Dry cracked hands are a wintertime dread for many people.
Cracked dry hands are usually caused either by an underlying skin condition, namely eczema or psoriasis or from contact dermatitis from cleaning products and other chemcial products. Less common causes are conditions such as exfoliative keratolysis.
Drier and low humidity cold weather conditions as well as dry internal central heating can also trigger dry cracked hands or exacerbte underlying conditions that cause dry cracked hands.
It’s important when choosing the best hand cream for dry cracked hands and dry cracked fingertips to make sure it’s not simply moisturising for dry skin but also that its hypoallergenic and free from any ingredients that can make underlying skin conditions such as hand eczema, hand psoriasis and hand dermatitis worse.
Dermatologist Dr Eva Melegh outlines five causes of dry cracked hands and how to help manage and prevent them;
1. Contact Dermatitis
This is a condition that causes red, swollen and dry cracked hands which is caused by repeated exposure to an irritant.
Common culprits are household cleaning products, bleach, washing up liquid, shampoos, hair dyes and other dyes, cooking spices and some other active cooking ingredients such as live yeasts, solvents, latex and perfumed hand creams or skin care products. Contact with keyboards can also sometimes cause contact hand dermatitis on the fingertips.
The condition usually appears as hot red irritated and often swollen skin all over the hands that flares up soon after contact with the irritant(s) and then dies down to leave flaky very dry hands and sensitive hands.
Hand creams used to re-hydrate hands suffering from contact dermatitis should always be hypoallergenic. Avoid hand creams with any perfumes in, as well as ones that contain MI, SLS, Lanolin, petroleum or alcohol.
Ideally use a rich salve that’s low in chemical preservatives, is certified for use on sensitive skin and contains low-reactivity and hypoallergenic moisturising ingredients. Its also helpful if the hand cream has anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Hydrosil Turmeric Butter & Hypoallergenic Milk Salve contains super hydrating hypoallergenic donkey milk to soften and soothe dry sore hands plus a special turmeric butter to intensely hydrate dry skin and bring down inflammation and the phytosterol cardiospermum to help reduce any itching and irritation.
Also wear cotton gloves inside protective latex gloves when using any household cleaning products and non-latex gloves when washing hair with normal shampoos or exposing hands to any active or spicey cooking ingredients, dyes or solvents.
2. Exfoliative Keratolysis.
This dry cracked hand condition typically affects young adults often involved in physically active jobs or sports.
It’s characterised by peeling palms of the hands and peeling fingertips, normally without any itching.
Exfoliative Keratolysis does not typically require treatment, as the condition tends to resolve itself with little discomfort.
However, protection from irritants such as detergents and solvents and using non perfumed and chemcial-free hand creams containing lactic acid or urea are recommended.
Also wear cotton gloves inside protective latex gloves when using household cleaning products.
3. Hand Eczema
Like any form of eczema on the skin, hand eczema is caused by an underlying fault or malfunction in skin barrier function that allows moisture to escape from the skin more easily than in healthy skin.
Menopause is a common trigger for hand eczema as the drop in oestrogen causes the skin to become suddenly drier, which if there's an underlying tendency towards eczema can trigger a chronic flare of hand eczema.
Hand eczema often gets worse and flares more during cold dry low humidity weather.
Hands are particularly vulnerable to hand eczema as they are an extremity and also the skin is often exposed to elements and friction, making the symptoms of hand eczema worse.
Hand eczema often appears as pink and very itchy patches of skin particularly between the fingers and around the nails and on the fingertips as well as on the wrists.
The affected skin can often crack open and bleed if scratched frequently.
The first port of call for treatment are hydrocortisone creams. However, prolonged or repeated use of hydrocortisones are generally discouraged and so management in between flares with natural alternatives such as the phytosterol cardiosperumum found in Hydrosil Turmeric Butter & Hypoallergenic Milk Salve plus the anti-inflammatory action of turmeric can help reduce the reliance on and prolong periods between hydrocortisone usage.
Also wear cotton gloves inside protective latex gloves when using any household cleaning products and also wear just the cotton gloves overnight after applying hand salve to lock in moisture. Try to sleep with the central heating as low as possible in colder months and if possible sleep with a humidifier at night.
4. Hand Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition whereby the immune system becomes overactive, causing skin cells to multiply too quickly.
Hand psoriasis is a common area for psorisis to appear as psoriasis can be triggered by contact with irritants as well as dryness and abrasion.
Hand psoriasis appears as distinct disk-shaped patches of reddish grey scaly skin that become inflamed and sometimes a bit itchy.
Steroid creams and coal tar treatments are often prescribed for hand psoriasis along with vitamin D3 ointments.
As with all topical steroids, limited and short term use is recommend so alternatives to steroid creams to use between flare ups as a preventative measure can be very beneficial to managing hand psoriasis.
Oregon Rescue Serum is an intensive skin serum designed for use on skin prone to psorisis and is for use on smaller patches of sore and hard to heal skin, making it ideal for use on hand psoriasis.
The serum contains Oregon Grape Root (OGR) which has been extensively examined for us on psoriasis in several published studies. OGR contains with inhibitory activity against skin cell production and so can help manage the intensity and frequency of psoriasis flares.
The serum is free from perfumes and chemicals including Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or parabens and contains no oil or coal tar ingredients.
5. Disinfected Hands
If you work in a job or have a hobby where you constantly need to disinfect and clean your hands or you are a parent tending to an infant, this can lead to your hands being stripped of all their beneficial skin bacteria which can damage skin barrier function and lead to extreme dryness, cracking and flaking.
Scrubbing hands with a nail brush or loafer is a very abrasive and may cause micro damage to sensitive and over-used hands that can make the dryness and inflammtion worse.
It’s better to soak hands and nails in warm (not hot) water with some natural oil in it such as rosehip or even normal olive oil to clean them.
If you have to frequently disinfected your hands, its benefical to counter act this by using a hand cream that will build up the good skin bacteria on your hands.
Clarol Silver Serum is a skin serum that contains a silver ingredient that fuels the growth of beneficial skin bacteria while inhibiting the growth of bad skin bacteria from external factors.
If your hands are frequently needing to be washed and disinfected use this serum after cleaning the hands and before applying a hydrating hypoallergenic perfume-free and chemcial-free hand cream.