Dry, scaly skin on your hands can be itchy and unsightly. Skin commonly dries out in winter when the air is cold and dry, but your hands can lose moisture year-round from factors including skincare habits, aging and genetic issues. Home care is often all that's needed to get your hands looking and feeling good again.
Change your hand-washing routine. Hand washing prevents the spread of germs, but water washes away the natural oils that keep your skin hydrated. Wash your hands as needed to maintain good hygiene, but avoid excessive hand washing. Harsh soaps and hot water can also dry skin. Wash your hands with a gentle soap and make sure the water is not too hot, recommends the National Institutes of Health.
Minimize activities that expose your hands to water. Keep your baths and showers short, about 5 or 10 minutes, recommends the Cleveland Clinic. If you are a professional cleaner, wash dishes by hand or perform other tasks that require placing your hands in water often, wear gloves to protect your skin.
Apply a moisturizer to your hands as needed. Thick ointments work well, and applying them after you wash your hands will help lock in moisture. Rub petroleum jelly on your hands at bedtime and wear gloves with a cotton lining to moisturize your hands overnight, recommends the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Wear gloves when you are outdoors in extremely cold or windy conditions, and avoid excessive sun exposure that may dry your skin. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to your hands before going outside.
Use a humidifier in your home if your skin dries out in winter. Dry weather and indoor heating can rob your skin of moisture, and this can cause or worsen dry hands.
See your doctor if your hands are severely dry, itchy or uncomfortable. A prescription hydrocortisone cream may give you relief, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Once your hands are in good shape again, continue to use lotion regularly to keep them soft and moisturized, especially after you bathe or wash your hands.
Dry, cracked skin can sometimes become infected. If you develop a red, warm, swollen or oozing spot on your hand, see your doctor for treatment.