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Caring for Your Hands: How to Tackle Dry Skin on Hands

3 min read

Hand hygiene has become the most rigorous it has ever been in recent years, and as a result, dry skin on hands is a common problem for a lot of people.

The palms of our hands are one of the few areas of the body without sebaceous glands, which secrete oil to help keep the skin moisturized, hydrated and soft. As our palms lack these glands, they are more prone to dryness. Our hands also tend to get exposed to dry weather and frequent washing, which can damage the skin barrier, let moisture out, and leave them dry, itchy and uncomfortable.

Below, we detail the most common causes of dry skin on hands and what you can do to treat it.

This article covers:


What causes dry skin on hands?

Dry skin is caused by an impaired skin barrier and dysfunction or deficiency in the necessary healthy fats in the top layer of the skin (cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides), which are essential to normal skin function,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein.

She adds: “Since the protective lipid layer is responsible for keeping moisture in and bacteria and irritants out (aka our skin barrier), dry skin often presents with redness, flaking, and itching.”

If the skin on your hands has been particularly dry recently, there could be several different reasons why. Some of the most common causes include:

Cold weather

It’s common to notice your skin getting drier than usual during the winter months. That’s because the natural humidity in the air drops, leaving the air dry. When the air is dry, our skin can struggle to retain moisture, which can lead to dryness. This is because the water content of the outer layer of the skin tends to reflect the humidity levels around it. You also tend to spend more time indoors when it’s cold, often blasting heat from radiators that contribute to decreasing the moisture levels in the air.



As we get older, our skin tends to become drier. This is because the skin barrier function weakens, which makes it harder for our skin to retain moisture. Other factors can also contribute to this: your skin naturally produces less moisturizing oils, years of sun damage causes the skin to retain less moisture, and cell renewal slows down.


Harsh products

We have all developed a habit of constantly washing and sanitizing our hands. And while these hygiene practices are necessary, soaps, drying alcohols, and hand sanitizers can damage our skin barrier, leaving our hands dry and irritated.

Constant contact with other oil-stripping products like acetone, household detergents, cleaning products, shampoos, etc. could also make your hands dry.


Medical conditions

“Sometimes dry skin is a sign of some other issue such as eczema, psoriasis, or a thyroid imbalance. See a board-certified dermatologist who will examine the skin and offer a skilled assessment as to what can be done to alleviate the problem,” says Dr. Mona Gohara.

If you notice a dry skin rash on your hands, the cause could also be allergic contact or irritant contact dermatitis. The former is a result of your skin having a reaction to a substance (like a fragranced product or metallic jewelry). Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when a harsh substance (like a strong detergent or acetone) damages your skin. 

How to get rid of dry skin on hands

Here are a few steps you can take to treat and prevent dry skin on your hands:


Use a gentle hand soap

“Harsh cleansers can strip the skin barrier of natural lipids and proteins, leaving it weaker,” says Dr. Gohara. “Compromised barriers allow water to evaporate out and irritants to enter their way onto the skin causing dry, flaky, or sometimes even itchy, or inflamed skin.”

So, always pick hand soaps that are loaded with moisturizing ingredients. If your hands feel very dry and irritated, it may be best to choose a fragrance-free formula.


Keep your hands moisturized

Make a habit of moisturizing your hands post-washing. A cream that’s crafted for hands will do a better job at moisturizing them than a regular body lotion. That’s because hand creams tend to have a richer texture, while also being non-greasy, so you get to go about your day without having sticky hands.

Try: Vaseline® Clinical Care Dry Hands Rescue is a fail-proof option for most people. It’s formulated with moisturizing glycerin, pro-lipids and micro-droplets of Vaseline® Jelly that together inject moisture and keep it locked in.

Apply sunscreen to your hands

Sun damage can cause skin to retain less moisture. To avoid this, make sure you always apply SPF to your hands before heading outdoors.


Wear gloves

During winter, gloves keep your hands warm and protected from harsh winds. But also consider wearing protective gloves around the house whenever you’re cleaning up, getting your hands wet, or touching any chemicals or strong detergents.


Choose soap over anti-bac gels

Whenever possible, wash your hands with soap and water instead of reaching for hand sanitizers.

However, for on-the-go hand cleansing, you could also choose a product like the Vaseline® Clinical Care 2-in-1 Hand Sanitizer Lotion that’s gentler on the hands than conventional hand sanitizers. It has an anti-bacterial formula that’s also full of hydrating ingredients like glycerin and vitamin E. Plus, it’s alcohol-free.


Use a humidifier

To combat dry weather, plug in a humidifier that injects moisture into the air and helps retain moisture in the skin.

Following these basic practices can help protect and preserve moisture in the hands. But see a dermatologist if your hands feel extremely dry, despite your best efforts. It’s also best to seek professional advice if you notice a dry skin rash on your hands.


What’s the best hand lotion for dry skin?

A hand cream is only helpful if you consistently use it. So, choose one that you love.

If your hands are very dry and in need of healing and soothing, the Vaseline® Clinical Care Dry Hands Rescue could be for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a nourishing hand cream that’s also deliciously scented, choose something like the Vaseline® Intensive Care Hydra Replenish Hand Crème that’s loaded with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3 and cocoa butter, and leaves behind a fruity, coconutty scent.


What can I put on my hands for dry skin?

Along with consistently keeping your hands protected and moisturized, you could also try slugging your hands. Even though this skincare trend is usually used for the face, it can also work wonders for your hands.

Before going to bed, wash your hands, apply your hand cream and then go over it with a coat of an occlusive ointment like the Vaseline® Healing Jelly Original. You could then cover your hands with some cotton gloves to keep the moisture sealed in overnight.


What causes sudden dry skin on hands?

Everything from dry weather and over-washing to eczema or contact dermatitis could cause a sudden feeling of dryness on the hands.


How do you tackle dry cracked skin on hands? 

We know it can be tough, and sometimes even debilitating, dealing with dry cracked skin on your hands. But what can you do about it? Applying a thin layer of Vaseline® Healing Jelly Original can help heal damaged, cracked and dry skin. However, if your symptoms persist then you should consult your doctor or dermatologist for advice.


What deficiency causes dry hands?

If you are deficient in vitamins D or A, niacin, zinc, or iron, your skin may become excessively dry.



These articles provide general tips and information about improving skin health. They have been written by health and beauty writers. They have not been written by health care professionals and, as such, don’t constitute medical advice. If you have a serious skin condition, please consult a medical professional.

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