Dry, cold, windy weather, indoor heat, frequent hand washing or hands in water – even warming your hands by the fire – can all add up to very dry hands. Severe dryness can lead to painful cracks and fissures and even skin rashes.

Hands require special attention especially when any of the above factors are an issue. Very frequent moisturizing (many times a day) with a thick moisturizing cream is essential to healthy skin on your hands. In the case of hands, I do not think a lotion will suffice – a cream or thick ointment is needed. Many people do not like the greasy feel of a moisturizer or cannot have greasy skin on their hands because of their job (a dermatologist using skin surgery tools and lasers for example). There are several options for moisturizer for the hands that still allow you to do your many daily tasks.

Cerave cream is a cream that contains essentials lipids as well as ceramides in a patented time release delivery system. These ceramides help restore the barrier function of your skin that is damaged by all of the aforementioned environmental assaults. The best part is Cerave is absolutely non-greasy and you can get right back to the computer or cooking or writing or whatever. Avene cold cream hand cream has healing thermal spring water and sucralfate as well as thick moisturizers that withstand 4 hand washes. Another option is Avene Cilcalfate restorative skin cream that we recommend for many different skin issues to promote healing and moisuture. It has the bonus of sulcrafate, zinc, copper and thermal spring water – all of which promote healing. Prescription foam – Hylatopic plus foam – is completely grease free but can be expensive and often is not covered by insurance plans (I found regular hylatopic foam for $137 on drugstore.com).

Bedtime is a good opportunity to apply a thick, greasy, occlusive moisturizer or ointment. Aquaphor or plain petrolatum (Vaseline) can do a lot to ease dry skin and heal cracks and fissures. Aquaphor contains lanolin and there is a small risk of allergy to lanolin. Theraplex emollient cream is thick and waxy which helps it stay in place overnight (great for lips also). These ointments can be applied and then a cotton or gel lined glove worn over ointment. Check out options for gloves at allerderm.com.

Hand washing should be minimized. Gentle facial cleansers or barrier repair cleansers (Cerave, Cetaphil restoraderm) are options for sensitive skin. For those who wash very frequently – child care, health care – I recommend a sanitizing hand gel or foam. Even though these contain alcohol which can sting any cracks and be drying, these cleansers are much less drying to the skin than the wet to dry cycle of hand washing with soap and water.

The cracks and fissures of dry skin can predispose hands to allergic or irritant dermatitis. Rashes and red, itchy skin may require prescription ointments plus all of the above measures. Thick or calloused skin can be treated with creams containing alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, or urea. These ingredients help normalize the upper layer of skin making skin softer and less rough and thick. Glytone ultra heel and elbow cream (I call it “hoof cream” because I use it to keep my feet soft and callous free) or Avene Akerat are examples that can be used on hands, feet, elbows or other areas of thick rough skin.

Healthy and comfortable hands are possible with attention to hydration, barrier repair and gentle cleansing.

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