There are several reliable methods of treating chapped hands, and each person may need to experiment with a few of the options in order to find the combination that works best for him or her. Moisturizing creams and lotions are often helpful in preventing and treating dry skin and can be particularly helpful for those with chapped hands. Until the skin has healed, hand washing should be kept at a minimum, and moisturizing soaps should be used when necessary. Oatmeal or cornmeal can be used to safely and naturally remove dead skin cells without causing further irritation to the skin. Regular use of a humidifier helps to keep the air moisturized and is a popular way to prevent chapped hands from recurring.
The most important part of treating chapped hands is to maintain proper moisture so that the skin is able to heal. Lotions and creams that do not contain alcohol are considered to be the best choices, as alcohol can dry and irritate the skin even further. Petroleum jelly acts as a protective barrier and is a popular choice for treating chapped hands. This product can be greasy and sticky, so many people choose to apply the petroleum jelly to the hands just before bed, covering them with gloves or socks in order to keep the product on the hands and off the sheets. Severely dry or chapped hands may benefit from the use of over-the-counter or prescription steroid creams.
Chapped hands should be washed only when absolutely necessary, as frequent hand washing can dry the skin and remove the natural oils responsible for healing. When it becomes necessary to wash the hands, a gentle moisturizing soap should be used, followed by the application of lotion or hand cream. Bath oil can be used in the place of soap and water in order to maintain moisture while the skin heals.
Cornmeal or finely ground oatmeal can be used to gently exfoliate the skin. The hands can be rubbed together in a bowl of the cornmeal or oatmeal to remove the dead skin cells without causing further skin irritation before applying moisturizing cream. Another way to prevent excessive dryness is to maintain adequate moisture in the air by using a humidifier. If the hands remain chapped or exhibit signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pain, a doctor should be consulted for further evaluation and individualized treatment options.