What Causes Dry Cracked Hands and Feet?

For many people, dry skin is the norm — especially during the winter months. This can lead to cracked skin, hands, and feet.

Often associated with conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, cracked skin can cause great discomfort. Whether you are experiencing dry, cracked hands and feet because of an underlying medical condition or an irritant, you can successfully target cracked skin.

What is Cracked Skin?

Cracked skin is one of the most common symptoms of dry skin. However, cracked skin can also develop in response to infections or trauma. When your skin dries out because of a lack of moisture, it will become rough and tear easier. Without proper care, these small cracks can turn into deeper, often painful cracks known as fissures. Cracked skin can affect several parts of the body: cracked hands, cracked fingertips, and broken skin elsewhere can lead to pain and discomfort.

To better understand the causes of cracked skin, you need to consider the layers of your skin. Made up of three layers, your skin is meant to remain squishy and elastic. However, to do so, your skin requires a lot of water. Once your skin becomes dry, it begins to lose its flexibility, causing the breaking of skin. 

Causes of Severe Cracked Hands & Feet

Dry skin is the leading cause of cracked skin, which is caused by:

  • Irritants — Many everyday products contain harsh chemicals that damage your skin’s barrier.
  • Cold weather — During the winter months, low temperatures and humidity dry out your skin. Indoor heating can also dry out your skin.
  • Hot water — Hot water from washing dishes or from showers can affect your skin’s moisture levels.
  • Your diet — Dry skin may be a sign of ongoing dehydration. Besides drinking more water, eat more hydrating foods.

Two skin conditions that are often linked to cracked skin include eczema and psoriasis.

Eczema is a skin condition that causes itching and redness. Although it can surface anywhere on the body, it does often affect the hands. Since the skin becomes so dry, it leads to cracking, as well as possible flaking, peeling, intense itching, and scaly patches. Psoriasis is similar. However, this disorder causes extra skin cells to build up, resulting in dry, inflamed areas. When skin cells rapidly accumulate, this can lead to dryness and cracking. There is no cure for either of these skin conditions, but you can better manage symptoms by keeping your skin hydrated. The goal is to retain moisture and prevent your skin from drying out.

Cracked feet are commonly associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This is because diabetic neuropathy causes nerve damage, impacting your skin’s ability to control moisture. In other cases, dry feet and cracking are linked to athlete’s foot. This skin infection is caused by a fungus.

Hyperkeratosis skin conditions such as cracked hands, cracked fingertips and palms cause dryness, peeling and cracking on both your hands and feet. This skin condition affects your natural barrier. As the top layer of skin is depleted from the condition, you may experience significant dryness and cracking. The breaking skin can cause uncomfort or pain.

How to Help Heal Cracked Skin

When cracked skin isn’t too severe, you can often relieve it at home. Of course, the cause of your cracked skin will need to be taken into consideration and any complications should be discussed with your physician.

Remember, once you begin to experience cracked skin, this means that your skin barrier is compromised. The most common reason being dry, irritated skin. If you are experiencing cracked hands and feet, here are some of the best ways to help your symptoms at home:

  • Begin a moisturizing routine to minimize moisture loss and repair the broken skin barrier. When you invest in a quality moisturizer that will help minimize transepidermal water loss of the skin (moisture loss), such as a product like Cutemol Cream in a water-in-oil formulation containing natural Beeswax and Allantoin. The Beeswax leaves a thin layer on the skin and this will reduce water loss from the skin and help keep your skin hydrated and repair the skin barrier. The goal is to help your skin retain moisture day-in and day-out. Apply your moisturizer of choice two to three times daily. In this case, focus on your hands and feet, especially after bathing. If you have sensitive skin, opt for a cream that is void of fragrance and parabens, such as Cūtemol Sensitive Emollient Dry Skin Cream.
  • If you have deep cracks, talk to your physician about a liquid skin bandage. This can help you treat skin cracks. Once healed, it’s important to continue your daily moisturizing routine as a preventative measure.
  • Exfoliate your feet and hands to remove dry, dead skin cells. Be gentle so that you do not irritate further. To do so, soak your feet or hands in water for 15-20 minutes. Use a soft loofah to gently scrub away dry skin before patting them dry. While soaking your hands or feet, you can also add salts or oils to ease itching and irritation, Then, apply a thick barrier moisturizer such as Cutemol cream. Repeat this process once or twice a week.
  • During the winter months, consider using a humidifier. This will help combat dry air, which will increase your risk of cracked feet and hands.

If your skin cracks are mild, you can successfully relieve your symptoms at home, leveraging the tips above. However, if your skin does not improve within two weeks, or gets worse at any point, it’s important to seek medical attention. This is particularly true if your skin is bleeding, filled with pus, overwhelmingly itchy, or accompanied by a fever.

Whether you’re suffering from dry skin, broken skin, eczema, psoriasis, or some other skin condition, we’re here for you. We offer skincare solutions for your entire family and welcome you to contact us with any questions you may have.