Why Do I Keep Getting Dry, Cracked Hands in the Winter?

Winter is in the air, bringing with it the dry and cold air that can wreak havoc on the skin. Itchy skin; dry, cracked skin; and flame ups of conditions like eczema and psoriasis can cause a winter of misery.

Try these tips for winter skin care.

  • Drink lots of water to keep skin cells healthy and nourished.
  • Moisturize with a mild moisturizer that doesn’t have harsh or questionable chemicals. Thick creams or even Vaseline work the best. Apply these just after bathing.
  • Soaps can be harsh on the skin, drying it quickly. Try mild castile soaps.
  • Make bath time shorter. Lower the temperature of the water when you shower. Hot showers can dehydrate skin, taking moisture out. The hot water removes the skin’s natural oils.
  • Indoor air can be very dry. Use a humidifier to moisturize the air and consider turning down the temperature in the house.
  • Lips are very sensitive to the cold and dry conditions, causing chapped and cracked lips. Use a lip balm with an SPF and consider wearing a scarf on cold, windy days. And don’t lick lips because the cycle of wetting and drying that occurs when you lick your lips quickly causes them to chap.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen. Up to 80% of the sun's rays can penetrate light clouds, snow, and fog. Snow reflects sunlight, increasing the risk of damaging sun rays on exposed skin.
  • Exercise promotes circulation, digestion and elimination, which helps keep skin healthy.
  • Consider testing your tap water, which could contain minerals that can dry the skin.
  • Get plenty of sleep, which is good for the health of your body, inside and out. A good night’s sleep allows your body time to repair skin cells.

By Dan Sutton, MD, family physician ThedaCare-Physicians in Waupaca.