Causes of Itchy, Cracked Skin and How to Treat It
By Sarah Parker Ward
Itchy, cracked skin can be both painful and embarassing. Often it shows up on hands, feet and lips, but it can also creep up on knees and elbows. It often occurs in the cold, dry winter months, but it can be more chronic, as well. But you don't have to just live with it. Here's how to how to get your skin back in tip-top shape.
The Fundamentals of Cracked Skin: Our skin is made of three layers that are all meant to be squishy, elastic cells. However, in order to stay soft and pliable, they require a lot of water. When our skin is dry, it loses its flexibility and, in cases of severe dehydration, it can even crack. While anyone can experience severely dry skin, those who are older than 40 and live in dry, cold climates are especially prone. Sometimes, however, this dryness can also be a result of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant.
How to Relieve Itchy, Cracked Skin: The discomfort from severe dry skin isn’t something you have to suffer through. These tried and true cracked skin treatment options can help lock in moisture and rehydrate your dry skin.
- Soak: While taking a hot bath can actually strip your skin further of much needed hydration, a five- to 10-minute bath or spot soak in lukewarm water that has a few drops of essential oil or gentle cleanser in it can help to heal dry, cracked skin.
- Moisturize: Within minutes of when you hop out of the bath or soak, trap in the moisture gained by using a gentle, unscented lotion on your cracked areas. For severe cases, opt for an ointment or medicated cream that can help to repair the skin’s outer layers, enhancing your body’s ability to keep that much-needed moisture inside.
- Consider trying AVEENO® Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream, the No. 1 dermatologist-recommended, over-the-counter eczema moisturizer brand.
- Cross Off Other Culprits: While cracked skin can be a result of just plain old dried skin cells, it can also be caused by skin infections or diseases, such as eczema or psoriasis. If the cracking is recurring or so severe that it’s bleeding, visit your doctor to confirm that there’s not another underlying cause outside of dehydration.
- Crank Up the Humidifier: Our skin naturally dries some in the winter when the air loses moisture, but if you start to develop itchy, cracked skin, a humidifier is a worthwhile option.
- Don’t Pick: If your skin is cracked and scaly, it can be difficult not to poke, prod and pick the flaking skin. However, doing this not only makes the area more susceptible to any bacteria on your hands, but it can also further irritate the area only worsening the condition.
- Keep Healed Areas Protected: Once your skin is on the mend, make the effort to avoid irritating it further. For instance, if you garden, use gloves to help protect your hands. Similarly, if your lips are chapped in winter, use a scarf when outdoors to help retain moisture around your mouth.
It’s important to give your time and attention to your cracked skin since cracks are essentially open wounds that, if not treated, can become infected. The good news is that most instances can be treated with these simple solutions.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017