients are safe and above all else provide optimum hydration with minimal irritation, both of which are favorites among my skin of color patients with acne-prone skin.”
Next, here are the best hand sanitizers for dry skin.
- Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, a New York-based dermatologist
- Rina Allawh, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
- Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, New York City-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at New York Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center
- Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology