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Cracked hand skin

Dr. Apratim GoelMBBS,MD,DNB

December 22, 2021

June 04, 2022

Cracked hand skin
Cracked hand skin

Cracked skin is usually a symptom of irritated and dry skin but there can be many other reasons for cracking skin of the hands. People often complain of dry and cracked skin in winter, when the skin of the feet, hands and lips gets cracked. But sometimes, tearing of the skin of the hands can be a sign of a serious condition.

(Read more: Home remedies and tips for dry skin)

In this article, we will discuss the causes, treatment and medicines for cracked hands.

Cracked hand skin causes

With age, the skin naturally becomes thin and dry. The sun's rays, wind and other elements have negative effects on the health of the skin.

Dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado, Dr Barbara Reid, says that some people are very sensitive to severe dry skin and the skin of others produces less natural oil (sebum). Also, there are some people whose skin is more sensitive to chemicals. People with psoriasis, eczema or skin allergies have very sensitive skin that reacts quickly to chemicals like preservatives and fragrances. Due to this, cracks, rashes and dryness occur in the skin.

Usually, along with the cracking of the hands, many other symptoms also start appearing. To find out the cause of cracking of the skin, it is important to pay attention to these symptoms, such as:

Dry skin

Dry skin or xerosis is the most common cause of cracked skin. Generally, smooth and hydrated skin retains the natural oils so that the skin does not become dry. If your skin does not have enough natural oil, then the skin loses moisture. Due to this, the skin of the hands and other parts of the body becomes dry, lifeless and shrivelled, leading to cracking. 

(Read more: Moisturizer for dry skin)

Dry skin can be due to many reasons, such as:

  • Cold weather: Low humidity and cold temperature in winter can make the skin of the hands dry.
  • Chemicals: Many products such as dish soap and laundry detergent contain harsh chemicals that can damage the skin of the hands and make it dry.
  • Hot water: Using hot water for bathing or washing dishes can reduce the moisture of the skin of the hands.
  • Medicines: Cracking and dry hands can be caused by side effects of certain medicines like retinoids.
  • Excessive moisture: Constantly keeping hands wet or sweating a lot can also cause burning and dryness in the hands.


This is a skin condition in which there is redness and itching in the skin. This problem is also called atopic dermatitis. Eczema usually affects the face, hands and back of the knees. In eczema, the skin becomes very dry, which is an important factor for skin cracking.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder in which skin cells start growing rapidly. The increased number of cells make the skin dry, due to which the skin starts cracking. Psoriasis can occur in any part of the skin. In psoriasis, there are red patches on the skin and, in some cases, itching also occurs.

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Keratolysis exfoliativa

The skin of the hands and feet starts peeling due to Keratolysis exfoliativa. It usually affects the palms, but it can also appear on the soles of the feet. During this condition, as the top layer of the skin peels off, the skin loses its natural barrier, which causes dryness and cracking of the skin.

(Read more: How to get glowing skin)

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Cracked hand skin treatment

The best treatment is prevention, says dermatologist Dr Barbara Reid. If possible, avoid washing hands frequently and do not do work that makes the skin dry. Moisturize hands with lubricating hand cream, lotion, petroleum jelly or shea butter several times throughout the day. The treatment for cracked hands depends on its cause, such as:

Treatment of diseases: On-time treatment of eczema, keratolysis exfoliativa, psoriasis, lupus and diabetes can prevent cracking of the skin on hands if these conditions are diagnosed on time. People suffering from eczema and psoriasis can benefit from a moisturizer that protects the skin by preventing flare-ups.

Stop some medicines: If you are taking a medicine that is causing cracking of the skin of the hands as a side effect, you should stop taking it for some time on the advice of your doctor.

Treating dry skin: If dry skin is causing the cracking of hands then you should treat it. For example, if your skin is dry as a result of cold weather, then apply herbal moisturizer from time to time. Stay away from hot water and use gloves while using soap or detergent. Try to use a good chemical-free soap to wash your hands. Do not keep your hands wet for a long time and try to work while wearing gloves. If using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, apply moisturizer immediately after use.

Use a moisturizer, cream or oil: Apply moisturizer, cream or oil to the hands after frequent hand washing or when the skin is dry. You can use olive oil, jojoba oil or shea butter to keep the skin smooth.

Use moisturizer at night: Applying an oil-based cream or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) on the hands before bedtime will help in healing cracked hands.

Other important things for skincare: The National Institute on Aging recommends taking care of the skin, such as staying in the sun for less time, bathing in cold water, and consuming more healthy fluids. Smoking and stress can also increase the symptoms of cracked hands, so it’s best to avoid them.

Contact the doctor: If you are seeing some other symptoms during the cracking of the hands, such as bleeding from the cracked skin, swelling, excessive redness, extreme itching and discolouration of the skin, then immediately consult the doctor.

(Read more: Skincare tips)

Medicines for cracked hand skin

There are over-the-counter or prescription medications available for cracked hands. These include creams, lotions, ointments and oral medications.

(Read more: How to get soft and smooth skin)

Over-the-counter medicines

Doctors usually recommend applying over-the-counter moisturizers to treat cracked skin, such as:

  • Eucerin and Cetaphil Moisturizer, as it is useful in retaining moisture in the skin.
  • Creams and lotions containing lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil or strong hydrocortisone

(Read more: Home remedies for dry hands and feet)

Prescription drugs

There are also some medicines that can be used to treat dry skin as it is a major cause of cracked skin. These can be taken only after consulting a doctor. These medicines are:

  • Ammonium Lactate
  • Urea
  • AmLactin
  • Eucerin
  • Aquaphor
  • Lac-Hydrin
  • CeraVe
  • Cetaphil Lotion
  • EpiCeram
  • Ureacin-20
  • Hydro 35
  • Aluvia
  • Biafine
  • Carmol
  • Ureacin-10
  • Aqua Care
  • Aquaphilic with Urea
  • Atrac-Tain
  • Carb-O-Philic/10
  • CEM-Urea
  • Cerovel
  • Dimethicone
  • Epimide 50

(Read more: How to make lips soft)


With increasing age, the skin will become more dry, due to which it is natural to have the problem of skin cracking from the hands and other body parts. But by taking proper care of the skin from an early age, the skin of the hands can be saved from cracking, especially in winter or dry environments. Try to keep the skin moisturized daily. Petroleum jelly, moisturizing creams, mild hydrocortisone creams and liquid bandages can also be used to treat cracked skin. If the cracking does not get better with home remedies or if any serious symptoms are seen during the cracking of the hands, then immediately contact a dermatologist and get the treatment done on time.

(Read more: Home remedies for chapped lips)

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