Dried & Cracked Hands
Dry skin is a very widespread condition and issues with dryness are often a persistent, recurring problem that may be especially noticeable during the winter, when temperatures are coldest and humidity is lowest. The hands are typically the body parts most likely to undergo changes due to a dry environment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Consequently, they may require extra care and frequent moisturizing to help prevent complications, such as cracking.
Dry and cracked skin may be due to genetic factors or metabolic traits, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, including an improperly functioning thyroid gland or losing too much weight. Aging also causes the skin to lose moisture, as do numerous environmental factors, such as air conditioning, colder weather, low humidity and indoor and outdoor forms of heating. Behavioral practices that cause dry and cracked skin include wearing irritating fabrics like wool, washing or coming in contact with water too frequently, using water that is too hot or irritating substances, such as certain detergents and soaps.
Dermatologists recommend treatments for dry and cracked hands that help protect them and provide them with the extra moisture they require. Options include avoiding irritating fabrics and substances; replacing harsh soaps with creamy or gentle cleansers; using a humidifier to add moisture to the environment; washing hands with water that is warm and not hot; and applying moisturizer often, especially after contact with water and while hands remain moist. Dermatologists also suggest wearing gloves outside in the winter and reducing the amount of time your hands spend immersed in water. However, it is important to not skip washing hands when necessary as this protects them from dirt and germs.
The effectiveness of moisturizing treatments for dry and cracked hands depends on their ingredients, not their price. Dermatologists recommend soothing products that contain urea or lactic acid, which work particularly well to combat dryness; dimethicone and glycerin, which help the skin obtain and hold water; hyaluronic acid, a natural substance in the skin that helps skin retain water; and oily substances, such as mineral oil, petrolatum and lanolin, which also help skin preserve water.
If over-the-counter products purchased in a store and lifestyle preventative measures fail to relieve dry and cracked skin on the hands, seek the assistance of a dermatologist. Medical professionals can determine if prescription-strength medications are needed, such as creams, lotions or ointments containing hydrocortisone. In the case of cracked skin, doctors can use moist dressings and mild astringents to decrease oozing and the risk of infection. Dermatologists can also diagnose underlying skin problems that may be contributing to dry and cracked hands, such as eczema.
Cracking is a sign that skin is severely dry and possibly irritated, which makes skin more prone to infection. If an infection occurs due to cracked skin, healing may require a prescription antibiotic. Reduce the risk of cracking and infection by using cream or ointment moisturizers, which tend to restore moisture to skin more effectively and with less irritation than lotions.
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