How I Treat My Dry, Cracked, and Bleeding Hands

dry fingers skin peeling off eczema

Cold, dry winter air is brutal on my hands. Untreated, I suffer with dry, cracked, and bleeding hands all winter. Treated, I have somewhat sticky and occasionally itchy hands. Neither scenario is good, but I’ll take sticky skin over the pain of cracked skin.

cracked skin on finger

My dermatitis follows a very specific pattern. Untreated, my skin will cycle through this pattern for the entire winter.

  • Day One: My hands become extremely itchy and begin to swell up. Hours later, a rash of hive-like bumps appear on my hands.
  • Day Two: My skin becomes waxy and calloused, almost like a shell.
  • Day Three: The skin cracks and flakes, sometimes falling off in small chunks. This phase is extremely painful. I use liquid bandage during this phase; it stings but works.
  • Day Five: Once the cracks have healed and the hard skin is shed, my hands are covered in thin, powdery skin which then returns to normal within 24 hours.

The following is my treatment regime. I’m not sure if one or all of these treatments is the solution, but like a superstitious athlete, I do them all just in case. Consistency has proven to be a vital part of successful treatment for me. If I stray from this regime for even one day, I will have cracked fingertips within 48 hours. Eczema is merciless.

Use Gentle Soap

I made a full switch to gentle soap for my hands, body, and hair. I look for products that are scent-free and moisturizing that specifically state they are for sensitive, problem, and/or dry skin. I haven’t found one particular brand to be superior so I shop for the best value.

Apply Lotion Regularly

During the day I use light lotion that absorbs fairly quickly. I try to apply lotion at least once an hour, and always after I wash my hands. In the evening I use heavier lotion because I’m not using my hands as much. As with the soap, I buy scent-free products specifically designed for sensitive, problem, and/or dry skin. Also like the soap, I haven’t found a specific brand to be superior so once again, I shop for the best value.
gloves and guitar

Wear Gloves Whenever Possible

I use rubber gloves to wash dishes. I have a pair of rubber gloves I use for cleaning. I wear work gloves when I’m doing jobs around the house or in the yard. I wear gloves to drive, shovel snow, and when I’m just outside with my kids sledding or playing in the snowy backyard. I even wear gloves when I’m playing my guitar. It certainly isn’t fashionable, but I’d rather be unfashionable than suffer with painful cracks and bleeding fingers.

Wear Gloves To Bed Every Night

I have cotton gloves I wear to bed. Before I put them on, I slather my hands in heavy lotion. The gloves keep the lotion on my skin, reduces the amount of moisture lost to the air and sheets, and also protect the sheets from the heavy lotion. It took me a couple weeks to get used to sleeping with gloves. Every third night I take it to the next level and use blue nitrile gloves instead of cotton. It feels pretty disgusting until you get used to it. After a night of sleeping with the rubber gloves my hands look and feel amazing.

 

Comments

The Beginning
About James Hudyma

Dad. Husband. Teacher. Canadian. Guitar Picker. Songwriter.

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Comments

  1. Shawn says:

    Hi James,
    My hands got wrecked the last several winters, especially my knuckles getting just raw and painful. OLast year, I switched to Meyers soap in the kitchen for dish soap and hand soap, and the hand soap in my bathroom too. I had no issues throughout the year. I didn’t switch for any reason other than I was in a new-to-us house, and wanted to supply myself with something different. Hoping for the same this season.

    • James Hudyma says:

      Good to hear you had some success. Hopefully this winter will go as well.

      • Bev says:

        check out Grampa Gilman’s Skin Care , it works great

  2. loretta webster says:

    I have had this problem for many years and it doesn’t seem to make any difference if its winter or summer .now it is in the palm of my hands.I am so tired of suffering with this. I have seen many doctors without any relief. They itch and hurt so bad.what do you think I should do ? I have thumb ,2 fingers and both palms cracked now. help

    • What I have in this post is all I’ve got. Sounds like you need to see a specialist.

  3. Tuv says:

    Hello.
    I have the same freaking problem too. My palm starts to become like that in the middle of autumn before the winter and they stay like that during all winter. it doesnt just happen during few days. it stays like this for months until humid weather comes (summer) and also when I have lot of work and when I get tired, it cracks no matter what season and atmosphere I’m in. I am having this since I was in primary school. I also try to wear glove most of the times like you. and when it happens I increase my sleeping and resting hours.

    I hope I can treat this some day.

    Regards,

  4. Bonnie Bandics says:

    I also have the same problem, mine starts the first sign of cold weather. I spend winter in hell with sore, cracked, bleeding fingers that just don’t want to heal. I have found a cream that heals if I stay out of water (Yeah right!)…..but I have been told that the reason they crack in the first place is because I am not hydrated enough…….summer you tend to drink more. I have to admit I am not a water drinker and really don’t drink anything much in a day….maybe there is some truth to this???

  5. Samuel says:

    The skin on my hands split & bled because of candida, one of the most difficult infections to rid oneself of since this vile infection thrives on everything that can usually be considered food. At any rate, during my last session of splitting/bleeding (not just on my fingertips but all over my hands), I decided to try some of Obenauf’s heavy duty leather protector I had just ordered to re-waterproof my shoes and boots. Amazingly, after only 24 hours (a first versus ALL of the other “remedies” I’ve tried) the bleeding had stopped and within about a week, almost all signs of discoloration, dryness, peeling skin etc. were gone! I simply applied a small amount of the cream/paste to the affected skin on my hands about twice per day (it’s quite soothing and smells like a combination of honey and leather) and continued about my normal routine. I’m not sure if anyone else has stumbled upon this remedy or not- I hadn’t heard anyone else recommend it- so I truly thank God for this cure, because it has worked FAR better than any of the other items I’ve tried and is more than worth every penny. Find it online at Obenaufs.com, Amazon , eBay or other retailers- this is the solution you’ve been looking for and I recommended it more highly than anything else!

  6. Tony says:

    This will sound crazy, but it absolutely worked for me. I had places all over my hands where the skin would thicken, like callouses, then split open and bleed. I went to numerous dermatologists, and tried all sorts of ointments, lotions, etc. No success. Finally, out of desperation, I tried this, and it absolutely worked. Buy a little bottle of Novocain oil, that stuff they sell over the counter for toothaches. Rub a bit on each calloused area, leave on for a couple of minutes, then rub in to the rest of your hands. This actually cured it. In my case I think the nerves under the skin were hyper-sensitized and would get the skin to over-produce skin cells, as if I were doing hard work with my hands. So the skin would thicken up, as if I were doing manual labor. The Novocain seemed to “numb down” the nerves enough that the skin cell production slowed down to normal. After literally years of painful cracked and bleeding hands, mine are now back to normal. I keep a little bottle of that oil in my office, and at home. When I get a patch of calloused skin forming, I just dab a bit of Novocain oil on it, and it’s worked well.

  7. justin says:

    I have been suffering with painful cracked fingers for 15 years, since the age of 15. What I’ve noticed is it is ever changing. I remember when I was 8-10 years old I had such bad eczema, my hands looked like a 90 y.o. man. Even my nails would get rippled and as thin as paper on certain fingers only. I remember my father making me coat my hands in the thickest helping of bag balm and sleeping with rubber gloves… Horrible. These days I’m left with only super cracked fingers, starting in roughly october and running til spring time. Working in sub 32 outside as an electrician and needing the use of gloveless hands to work… I’m in the wrong profession haha. There is no lotion that my eczema will allow me without breaking out. I’m left with coating my bleeding cracks with 10 coats of liquid bandaid daily. But.. It works for now. I’m just stubborn I guess

  8. MiserableOldFart says:

    There are gloves called Moisture Jamz that I have used. They are like thin cotton with some elastic, maybe spandex or such, and they are pretty expensive but work well. They don’t last all that long as they lose their stretch, so I’m wearing blue nitrile now over a ton of moisturizer and typing is not easy, lol. I’m hoping the nitrile work as well. Feel pretty good right now.

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