Hands that are dry and cracked are chapped, meaning the skin does not have enough moisture. When skin lacks moisture, it becomes brittle and rough, and cannot stretch as easily as it should. Symptoms of chapped hands range from a few dry, itchy patches to peeling skin and cut-like cracks in the palms and on the fingers. There are several main causes of dry, cracked hands. Usually, identifying the cause and eliminating it, as well as applying a moisturizing cream to the affected areas, is enough to stop hands from chapping.
The most common cause of dry, cracked hands is wintertime conditions. Low-humidity cold air saps skin of moisture. Hot air coming from indoor heating systems further compounds the problem, because it also is very drying. Because hands are generally more exposed than other body parts during the winter, they often bear the brunt of this effect. To keep hands from drying and cracking as severely in the wintertime, be sure to wear thick gloves each time you go outside. Additionally, regularly apply a deep-moisturizing hand cream to your hands to keep the dry indoor air from hurting them.
Immersing hands in water and cleaning fluids also can have a drying effect. Many people who wash their hands frequently or work with chemical-based household cleaners have severely chapped hands, sometimes to the point of bleeding. Hairdressers may also have very dry hands as a result of using bleach-based dyes and other chemicals on their customers every day. People who wash their hands frequently should immediately apply lotion to seal in moisture and keep skin from drying out. Those who work with chemicals should wear gloves to protect their hands from the chapping effects of cleaning solutions and beauty products.