Dry hands? Learn what causes this type of moisture loss, the best treatment methods, and how to prevent dryness from occurring in the first place.

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Dry Hands: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

09/16/20228 min read

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?

Dry hands come from dry skin, technically called xerosis or xeroderma. 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.

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).

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.

And 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).

Woman washing her dry hands in the sink

Underlying conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, can also cause outbreaks of very dry, itchy, red skin. In addition, as we age, we tend to have more trouble with skin drying out. As one of the most exposed and used parts of our body, the hands naturally tend to suffer the most.

So, if you’re suffering from dry hands, what can you do? Let’s take a look.

How To Treat Dry Hands

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.

The sebaceous glands in your skin produce oils to keep your skin soft and supple. Unfortunately, hot water, soap, and other chemicals can strip your skin of its oils and other protective features, leaving it dry and vulnerable.

A good moisturizing lotion or cream can help restore what’s been lost! 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.

Man applying lotion to his dry 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.

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.

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 symptoms.

Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream

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.

Learn Stress Management Techniques

Part of your treatment for dry hands may involve techniques to reduce stress since stress can be a trigger for a wide range of skin conditions that cause dry hand symptoms.

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.

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.

Man experiencing contact dermatitis, one of the eczema types


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.

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.

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. In the winter, avoid the worst of the bitter winds by bundling up or staying inside.

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.

When To Seek Medical Help

While most cases of dry hands are just inconvenient, sometimes there’s an underlying medical condition causing your symptoms. 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.

Woman moisturizing her dry skin

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!


Cleveland Clinic
Connecticut State Department of Health
Mayo Clinic
National Library of Medicine
The University of Tennessee Medical Center

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