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What To Soak Dry, Cracked Hands In To Make Them Soft, Smooth and Beautiful Again

Dermatologists explain how to use what you already have on hand to give parched hands some TLC

Few things are uncomfortable as dry, cracked hands. Not only do they look unappealing — they feel itchy, rough and painful. And to make things worse, the more you wash your hands to fend of germs, the worse they feel. To the rescue: 6 recipes for what to soak dry, cracked hands in to relieve the discomfort that you can easily do at home.

How hands become dry and cracked

1. Excessive hand washing

It’s impossible to avoid washing your hands or using hand sanitizer — especially during cold and flu season — but both of these things can cause the skin on your hands to dry out. Two tricks that can help when you are washing your hands: First, Dylan Alston, DO, a board-certified dermatologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, recommends swapping hand soap for a gentle face cleanser, like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Buy from Target, $3.29). This cleanser gently removes bacteria and germs from delicate facial skin while leaving it moisturized, and Dr. Alston says it’s great for helping hand skin from becoming dry and cracked as well. And then, after washing hands, it’s best to make sure hands are fully dry as excess moisture can disrupt the skin’s barrier, leading to more dryness.

2. The weather, especially in cold climates

You can get rough, cracked hands year-round, but the weather in fall and winter is notorious for causing parched skin, especially on your hands. “There’s a lack of moisture in the air during these times of year,” says David Bank, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Mt. Kisco, New York and author of Beautiful Skin. “And this coupled with indoor heating robs them of hydration.” 

3. Aging in general

Gray haired woman relaxing with hands touching her face

Having dry skin, especially on your hands, is a natural part of aging. That’s because after we reach the age of 40, our skin produces less sebum (the natural oil that skin produces), which causes them to get cracked and dry. And the palms of hands don’t have any oil glands to begin with, so skin can easily become parched in this area.

4. Medical conditions

If you have a medical condition like diabetes, psoriasis or eczema, or you’re undergoing treatment that involves taking statins or diuretics, these may also be the reason behind your dry, cracked hands.

Heal your hands with a soothing hand soak

The good news? It’s easy to repair and rehydrate hands with a natural, DIY dry hand soak — and it’s a great way to relax and unwind to boot. After you whip up these healing hand baths, all you have to do is soak dry hands for 10 minutes, pat hands dry, then moisturize. For a hand cream loved by dermatologists, try Eucerin’s Intensive Repair Hand Creme (Buy on Amazon, $5.57). Read on for the 6 recipes that will revive hands fast.

What to soak dry, cracked hands in

1. Oatmeal and lavender hand soak soothes irritation

Oatmeal and oatmeal milk to be incorporated into a soothing hand soak to relieve dry, cracked skin
Jelene Irikova/Getty
  • Large bowl filled with 2 cups of warm water
  • 2/3 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal (optional: add to a small sachet bag if you have one on-hand)
  • 5 drops of lavender essential oil

Why it works:

Anti-inflammatory oatmeal calms irritation, says Ted Lain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas and its polysaccharides leave a thin film over skin to prevent moisture loss. Pairing with soothing lavender oil (its compounds hydrate and further reduce inflammation) leave skin on the hands looking soft and feeling supple fast.

2. Chamomile tea hand soak deeply hydrates

A photo of a mug of warm chamomile tea on a table surrounded by chamomile flowers to be used in a soothing hand soak for dry skin
  • Large bowl filled with 2 cups of warm water
  • 2 bags of chamomile tea (let steep 5 minutes before placing hands in the bowl)

Why it works:

Chamomile tea contains linoleic acid, which has been shown to deeply hydrate skin — this effect also plumps skin to diminish the appearance of crepey skin on hands. And antioxidants in the plant mend any ­damage. An added perk? Chamomile’s soothing floral scent eases anxiety and stress.

3. Milk and honey hand soak ends rashiness

Photo of a glass of milk and fresh honey in jar with flowers background for use in DIY hand soak to relieve dry, cracked skin
  • Large bowl filled with 2 cups of warmed milk
  • 1/2 cup of honey

Why it works:

Susan Ciminelli, a holistic skin care expert who has worked with Cindy Crawford and Martha Stewart, recommends this healing duo as milk’s lactic acid and vitamin A work topically to encourage the growth of healthy new cells, and honey is a humectant that deeply moisturizes skin to keep it supple. Plus, honey’s anti-inflammatory­ properties soothe red, rashy skin. 

4. Rice water hand soak locks in moisture

A spa-like setting with a bowl filled with homemade rice water and uncooked rice sitting to the side of it to help soothe dry, cracked hands
Anna Fedorova/Getty
  • Large bowl filled with 2 cups of rice water (make soaking 1/2 cup of uncooked rice in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes; strain the water into a bowl)

Why it works:

The water contains inositol, a compound that attracts and locks moisture into parched hands, and linoleic acid, a fatty acid that further restores hydration to dry skin. (Click through to learn more benefits about how rice water for hair can beautify strands.)

Related: The Bath Add-In That Makes Any Soak Instantly More Soothing — 4 Easy DIY Recipes

5. Rose water hand soak speeds healing

Bottles filled with rosewater and roses surrounding them to be used for a hand soak to end dry skin
Nataliia Sirobaba/Getty

Why it works:

“The oils in the flower’s petals are packed with essential fatty acids that restore — and help lock in — moisture to the skin,” says Christine Chin, an esthetician who works with Mariska Hargitay and Ellen Pompeo. This makes the floral water great for reversing dryness on hands. What’s more, roses are packed with antioxidants (to help mend cracked skin) and anti-inflammatory properties (to soothe irritation) that speed the healing of parched hands.

6. Apple cider vinegar hand soak exfoliates flakey skin

apple cider vinegar for a hand soak recipe that helps relieve dry, cracked skin
Vadym Sirobaba/Getty
  • Large bowl filled with 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (when diluted, it shouldn’t sting any painful cracks)
  • 3 Tbs. of olive oil 

Why it works:

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps restore a slightly acidic pH balance so skin retains moisture more effectively. The pantry staple also softens and exfoliates dead, cracked layers of dry skin so moisture can reach new, healthy skin cells. Using with olive oil hydrates skin and soothes chapping, while its antioxidants mend damage and help with the formation of healthy skin cells. (Click through for even more benefits of apple cider vinegar.)

Bonus: More solutions for dry hands

While a dry hand soak is relaxing and effective, it’s far from the only solution. Check out these other DIY tips for soothing your irritated skin.

1. A shea butter and vitamin E thermal wrap

Applying a combination of shea butter (its fatty acids restore moiture) and vitamin E (it mends cracks) deeply hydrates and heals hands. And topping this mixture with a warm, damp towel helps ingredients absorb.

To do: Mix 2 tsp. of shea butter and the liquid from 1 vitamin E capsule. Rub onto clean, dry hands, then wrap with warm, damp washcloths. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing and rinsing.

2. An overnight coconut + lavender oils mask

Blond woman in a white robe applying lotion to relieve her dry, cracked hands

Kenneth Mark, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City suggests slathering hands with a few drops of both coconut and lavender oils, then slipping on cotton gloves before bed. “Coconut oil’s lauric acid repairs and moisturizes while compounds in lavender oil calm skin and encourage the growth of new skin cells,” says Dr. Mark. And wearing gloves seals in the oils and allows them to penetrate skin while you snooze for healed hands by morning.

3. A jojoba oil treatment

“Its wax esters mimic the body’s natural oils to replenish skin’s moisture,” says Joanna Vargas, an esthetician who’s worked with Julianne Moore and Naomi Watts. “And its vitamin E speeds healing and creates a barrier to protect skin from further damage.” 

To do: Massage 1 tsp. of jojoba oil (Buy from Walmart, $10.97) onto hands; let absorb.

For more tips on how to keep skin moisturized and healthy, click through these stories:

The 15 Best Herbal Skin Solutions For Gorgeous, Glowing Skin From Head To Toe

Dermatologists and Aestheticians Agree: Snail Slime Can Powerfully Regenerate Skin So It Looks Plump + Taut

Dermatologists Weigh In on the Best Ways to Smooth Crepey Skin On Face, Neck, Hands + Arms & Legs

The Best Body Butters for Soft, Smooth, Glowing Skin: Dermatologists Weigh In

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