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Dry hands can be hard to treat and uncomfortable, especially with frequent hand washing and environmental factors. But what exactly causes hands to dry out? And what can you do about it?
This article will take a look at some of the root problems of dry hands and offer approaches to treating and, better yet, preventing them.
Table Of Contents
- What Causes Dry Hands?
- Symptoms Of Dry Skin
- How To Treat Dry Hands
- How To Prevent Dry Hands
- When To Seek Medical Help
What Causes Dry Hands?
Dry hands come from dry skin, technically called xerosis or xeroderma. Several factors play a role in the development of this condition.
Let’s look at a few of the most common.
Often, dry hands are a result of environmental conditions, many weather-related. For example, extreme heat or cold can dry out hands, as can overexposure to the sun. Also, very dry conditions, typical in winter, can magnify the effect of the cold (or heat in arid climates).
In addition, when temperatures drop, you’re more likely to turn up the heat indoors. Unfortunately, this lowers the humidity in your home even further, which isn’t good for your dry skin.
Another common cause can be irritants, such as chemicals in the workplace, or harsh soaps, detergents, or other cleaning products. If they’re meant to strip away oils and grease, you can bet they won’t be gentle on your skin.
Other irritating ingredients can be found in things like cosmetics and skin care products, or even from allergy-inducing plants. It's important to read labels and pay attention to what makes your dry skin worse.
All of that hand washing we’ve been encouraged to do — while it can ward off disease — can take a toll on your skin, especially in combination with some of the other dry-skin instigators (like some hand sanitizers).
This is especially true if you’re using extremely hot water to clean your hands or if you’re scrubbing too harshly. Either of these scenarios can damage your skin’s natural barrier and cause further damage.
Remember that it’s not just washing your hands that can lead to dryness. Doing any task that requires you to submerge your hands in water, such as washing the dishes, can also dry your skin out.
When your body is under duress — whether due to mental or physical stress — it can cause physical changes. Some people may experience acne breakouts, while others notice their skin becoming more dry.
In addition, as we age, we tend to have more trouble with skin drying out. That’s because your skin thins as you get older. You’ll also make fewer natural oils than you did when you were younger.
As one of the most exposed and used parts of our body, the hands naturally tend to suffer the most.
Habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, or not getting enough sleep can all contribute to the drying of your skin.
Other Skin Conditions
If you can't find another cause for your dry hands, seek professional help. A dermatologist can examine your hands, pinpoint the cause, and create a treatment plan.
Symptoms Of Dry Skin
Dry skin can manifest itself in different ways.
Most symptoms are what you’d expect: rough, dry, itchy skin. Others can be more severe, such as flaking or peeling and, in some cases, fine lines that become deeper, painful cracks that may bleed or become infected if left untreated.
You may also notice skin discoloration. Dry skin can turn red, gray, ashy, or even pale. It can also seem thicker than normal.
In addition, some people experience a burning sensation when their hands are too dry. And others will notice a rash or blisters.
Who Is Prone To Dry Hands?
While anyone can get dry hands occasionally, some people are more likely to develop this problem.
Here are some common risk factors:
- Age: Once you turn 40, your skin doesn’t hold moisture as well.
- Location: If you live in a dry climate or one with extreme temperatures, it’ll impact your skin.
- Profession: Those with occupations that require frequent hand washing or exposure to harsh chemicals are more prone to dry hands.
- Health: If you have diabetes, hypothyroidism, or other medical conditions, dry skin may be a symptom you develop.
- Skin type: Some people have naturally dry skin. If you have this skin type, you’ll need to be more diligent with your skincare routine than someone with a different type.
- Genetics: Do either of your parents struggle to keep their hands hydrated? If they do, you may have inherited sebaceous glands that produce less sebum than normal.
How To Treat Dry Hands
So, if you’re suffering from dry hands, what can you do? Let’s take a look.
The most immediate thing you can do when you have dry-hand symptoms is the most obvious: moisturize them. But restoring moisture to your hands is not as easy as submerging them in a sink of water.
Your skin is, in fact, an organ — the body’s largest — that protects your entire body from external forces. In turn, it is protected by its outer layer, the epidermis, which keeps out germs and bacteria and locks in moisture.
But, as mentioned above, hot water, soap, and other chemicals can leave your skin dry and vulnerable. A good moisturizing lotion or cream can help restore moisture. If you’re already suffering from dry skin, applying a hydrating product is essential.
To help you decide which one is right, let’s take a look at a few basic things to note when choosing which product is best for your hands.
Decide Between Ointments, Creams, And Lotions
While some people may not realize it, ointments, creams, and lotions are different. Ointments are thickest and may lock in moisture best. Creams are lighter but still very effective. And lotions have the highest water content but are excellent for frequent use or on oily skin.
Within the moisturizer category, there are a few more considerations. For example, moisturizers with sunscreen will protect your skin from drying out even more because of sun exposure.
Also, vitamins, antioxidants, and botanical extracts will help restore skin health and can protect your skin from further damage.
Look For Hydrating Ingredients
Next, look for ingredients that specifically keep skin hydrated. Some ingredients attract water to the skin; others lock in the moisture that is already there. Read up on various ingredients and the work they do for your dry skin.
Here are a few ingredients that are known to provide hydration:
Get in the habit of reading labels so you know exactly what you’re putting on your hands.
Avoid Harsh Scents And Chemicals
Avoid causing more damage by using a moisturizer designed for sensitive skin. The last thing you want to do is use a heavily scented moisturizer that triggers a reaction and ultimately makes your dryness worse.
Here are a few common ingredients that are known to be drying:
- Benzoyl Peroxide
You’ll want to avoid these if possible.
Select Products For Your Skin Condition
If your dry hands are tied to eczema or psoriasis, look for moisturizing products specifically designed with those conditions in mind. For example, Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream and Psoriasis Calming Cream are two such moisturizers.
With deep hydration and no harsh chemicals, these products soothe your skin and help relieve your eczema or psoriasis symptoms.
Pick One You Can Apply Regularly
While you may get away with moisturizing your face only once or twice daily, your hands are different. You need to apply a moisturizer every time you wash your hands or are exposed to irritating products.
This means if you’re leaving the house and suffer from eczema, you’ll want to bring your moisturizer along. Thankfully, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go makes it simple.
It’s a convenient size to stick in your purse or bag. And its non-greasy formula will ensure you don’t miss out on life while waiting for your skin to absorb it. You can slather it on and get right back into the swing of things.
Try Wet Wraps At Night
Wet wrap therapy is a great way to help your hands get the hydration they desperately need.
To do this, get a pair of soft, cotton gloves slightly damp with water. Then, apply a cream or moisturizer to your hands and put on the wet gloves.
Finally, slide on a pair of slightly bigger cotton gloves. You want these to be dry so they don't get your bedding wet.
Leave both pairs of gloves on overnight and take them off in the morning.
Switch Your Products
If you suspect an allergy or irritant is causing your dry hands, switch out your soaps or detergents for a milder version.
Consult A Doctor
Doctors may also prescribe medications, such as cortisone, for very bad cases of dry hands, especially when the dryness is associated with severe itching that disrupts your ability to perform daily tasks.
With all of these treatment methods in mind, you may be wondering if it’s possible to avoid dry hands altogether. Let’s take a look at seven ways to prevent dry hands below.
How To Prevent Dry Hands
When you understand what’s causing your dry hands, you can make simple changes in your daily routine to avoid the symptoms before they begin.
Adopt A Moisturizing Routine
Don’t leave it to chance. Make caring for your dry skin a normal part of your routine and apply a moisturizing cream or lotion daily.
Moisturizing after showering or bathing helps lock in hydration. But it’s also important to apply a lotion after tasks that can dry your hands — basically anything that requires you to vigorously wash them afterward.
Take Cooler, Shorter Showers And Baths
While you’re establishing that good moisturizing routine, take a look at your showering and bathing habits. A nice, hot shower or bath can feel great (especially in the winter), but hot water strips your skin of important oils and moisture.
Keep showers and baths warm (not hot) and no longer than about 10 minutes. Wash yourself carefully with gentle cleansers, being careful not to scrub too hard.
When you get out of the tub, pat yourself dry with a soft towel instead of using a rubbing motion. This way, you won’t damage your skin barrier even further.
Protect Your Hands
Gloves are your new ally! When doing the dishes, gardening, or completing any work that exposes your hands to tough conditions, wearing gloves can lessen irritation and damage.
However, you’ll want to make sure you use the correct type of gloves. Avoid those with rough surfaces or a powdered covering, as these can irritate your hands. And, of course, if you have a latex allergy, choose gloves made from other materials.
While picking gloves, check the size. If they’re too tight, they can cause friction and rub your hands raw. Gloves that are too big can let in excess moisture that can sit on your skin until you remove them.
Speaking of removing gloves, you’ll want to take them off carefully. That way, any chemical residue that got on them while you were working doesn’t get transferred to your hands.
If your body is low on water, it won’t have enough to keep your skin moisturized. So make sure you drink plenty of water every day, especially in the heat or when exerting yourself.
Most medical professionals recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water daily, which is a good goal to work toward.
Consider A Humidifier
Dry air leads to dry skin. Humidifiers can keep the air’s moisture at a more comfortable level and give your skin a break.
Your home’s indoor humidity should be between 30-50%. Any lower and you’ll feel too dry. But if you raise your humidity levels too much, your home could develop mold or mildew.
Avoid Extreme Heat Or Extreme Cold
Weather extremes are becoming the norm. Take steps to avoid them when you can.
If there’s a heat advisory, stay inside where it’s cool and climate-controlled. On days when you need to go outside, put on sunscreen before you do to help protect your skin.
In the winter, avoid the worst of the bitter winds by bundling up or staying inside. Remember to wear gloves or mittens to protect your hands from the environment if you go out.
Reduce Your Stress
Eczema sufferers, in particular, can experience bad dry hand symptoms as a result of stress. Less stress is always a good thing, so finding ways to reduce yours can only help keep you and your hands healthier.
You can try:
- Speaking to a therapist or a trusted friend
- Going for a brisk walk
- Enjoying a cup of tea and a few moments of silence
- Listening to your favorite music or podcast
- Curling up on the couch with a good book
Whatever brings you joy, try to do more of that. It’ll help you lower your stress levels.
Take Steps To Improve Your Skin Barrier
Your skin barrier is its natural defense against the environment. It’s essential to take steps to help this barrier stay strong.
Moisturizing is a great place to start. But don't stop there. Also consider embracing a holistic approach to skincare and ensure you're taking care of your whole body.
Get enough rest each night, exercise frequently, and eat a healthy diet. These things can help your skin’s barrier heal.
Rinse Off After Swimming
Anytime you swim in a chlorinated pool, take time to rinse off afterward. Otherwise, the chlorine can stay on your skin and continue drying it out.
After you rinse off, apply moisturizer. That way, you can begin rehydrating your skin.
Consider Dietary Changes
You are what you eat! And if you aren't giving your body enough nutrients, your diet could be partially responsible for your dry hands.
Consult your doctor, and ask about changes you can make to support your skin. For example, you might need more fatty acids from foods like salmon or walnuts. Or they might recommend a zinc supplement to help boost your collagen production and keep your skin hydrated.
Reducing sugar consumption and focusing on eating nutritious foods may also help. Typically, the less processed the food, the better it is for you.
Think About Changing Careers
Some jobs are hard on the hands. If you come into contact with chemicals or water daily, you may need to switch careers or ask for modifications in order for your hands to heal fully.
Here are a few of the jobs that are often associated with dry hands:
- Hairdressers and barbers
- Chefs and cooks
- Maintenance workers
- Lab technicians
While these jobs are important, you must be mindful of your hands over time. You’ll need to develop a plan for taking care of your skin regularly. This includes using protective gear and being diligent with moisturizer throughout the day.
If your skin still isn’t clearing up after taking these steps, it might be time to look for a position that doesn’t dry you out so much.
When To Seek Medical Help
While most cases of dry hands are just inconvenient, sometimes there’s an underlying medical condition causing your symptoms. For example, diabetes can lead to dry skin, as can eczema or psoriasis.
Additionally, the condition can worsen even with treatment. See your doctor if your symptoms don’t go away or if they lead to other complications.
For instance, if your cracks deepen and begin to bleed or become infected, see your doctor. You should also seek medical help if you notice skin discoloration, extreme redness, drainage from open areas of skin, or large areas of peeling skin.
And, finally, if you are unable to sleep or are having trouble functioning because of extreme hand dryness and itching, by all means, find relief from your doctor’s recommendations.
A Winning Strategy For Dealing With Dry Hands
Every day, your hands are under attack by the drying forces of nature and your day-to-day life. And sometimes when we get busy, we neglect the simple things that can prevent the results of moisture loss like cracking, peeling, itching, and irritated skin.
But by following the tips in this article and using high-quality products, like Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream or Psoriasis Calming Cream, you can rehydrate your hands and get them back in working order if you have these conditions.
Here’s to better skin days!