Broken, cracked skin looks bad, feels worse, and can lead to more serious health issues. Here’s what might cause your broken skin and how you can fix it.

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Broken Skin: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

09/11/20238 min read

Besides being unsightly, broken skin — often on your lips, hands, or feet — can be painful and may eventually lead to more serious health issues than cracking and dryness.

Let’s look at what might be causing your dry, cracked skin, and then talk about what you can do to treat your dry skin and stop it from coming back.

Table Of Contents

What Causes Broken Skin?

Dry, broken skin on man’s hands


If your skin isn’t holding enough moisture, it can become brittle and split.

People with a naturally dry skin type — skin that doesn’t produce as much oil as other people’s — can be more susceptible to this, but dehydrated skin can happen to anyone regardless of their skin type.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is fancy-sounding medical terminology for a reaction that happens when your skin comes in contact with an allergen or some other type of irritant.

Usually the reaction will start as a rash, but it can lead to cracked, scaly, broken skin, especially if you can’t resist the urge to scratch.


Eczema is a chronic skin condition that leads to “flare-ups” of irritated, itchy skin that can appear anywhere on the body. Its exact cause isn’t yet known, but researchers believe genetics, allergies, and environmental triggers all play a part.

The most common symptom of an eczema flare-up is patches of dry skin, and sometimes the affected areas can become so dry the skin cracks. Scratching the itchy spots can also lead to broken skin in the affected areas.

Other Conditions

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection commonly contracted from walking barefoot in communal areas like public showers or locker rooms. It causes dry, itchy, scaly skin that can crack if left untreated.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that results in outbreaks much like eczema, but it’s thought to be caused by an auto-immune disorder.

Finally, people with diabetes sometimes experience dry, broken skin on their hands and feet because high blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in these areas.

Diagnosing The Cause

Assuming that it isn’t coming from chronic conditions like eczema and isn’t a symptom of a deeper condition like diabetes, figuring out what’s causing your broken skin may require a bit of detective work.

Consider where your broken skin appears, when it appears, and if the outbreak is accompanied by any other physical symptoms.

If you suffer from recurring issues with broken skin during periods of the year when the climate is extreme or quickly changing, that’s usually a tell-tale sign the weather is dehydrating your skin, especially if your dry skin is on exposed areas like your lips, hands, and feet.

If you’re seeing broken skin on parts of your body other than the usual “heavy duty” areas, then think about any irritants those parts of your body may have recently been exposed to.

Did you brush up against a plant during a hike that might have set off an allergic reaction? Did you recently start using a new skincare product, unaware of potentially irritating ingredients?

If you have broken skin and also often experience symptoms like headaches, muscle cramps, and general fatigue, your dried-out skin could be a sign of overall dehydration.

Putting a little careful thought into these questions can usually solve the mystery of why you’re suffering from broken skin so you can take care of treating it.

How To Treat Broken Skin

Woman exfoliating her foot with a pumice stone

1) Try A Liquid Bandage

Simply putting a regular bandage on cracked, broken skin like you would an ordinary cut isn’t usually an option because of the size and location of the affected areas.

However, you can try using a “liquid bandage” product. These are sprayed or brushed on the problem area to form a flexible seal that prevents infections while your skin heals.

2) Moisturize Daily

If you aren’t already using a moisturizer, make moisturizing part of your daily skincare routine. Choose a lotion or cream with gentle ingredients, and apply it to the affected areas at least twice a day.

3) Exfoliate Often

Another simple step for treating cracked skin that you can implement into your routine is exfoliating, the process of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin.

You can use physical exfoliators, like a loofah or pumice stone, or chemical exfoliators with ingredients such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acid. Just be sure to avoid chemical exfoliators containing harsh ingredients that may irritate your sensitive skin.

Tip: Only exfoliate once a week — anything more than that may actually irritate your skin further.

4) Treat Underlying Skin Conditions

If your broken skin is caused by eczema, then choose a moisturizer with botanical ingredients, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream, to relieve irritation and help your skin barrier restore itself.

5) Consider Home Remedies

Massaging the areas of broken skin with alternative remedies, like honey or coconut oil, can be effective for moisturizing your skin and helping treat cracks. Quick soaks with colloidal oatmeal can also soothe your skin while gently exfoliating.

How To Prevent Broken Skin

Woman applying lotion to her arm

Of course, the best way to treat broken skin is to stop it from happening in the first place. It may be too late for that if you’re reading this article, but we can offer tips on how to head off a recurrence of the issue.

1) Keep Showers Short And Lukewarm

First of all, let’s talk about your bathing routine. If extreme dryness is causing your broken skin, you might think the obvious solution is to spend more time in the tub or shower. Logically, more exposure to water should rehydrate and heal your skin, right?

Well, not necessarily. In fact, if you’re a fan of long, hot showers or baths, that could be part of your dry skin problem. Exposure to hot water can damage the outer layers of your skin and leach out moisture.

Try turning down the temperature so that the water in your shower is only warm, not hot. If your skin is turning bright red, the temperature is probably too high.

2) Increase Your Water Intake

A better strategy is to try upping your water intake. Many people are chronically dehydrated without realizing it, and if you’re dehydrated in general, your skin will get dehydrated as well and be more likely to break and crack.

You might be surprised how much better you feel by simply drinking more water!

3) Protect Your Skin

Woman washing dishes wearing rubber gloves

Be conscientious about protecting the skin on the parts of your body most susceptible to breaking and cracking.

During the winter, keep lip balm on hand and wear gloves or mittens. Also wear gloves when washing dishes, as hot dishwater can dry out your hands.

During the warmer months, instead of living in flip-flops, put sandals with full coverage or back straps into your rotation to protect your heels. Never walk barefoot in public places, as this puts you at risk from germs that cause athlete’s foot.

4) Choose Skincare Products Wisely

Before using any new skincare product, take a hard look at the label for alcohols or other harsh ingredients.

It’s also important to perform spot tests. This means applying only a small amount to a specific area to test for a reaction before you start using any new product regularly.

Complications Of Broken Skin

Foot with dry, calloused, broken skin

Broken, cracked skin can be painful and unsightly, and that’s enough to make you miserable enough just by itself. However, broken skin can lead to more serious health complications.

When your skin is broken, it can’t perform its natural barrier function of keeping foreign bodies out of your system. Even tiny cracks in your skin are big enough to let harmful germs and other bacteria in.

This means that chronically broken skin brings an elevated risk of developing infections. This can be extremely dangerous, especially for people who have weakened immune systems because of other medical conditions.

When To See A Doctor

Signs that your broken skin has become infected include:

  • Swelling, redness, or a hot feeling around the affected area
  • Bleeding from the cracks in your skin
  • Pus oozing from the cracks
  • Fever or chills

If you experience any of these, seek medical care as soon as possible.

From Broken To Beautiful With Bodewell

Woman with beautiful smooth skin

Between its unsightly appearance, the discomfort it can cause, and the potential for complications, broken skin can have a big impact on your physical and mental well-being.

Broken skin is best treated by moisturizing, gently exfoliating, and restoring your skin with natural remedies.

You can stop irritated skin from becoming broken and keep the problem from coming back by making smart changes to your habits, including hydrating, adjusting your bathing routine, and protecting areas of your body prone to broken skin.

And if your broken skin is caused by a chronic condition like eczema, try our line of Bodwell eczema products to help manage it and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

Don’t let broken skin break you down. Get help from Bodewell and get back to looking and feeling great!


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