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Dry, Red Skin on the Hands

Dry, Red Skin on the Hands


Dry skin on the hands and elsewhere on the body is a natural part of aging because as you get older, your skin loses its ability to retain moisture. However, there are several causes of dry skin not related to aging that can be prevented and treated by making changes to your environment and hygiene habits.


Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is a common condition of the hands that nearly everyone experiences at some time. If your hands are dry, they feel uncomfortable, tight and itchy. The skin may peel and callused areas of the palm may crack and possibly bleed. The skin may also catch on materials of your clothing and bedding, causing painful tears on your hands. Your hands may also have a scaly and wrinkled appearance.

Environmental Causes

Because of a lack of humidity in the air, your skin loses moisture when exposed to dry climates, such as during winter months and in desert environments. Central heating in your home and in buildings also removes moisture from the air and your skin. Extended periods of time spent in the heat and the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun can also reduce the amount of natural oil on your skin.

Cleansing Causes

Although your skin is in water during baths, showers and when you wash your hands, the water actually removes the top layer of oils on your skin. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, this drying effect is worsened if you wash your skin with hot water, soak in a bath for over 15 minutes or take multiple showers during the day. A water-based moisturizer can also cause moisture to be lost.


Returning moisture to the skin is the best treatment for dry skin, according to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Have a humidifier running in the house during dry months. Keep the temperature of your water lukewarm for baths, showers and hand washing. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology suggests you keep your time spent bathing under 15 minutes because staying in the water for longer can reduce protective lipids of the skin's surface. Instead of rubbing your skin dry with a towel, blot it slightly and keep the skin still moist. After bathing, immediately apply an oil-based moisturizer to trap moisture into the skin. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on your hands every day. Apply petroleum jelly at bedtime and sleep with your hands in cotton-lined gloves, advises the American Academy of Family Physicians.


If your skin is dry and red, the redness may signify the start of an infection. Redness in combination with warmth, swelling and possible oozing will require antibiotics, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. If an infection enters the bloodstream, such as with cellulitis, the results could be potentially fatal, so seek treatment as soon as possible. Do not reduce the number of times you wash your hands, because hand washing fights and prevents infections, but increase the amount of times you moisturize after hand washing instead.

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