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The Best Remedies for Dry, Chapped Hands

Heal and protect those cracked hands and fingers

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Updated March 12, 2014

Chapped hands and finger cracks are some of the most painful side effects of a dry climate, especially as we get older. In winter months, the problem can get worse — with rough scales, rashes and bleeding — thanks to the effects of forced-air heating on aging skin. Find out which creams are the best remedies for dry, chapped skin, and which ingredients you should be looking for, when it comes to soothing — and healing — cracking fingers and hands.

According to Barbara Reed, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Colorado in Denver, the best creams for chapped hands are thick, moisturizing, have a short ingredient list (i.e. no fragrances or dyes) to avoid chemical sensitivities, and formulated to shield against dry air and any soap or other chemicals to which you may be sensitive or allergic.

Here's a list of hand creams for you to try:

1. Theraplex Emollient Cream

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Reed recommends Theraplex Emollient Cream because it contains some of the best ingredients for chapped hands, including petrolatum and wax. It's thick, so it stays where you put it — and protects against the loss of natural oils in your skin in subsequent hand washing.

2. Cetaphil Therapeutic Hand Cream

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Also known in Canada as Cetaphil Barrier Cream, this product is fragrance-free and non-greasy, which is a plus if you are writing or typing on a keyboard. It also contains shea butter, a "wonderful" emollient if you are not allergic to it, according to Reed.

3. Prevex Protectant Cream

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This is a heavy-duty barrier cream that can be massaged into finger cracks several times per day. While it's quite thick and greasy when first applied, it's quickly absorbed into the skin. A little goes a long way: a 2.1 oz (60g) tube boasts 200 or more applications. (A quarter-inch or 1 cm stream out of the tube will easily cover all your fingertips!) With a formulation of 67% petrolatum, this cream can help heal finger cracks and protect your skin, especially if you're required to do wet work without gloves, at home or on the job.

4. Eucerin Intensive Repair Hand Creme

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Eucerin's Dry Skin Therapy Plus Intensive Repair Hand Creme is a non-greasy, fragrance-free, thick moisturizing cream with the added benefit of alpha hydroxyl to help heal rough, dry patches (though some people find this ingredient irritating to their skin). Since it's fast-absorbing, it won't leave a slippery residue to limit your activities. It ranks high in user reviews with the exception of occasional complaints that the tube is too small for frequent use.

5. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

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A thick moisturizing version of the CeraVe lotion, this cream is non-irritating and non-comedogenic, according to the manufacturer, which means that it should not contribute to skin breakouts in most people. Reed recommends this cream as an effective treatment for chapped skin, with the caveat that it (and all the other products on this list) be applied to hands and fingers several times over the course of the day.

6. Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream

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Vanicream moisturizing skin cream contains no fragrance or dyes, and is therefore unlikely to irritate even sensitive hands. A non-greasy formulation, Vanicream is absorbed quite quickly into the skin.

As Reed observes, "Even guys who hate thick creams will use this stuff because it has no fragrance and sinks into the skin quickly."

A thicker ointment, called Vaniply Skin Protectant is also available.

7. L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream

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Boasting ingredients like honey and sweet almond extract, this hand cream by L'Occitane also contains 20% shea butter. It's a "very good hand cream" according to Barbara Reed — and to Oprah Winfrey, who has included it in one of her famous "favorite things" lists. If you can tolerate the extra fragrance in the formulation (and the price tag), you may like the smooth texture and lasting moisturizing that this hand treatment offers.

 

8. Gold Bond Ultimate Intensive Healing Hand Cream

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Gold Bond's hand cream is a bit of a lightweight in this category, in my opinion, but I include it because it has a decent moisturizing formulation. It just doesn't seem to have the goopy staying power (and water protection) of the other petrolatum and wax-based products on this list. Still, it's not greasy, and applied often, will offer relief to dry, chapped hands.

9. Krazy Glue Pen

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What's super glue doing on this list of remedies for dry, chapped hands? Well, according to Reed, this category of cyanoacrylate products offers a quick and easy solution for painful finger cracks or fissures. She recommends it over liquid bandage products, which often contain alcohol that can be irritating to sensitive skin. If you use a super glue product with a pen-like dispenser, you'll be able to apply the glue directly and accurately to the skin crack. Wait a few minutes, and you're good to go — just don't get it anywhere near your eyelids or mouth, and keep it away from children.

Prevention is the best remedy: Finally, protect your chapped hands by wearing gloves for any dishwashing or food preparation, avoid hot water and detergent-based cleansers, and seek help from your health-care provider or a dermatologist (skin specialist) if you have swollen or bleeding hands, or have red streaks on your wrists or arms.

Sources:

Cyanoacrylates. US National Institutes of Health Public Information Sheet. Accessed February 3, 2013.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003401/

Interview with Dr. Barbara Reed, Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of Colorado, Denver. January 17, 2013.

Mature Skin. American Academy of Dermatology Public Information Sheet. Accessed February 3, 2013.
http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/mature-skin

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