Help for Dry Hands

Rehydrate red, chapped hands with tips from Denver dermatologist Barbara Reed.

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Dry Hands

Hands can get chapped when washed and exposed to air—warm or cold. While no single treatment delivers a quick and permanent cure, here’s help to safeguard your skin’s natural moisturizers and keep hands healthy all year from Barbara R. Reed, MD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at University Hospital Denver, and dermatologist at Denver Skin Clinic.

  • Use gentle hand cleansers such as Cetaphil, Cerave, or Aquanil. Reason: Soap and water eliminate natural moisturizing agents and contribute to drying.
  • Wear gloves in the kitchen and when working with chemicals. Reason: Handling (not eating) tomatoes, onions, potatoes, fish, seafood, and citrus fruits may irritate the skin and increase dryness. Likewise for paints, polishes, disinfectants, and abrasives.
  • Regularly apply lubricating cream or ointment such as Cetaphil, Vanicream, Eucerin Plus, Cerave, Curel, Aquaphor, or Vaseline. Reason: Applying the cream many times daily (preferably every time your hands get wet) can be a nuisance, but it helps.

So you did all that, but you’re still having chapped hands? First, apply cream. Then, slip on damp cotton gloves. Finally, cover hands with latex gloves or a plastic bag, and wear for a few hours during the day or at night. For significant redness, try an anti-inflammatory cream such as Cort-Aid or Cortizone several times daily. Last resort: see your doctor.

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