How to Cope With Dry and Cracked Hands

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As you age, you may notice that your hands become drier and crack more easily. They may also become red and peel. These are all signs of dry skin.

Cracks in your fingers can make even the simplest tasks, such as typing, turning a page, or buttoning your shirt, very painful.

In the medical field, dry skin is known as xerosis. It is often a natural part of aging, though it can also be an early sign of dermatitis. This skin irritation has three types, and they all cause dry, itchy skin and sometimes a rash.

This article explains the causes of dry hands, what you can do to get relief, and what you should know before using super glue products on cracked hands.

coping with dry cracked hands

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

What Causes Dry, Cracked Hands?

As people age, their skin becomes thinner and drier and produces less oil. The sun, wind, and other elements take their toll too.

Things that can contribute to dry hands include:

  • Aging
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Cold weather
  • Dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Low humidity
  • Psoriasis
  • Sensitivity to preservatives, fragrances, or other chemical ingredients in soaps and cleaners
  • Too much sun
  • Washing clothes or dishes by hand without wearing gloves

Treating Dry, Cracked Hands

Dry, cracked skin on your hands can usually be treated at home with a two-pronged approach of prevention and moisturizing. Prevention includes:

  • Don’t over-wash your hands
  • Wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or cleaning
  • Wear gloves outside in the winter or when gardening
  • Avoid lathering soaps that contain chemical detergents or artificial fragrances
  • Choose gentle hypoallergenic cleansers made for dry or sensitive skin
  • Use a humidifier in the house during the winter to keep moisture in the air
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or herbal tea

As you get older, you may have to make adjustments to your daily routine, such as:

  • Spending less time in the sun
  • Applying sunscreen when outside
  • Taking shorter and cooler showers and baths
  • Drinking more liquids
  • Giving up smoking

Using Hand Lotion

Moisturize your hands frequently throughout the day, especially after a shower or washing your hands.

There is no one best lotion for everyone. Look for products that do not contain any artificial fragrances or are labeled for sensitive skin. Use a thick emollient (lubricating) hand cream or lotion, which tends to work better than thinner formulations. Look for ingredients like petrolatum, wax, and shea butter.

Some people find slathering lotion or petroleum jelly on at bedtime, then covering their hands with gloves or socks helps to repair dry, cracked skin faster. 

Is Super Glue Safe?

Believe it or not, a popular solution for painful skin cracks is super glue. Containing adhesive chemicals called cyanoacrylates, super glue can be used for superficial cuts and cracks, but using it on a regular basis can dry out skin.

Glue should never be used for deep wounds. And it can be poisonous if swallowed.

Liquid bandages (liquid adhesive) can also be used on minor cuts to close the wound and help stop bleeding. Liquid bandages seal the cut closed after just one application. There is less chance of infection since the wound is sealed shut.

Be sure to check the ingredient list because some brands may contain too much alcohol for people who have already dry skin. A product called Dermabond was specifically designed to seal skin tissue. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for surgical use and superficial cuts.

Skin must be thoroughly cleaned before applying it to prevent infection. Ask your healthcare provider if they can recommend a similar product that is available over the counter if you want to use it regularly.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If your hands are causing you great discomfort due to dry, cracked skin, talk with a dermatologist or healthcare provider. And seek medical attention immediately if your hands are swollen, or bleeding, have a honey-colored crust on any cracks, or if you see red streaks moving up your arm. These are symptoms of a more serious infection.

Don't let dry skin go unchecked by a medical professional. It can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as dermatitis, diabetes, or even kidney disease.


You know dry skin when you see it. It can become rough, flaky, and red. It can even bleed. Pinpointing a cause can be tricky because there could be several contributing factors, such as your age and how often you wash your hands during the day.

You can ease the discomfort by taking steps such as being vigilant about applying moisturizer and avoiding irritating chemicals. Many people turn to super glue to mend skin cracks. But do your research before you pick a product. And consult your healthcare provider for advice.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mayo Clinic. Dermatitis. September 21, 2021.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin: Who gets and causes.

  3. National Institute on Aging. Skin care and aging. Updated October 1, 2017.

  4. Medline Plus. Lacerations - liquid bandage.

  5. National Kidney Foundation. 10 signs you may have kidney disease. December 17, 2020.

By Sharon Basaraba
Sharon Basaraba is an award-winning reporter and senior scientific communications advisor for Alberta Health Services in Alberta, Canada.