Treatments for dry winter skin?

dry winter skin knucklesThis question comes directly from AOA Greg:

Every winter the skin on my hands gets really dry, and often cracks. It's uncomfortable, unsightly and generally unpleasant.

I figured this was just an unfortunate quirk of the skin on my hands, but a few people have mentioned recently that the same thing also happens to them each winter.

So, any suggestions for soothing dry winter skin, especially hands? I've tried the general purpose moisturizing lotions like Vaseline Intensive Care -- they don't seem to be up to task.


Take a bath with Epsom salts and moisturize immediately after you towel off.
Exfoliate often.
Don't wear gross man-made fabrics like polyester.
Double your daily dose of H2O.

Kitten Mittens!

Well, no, but something along those lines. It might be a little femme, but moisturizing gloves work wonders. Slather hands in lotion, leave on for 15-60 minutes (or overnight). Use cocoa butter if you really want to up the moisture content.

Moisturizing after a shower or intense hand wash also works, since it'll trap a little extra moisture.

But seriously, those gloves sound like hokum, but they work pretty well.

I have the same problem, Greg. This kind of Neutrogena hand cream works for me:

Echoing the above and adding a few insights:
1) Hydrate aggressively
2) Nighttime gloves & humidifier
3) Working Hands - this stuff is fantastic and doesn't feel oily / greasy after it's in your skin.
4) Climb On! - Tricky to find, but a great product that I've used for years.
5) if you wash often, moisturize / seal your hands after each washing.

yep, the moisturizing glove routine works. I also moisturize immediately after I dry them, every time. Stay away from things like hand sanitizers, which are pretty much 99% alcohol and can have horrible drying effects on your hands. If you don't have a dishwasher, wear gloves when you wash dishes. Aveeno makes some excellent products, such as their Oatmeal Bath Soak and Daily Moisturizing Lotion (I swear I don't work for them). I used to use a petroleum based moisturizer (it was basically straight KY), thinking it would give my skin a power dose of moisture, but it really doesn't work that way. Our skin cannot absorb the grease as well as a water soluble moisturizer.

For me wearing gloves outdoors makes all the difference.
Aveeno moisturizer is helpful too.

I have used Mary's skin survival balm

This formula was created specifically for this use, and I find it to be excellent. I love it so much that I have made a point of making it stocking stuffers for Christmas.

It also smells great. Mary runs this small business out of her home in Greenwich NY. So buy local!

Every time you wash your hands, moisturize, if you can. We use Aveeno Intensive Relief Hand Cream. Don't buy the CVS version -- not as good. Gloves overnight with a moisturizer -- as mentioned above -- does work. Some dermatologists recommend closing the cracks with crazy glue for very deep fissures, to give your hands a chance to heal.

During the day I use lotions that have shea butter, at night Burt's Bees Hand Salve.

When I was bartending, we used one of two items, and I ended up sticking with one throughout the winter. It's hemp hand protector from the body shop. I know - it sounds so hippyish. But seriously - it's the only thing that saves my hands in the winter. I put it on once every few days, or even more so when my hands are at their worst. It saves me. You don't need tons of it, a little goes a long way.

You Are Not Alone @Greg. I get these hangnails that threaten to tear all the way up to my elbows.

Second the Neutrogena recommendation. Especially in and around the cuticles many times over the course of a day.

Spending several days a week in a more humid climate, however, helps a great deal. I can strongly recommend a job requiring a commute to, say, Florida.

My boyfriend has this same problem every year. He uses Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream on his cracked finger tips (or just Vaseline, which is much cheaper). He doesn't use anything else for his hands since only his fingertips crack.

I'd suggest using Curel hand lotion. I've been using it for years and have it in my purse, car and bedroom. It soaks right in, provides instant relief and doesn't feel greasy at all. I have really dry hands and only use it 2 or 3 times a day. You can get it any drugstore It's in a blue bottle though.

This website vouches for the stuff, too :

Hope you find relief soon! :)

I know a bunch of people who swear by Bag Balm. You're going to laugh but it was originally intended for farmers' to rub on the chaffed, um, "teats" of livestock. But a good friend -- and my dad -- claim it works wonders for seriously dry skin. Apparently lots of people think so because you can find it in many drugstores, etc. now.

I swear by Look Ma New Hands hand lotion with paraffin from bath and body works. It really works to soften dry skin and the best part is that it's not greasy or overpoweringly scented. My boyfriend has the same problem with dry cracked skin on his hands in the winter and he loves this lotion because it's not greasy and it has a light citrus scent (not pefumey or girly). You can also use it anywhere, not just hands.
I definitely recommend giving it a try/hope this helps!

I second the vote for The Body Shop products. My husband and I use their Almond Intensive Hand Rescue cream and it keeps our hands soft through the winter. I just put it on every night before bedtime, no need to hassle with gloves etc.

l'occitane shea butter hand cream cured the cracked, bleeding mess that were my hands during a winter in paris. swear by it. otherwise, if you can bring yourself to walk into a bath & body works (and obviously the greeter will ask you if you're shopping for yourself today), try true blue spa's shea cashmere hand cream. not a heavy-duty moisturizer, but it does make your hands feel lovely. you won't be able to take your hands off -- ready for it? -- your hands! bah-dum-bum.

Neutrogena hand cream is magical! Use just a tiny bit as you sleep and once during the day. You'll never have those painful skin cracks again.

I have no new lotion suggestions, but DEFINITELY recommend a good humidifier (read some Amazon reviews) running on high all the time; more than one may be necessary depending on your house/apartment size.

I can vouch for the Bag Balm treatment. Use it sparingly on the affected areas; go more heavily at night. It's udderly amazing (har-har-har).

Cutemol. It is pricey, and you have to ask for it at the pharmacy (CVS or the like, Target doesn't have it). It's like sticking your hands in frosting, or cream cheese, it's so thick and full of moisture.

I use it every night, and it saves my hands. Which are in water 95% of the time working at the bakery, and a horrid, dry, cracked mess without it. It's one of my best-kept secrets (that and ponaris). I've used lots of lotions (including TBS's hemp one) and this is the only one that is serious. Seriously.

Herbal salves are moisturizing and have healing properties as well. There's a salve-making workshop at the Furnace on Grand Street this Sunday!

For hands, definitely the Neutrogena Hand Cream. Overcomes the worst cracking, and is lanolin-free.

But also, the humidifier will make a huge difference. We made do with small units for years, then when we got a new furnace with a modern humidifier, our dry skin problems nearly disappeared.

"You know, I've tried all sorts of moisturizers. ... and ideally, we should all wear gloves when going to bed, but I found out that that creates a kind of an interference with my... social agenda, you know what I mean"

I get super dry skin during the winter. Beeswax products seem to work a LOT better for me than petroleum/mineral oil based products. I really like the Burt's products like the Hand Salve and Cuticle Cream, and have even used the lip balm on my ultra-dry elbows in a pinch.

Also, like lots of other commenters, I use a humidifier. One of the heavy-duty ones from Home Depot. I don't think I could survive the winter without it.

I found that bag balm does work. It's greasy so it is kind of a night time therapy. There is Udder cream (cow motif type of jar) which is good for day time use since it is not greasy. Washing hands in tepid water also helps. A doctor advised me to wash my hands, don't dry thoroughly, apply a good hand cream while still damp. The hand cream and rubbing helps force the H2O into your hands. Does work. Wearing gloves outside does help as well for skin that is sensitive.

Michelle mentioned L'occitane shea butter hand cream. I started using it this year, and will never buy another hand cream for daily use from now on. The stuff is amazing, and my hands feel soft all day, even after washing them after the bathroom, etc.

At night, when my hands are extremely dry, I like Burt's Bees Almond Milk hand cream, and I use the moisture gloves from the Body Shop. (as a side note for those who don't know what they are - the gloves themselves aren't moist, then just hold in the moisture from the cream while allowing your hands to breathe)

I have been coating my hands in vaseline and wearing gloves over them a few nights a week. It's gross but it works.

Following up on my earlier comment with links:

Working hands:

Climb On!

Greg (& Raja)

Shea butter or cocoa butter should work well used a couple times a day. Don't use moisturizers that have alcohol in them and if you use hand sanitizers, cut down on use if you can.
Don't use really hot water when washing your hands, that goes for the shower too. Get gloves for washing dishes and a good pair of gloves for going outside.
If I'm really desperate, I'll put a little lip balm on my cuticles when they get really dry when I'm not at home.

We like to use Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Plus Intensive hand cream. Like you, my husband's hands cracked during the winter. No more. The third ingredient in this cream is the humectant urea which promotes the retention of moisture. This site explains types of moisturizers.

I'm not sure about lotion, but waterproof mittens or gloves should be helpful on the preventative side.

Equal parts butter and canola oil. Salt to taste.

Clearly, you aren't alone! The best hands and feet I've ever had in the winter came after purchasing a small tub of pure shea butter from a bunch of Senegalese guys at a folk festival. We were in a drum circle and I noticed they kept putting something on their hands and then their drum heads (which were hide) and one of them had a import business so I bought my own after sampling it. The stuff was so thick and unprocessed that a tiny fingernail of it would melt into my hands and spread a long way and it lasted for about 2 years.

Wool Butter from Baitsholts Farm. Wool butter is made from Almond Oil and Lanolin, a natural oil derived from the wool of the farm's sheep. Lanolin provides protection from the elements, keeps moisture in, and softens and soothes the skin. 2 oz. jar. See

I've had a lot of luck with coconut oil. It comes in a good-sized jar and you can cook with it, too. A word of caution: it attracts licky dogs like a magnet.

White gloves will protect your hands while having the added function of allowing you to look credible as you run your finger along your enemy's mantelpiece, look at your dusty finger, and shoot the bum a look of contempt.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

I think I may have to round up a few of these and do some sort of test. My hands won't know what hit them.

Best solution? Get a paraffin dip; it works wonders! You can get it done for $5 at the Austin Beauty School, and you can buy a whole paraffin bath kit for $30 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond if it works for you.

Hi there. Comments have been closed for this item. Still have something to say? Contact us.

The Scoop

For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine