Dry, Rough Hands from Hand Washing? Here’s What to Do.

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rough hands

My hands get extremely dry in the winter.  Those little cracks in the fingers from the cold, dry air hurt like crazy, right?  Generally, when Spring arrives along with warmer air and a bit of humidity, my cracked, dry, rough hands disappear until next winter.  But the Spring of 2020 has brought an entirely different reality with the arrival of the COVID-19 virus.  By now, you know the drill… wash your hands for 20 seconds and wash them often. Use hand sanitizer when you are out and unable to wash them.  Ugh… this has wreaked a second round of havoc on my hands!

There is good news though!  Through much trial and error over the years along with a few words of wisdom from a couple of wonderful Doctors, I’m sharing the secret to healing dry, rough skin and protect your hands from future problems.  All while staying healthy and safe at the same time.

What causes Cracks and Dry, Rough Skin on the Hands?

The answer to this question is actually quite simple.  The culprit is lack of moisture.  According to Sara Hogan, MD, a dermatologist at UCLA Medical Center, who recently told scvnews.com that…

“The outermost layer of our skin is composed of oils and wax, and it acts as both a shield from the outside and a guard that maintains natural moisture in the skin. This natural barrier is broken down by the suds created by soap while washing hands.”

Your skin loses hydration within 60 seconds after washing. That is why it is important to apply cream or moisturizer to hands right away. This helps prevent dryness and reinforce the natural skin barrier. 

How to Heal Dry, Rough Skin on the Hands.
These creams work quickly to heal dry, rough hands and protect them from excessive hand washing.

How to Heal Dry Skin on the Hands

1.  Apply Hand Cream Immediately After Washing Hands or applying Hand Sanitizer

The key to healing dry, rough hands is to add moisture.  Applying a hand cream once or twice a day is NOT going to get the job done.  Experts recommending applying hand cream immediately after you wash your hands or apply hand sanitizer.  And you’ll need to do this each and every time.

If you are wondering whether or not it is safe to apply hand cream after washing our hands, the answer is YES.  Dr Lindsay Broadbent of the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University Belfast recently told The Guardian that…

“There’s no problem with using hand cream.  As long as you have dried your hands thoroughly before applying the hand cream, it’s fine.”

She advises people to carry their own tubes around with them, to be extra safe.

“It’s generally best not to share, because you don’t know if someone else has washed their hands properly before touching the bottle.” When applying the cream, squirt it on to the back of your hand, without touching the nozzle. “The coronavirus wouldn’t survive for long in the hand cream, but it’s good hygiene not to touch the nozzle, as bacteria and fungus could technically survive in there”.

I’ve tried so many hand creams over the years and have found just a handful that actually work to heal severely dry, cracked hands.  The secret is using the right hand cream and applying them diligently each time you wash your hands throughout the day.

Here are a few of my favorite Hand Creams to heal cracked, dry, rough hands…

O’Keefe’s Working Hands works really well to instantly boost moisture levels and provides a protective layer on the skin’s surface.  A pea sized amount of this cream is all you need for both hands.  $10.95 USD for 2 3oz tubes.  Buy Now.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream absorbs instantly with no sticky residue.  This cream is formulated with Hyaluronic Acid, a hydrator found naturally in the skin that attracts moisture and locks it in.  It is currently my favorite hand cream.  There is a fairly strong “fresh, clean air” scent this cream so if fragrance is not your thing, this one isn’t for you.  $9.47 USD for a 3 oz. tube.  Buy Now.

Gloves in a Bottle Shielding Lotion is a healing lotion that protects against environmental toxins, sanitizers, frequent hand-washing, and irritants found in cosmetic and cleaning products. Gloves in a Bottle provides relief for dry and cracked hands and is perfect for people with sensitive skin as it helps prevent skin allergies and rashes.  $24.95 USD for 2 3.4 oz. tubesBuy Now.

I asked a few of the ladies in my Beauty Over 40 Facebook Group for their favorite healing hand creams and here is what they said.

(By the way, we’d love to have you join us over in the Beauty Over 40 Group!  Click Here to Join Us!)

Hilda from Ireland loves Cerave’s Theraputic Hand Cream for Dry, Cracked Hands.  With hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides, this cream is non greasy and is gentle on the skin.

Lene from Norway says her favorite is Weleda Skin Food.  A favorite of skincare professionals and celebrities, this cream can be used anywhere on the body to heal dry, rough skin.

Cindy from USA uses SeneGence Hand Cream with Shea Butter to relieve chapped hands and says it is amazing.

Heal rough hands with an ointment at night.
Use an ointment at night and wear cotton gloves to allow hands to heal overnight.

2.  Apply Hand Cream Before Bed and Wear Gloves

During the day you don’t want something too thick or greasy on your fingers. But nighttime is the perfect opportunity to use a thicker ointment to seal in moisture.  I love S.W. Basics Original Cream which is made with just three ingredients (olive oil, shea butter and coconut oil) and literally works wonders overnight.  Vaseline, Aquaphor and Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream are great options as well.  If your hands are really dry and cracked, wear cotton gloves over the cream while you sleep to hydrate overnight and help the skin to recover.

3.  Moisturize Skin from the Inside Out

As we age, our skin loses moisture more easily and becomes more susceptible to drying out.   Fewer natural oils, sun damage, and decreased cell renewal can all lead to dry, rougher skin as we get older.  There are a few supplements that can help to soothe, protect and moisturize the skin and help to replenish lost moisture from the inside out.

Fish OilDietary supplements with Fish Oil may help boost skin hydration and improve the fatty acid barrier of the skin, which helps maintain hydration.  A good option is Dr Tobias Omega 3 Fish Oil Triple Strength with over 14,000 four and a half star Reviews on Amazon.

Vitamin D – Research has indicated a correlation between Vitamin D and skin moisture.  Studies have shown that those who had low Vitamin D levels had lower average skin moisture than participants who had normal Vitamin D levels.  As blood levels of vitamin D increased, skin moisture content increased as well.  I love the Vitamin D supplement from Sports Research which has coconut oil for better absorption.

Phytoceramides The plant derived equivalent of ceramides known as Phytoceramides have been proven the hydrate the skin from the inside out.  Phytoceramides 350mg with Lipowheat from Sports Research is a great GMO-free, gluten free option with no synthetics or fillers.

These products help to heal dry, rough hands.
Moisturizing Hand Soaps, supplements and a humidifier are simple things you can add to your diet and routine for healthier hands.

4.  Use a Humidifier

Cracked, rough skin often happens during colder months when there’s less humidity in the air.  Heat in our homes makes the indoor air dry as well.  Investing in a good humidifier is beneficial to combat the dry air.  The Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier has over 21,000 four star Reviews on Amazon.  It covers up to 250 square feet and adds moisture to the air for 16 hours.

5.  Final Tips to Heal Dry, Cracked, Rough Hands and keep them clean and moisturized

  • Use Gentle Hand Soaps – Look for soaps and hand sanitizers that have added ingredients for moisture such as aloe, shea butter or essential oils.  Everyone Hand Soap, Live Clean Argan Oil Repleneshing Hand Soap and Seventh Generation Free & Clean Hand Wash Soap are three great options.
  • Blot Hands Dry – When drying your hands, blot them, don’t wipe.  Paper towels or cloth can be used.  When using a cloth, make sure each person in the home has their own cloth.  Cloths should be washed every 3 days.
  • Wash with Lukewarm Water – Washing your hands with water that’s too hot is not only uncomfortable, it’s an easy way to dry out your skin. A comfortable, lukewarm temperature is the better way to go.
  • Wear Gloves when Cleaning – When your hands are dry from overwashing, it’s important to pay attention to other things that could be contributing to the dryness, like cleaning supplies.  Always wear gloves when you’re cleaning.  Not only can they exacerbate dry skin, but they can also cause serious irritation and even dermatitis.

While it is important to wash your hands often and follow the CDC Recommendations for hand washing, it’s also important to balance the hand washing with moisturization and also to wash your hands when it’s important.  When you’re social distancing at home and not interacting with any possible contaminated surfaces, give your skin a break.

I hope you found these tips for healing your hands helpful.  As always, I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below!

Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy and stay safe!






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About Susie 112 Articles
Founder & Editor, 40andholding Beauty Blog. All things Beauty, Makeup, Anti-aging & Skincare for Women Over 40!


  1. Great tips!! I’ve often done the gloves at bedtime back when I lived in Chicago. I did find that after moving to Florida my skin wasn’t as dehydrated. Enjoyed reading this 😊

  2. Good tips as my hands are always in a state! Too many rough jobs like painting, gardening and so on!

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