Best Moisturizing Ingredients for Dry and Chapped Hands

woman using hand lotion
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Dry, chapped hands can make cold months tough to bear, and many people find it's a bigger problem as they get older. While lots of products boast "extreme" or "ultimate" moisturizing powers, certain ingredients in hand creams—independent of their price point—are more effective than others when it comes to healing finger cracks and other symptoms of chapped skin.

The Best Ingredients

Designed to protect skin by keeping irritants out and water in, emollient moisturizers keep moisture from evaporating off the surface, and humectant formulations increase the water content of the outer layers of the skin (epidermis). According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some of the best moisturizing ingredients to heal and protect the dry skin on hands are:

  • Petrolatum
  • Mineral oil
  • Shea butter
  • Lanolin
  • Dimethicone (a type of silicone)
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Glycerin
  • Lactic acid (which may sting when applied to broken skin)
  • Urea

All of these ingredients will help prevent moisture loss and will protect the skin so it can heal. Steer clear of fragrances and color on the ingredient list if you have sensitive skin, as these can be irritating.

Best consistency: A thick cream or ointment with a higher oil content offers a better staying power when compared with a lotion, which is of thinner consistency.

Use These Moisturizers Generously and Often

If you suffer from dry cracked fingers, use an emollient (lubricating) moisturizing cream after you wash your hands, and frequently over the course of the day. Make sure you wear protective gloves when you handle household chemicals like detergents and other cleaners or do other wet work.

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Article Sources

  • Chapped Hands. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

  • Dry Skin Tips. American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Public Information Sheet.

  • Alavi, Afsaneh; Skotnicki, Sandra; Sussman, Gordon; Sibbald, R. Gary. "Diagnosis and Treatment of Hand Dermatitis.Advances in Skin & Wound Care Issue: Volume 25(8), August 2012, p 371–380.