Skin cracks on body

4 Solutions for Dry, Cracked Skin

Healthy skin is soft, supple, and moisturized, but when it loses moisture and that moisture isn’t replenished by frequent application of creams and lotions and drinking plenty of water, skin can become unhealthy, dry, and scaly. Severely dry skin can even begin to crack. What should you do when your skin is so dry that it forms gaping, painful cracks? Add moisture, stat.

Dry Skin Solution No. 1: Baths and Soaks

You may think that soaking dry, cracked skin in water is a good way to replenish lost moisture. And you’d be right — and wrong. Water can actually be drying to the skin, says Christine Lopez, MD, a dermatologist and assistant program director in the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Mere water will strip your skin of the essential oils,” Dr. Lopez explains. But that doesn’t mean that soaks and baths can’t still be soothing for dry, cracked skin — you just have to bathe the right way.

Adding a few drops of a natural oil, like mineral, almond, or avocado oil, will help heal dry, cracked skin, Lopez says. However, it’s important to limit those baths and showers to only a short time, no longer than 5 to 10 minutes with water that is only warm, not hot — hot water will only dry out the skin more. Lopez also suggests adding oatmeal or baking soda to the bath — about one cup for a tub full of water — to soothe the skin and help keep in moisture.

Dry Skin Solution No. 2: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

As soon as you get out of the bath, Lopez suggests gently patting skin dry with a towel — don’t rub or remove all of the water. Next, apply a few drops of a natural oil or a rich moisturizing cream all over your body. This will help seal the moisture in.

For very dry, cracked skin, petroleum jelly is a good, inexpensive option to try. Lopez suggests rubbing in the petroleum jelly and letting it saturate the skin; if cracks are on the hands or feet, smear those areas well and cover them with cotton gloves or socks to hold the petroleum jelly in place overnight while you sleep.

Dry Skin Solution No. 3: Pumice With Caution

In general, pumicing or filing dry, cracked skin isn’t a good idea.

“I would limit the use of pumice stones” and similar tools, says Lopez. “I wouldn’t use that on skin other than heels or feet. On feet, where there’s repeated trauma, you can collect dead skin. That is where pumice stones or files can remove extra layers of dead cells so that the moisturizing cream will be absorbed better.”

Dry Skin Solution No. 4: Super Glue

Super Glue has another good use — dermatologists actually recommended using a dab of Super Glue on cracked skin to promote healing and prevent further drying. The active ingredient is the same as that of liquid bandages and other medical adhesives used to close cuts and wounds.

First, make sure the skin crack is cleaned, says Lopez. Then, squeezing the edges of the crack together, apply a bit of Super Glue — enough to hold it closed. Hold the edges together until the glue dries to make sure the crack doesn’t open.

The best medicine for dry, cracked skin is prevention, according to Lopez. To prevent painfully dry, cracked skin, apply a daily moisturizer all over the body. But even if you have dry skin, Lopez suggests being careful about going too heavy on creams and oils on your face, as that can lead to acne.

The Causes of Cracked Skin and the Best Ways to Treat It

Depending on the cause, cracked skin may be accompanied with a variety of other symptoms. Paying attention to these symptoms may help pinpoint the cause.

Dry skin

Dry skin, or xerosis, is the most common cause of cracked skin.

In smooth and hydrated skin, natural oils prevent the skin from drying out by retaining moisture. But if your skin doesn’t have enough oil, it loses moisture. This makes your skin dry out and shrink, which can lead to cracking.

Dry skin may be caused by:

  • Cold weather. In the winter, low humidity and temperature can dry out your skin. Indoor heating also decreases the humidity in your home.
  • Chemical irritants. Many products like dish soap and laundry detergent can contain harsh chemicals. These substances can damage your skin’s barrier and cause dryness.
  • Hot water. The hot water from showers or washing dishes can reduce your skin’s moisture.
  • Medication. Dryness may be a side effect of some drugs, like topical retinoids.
  • Excess moisture. When your skin is constantly exposed to moisture, it can actually cause your skin to become irritated and dry out. This can happen to your feet after wearing sweaty socks for too long. This is because water is an irritant to the skin.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes redness and itching. It’s also known as atopic dermatitis. It can occur anywhere on the body, but it most often affects the face, hands, and inner arm folds and behind the knees.

The condition makes the skin appear very dry, which can lead to cracking. Other symptoms of eczema include:

  • peeling
  • flaking
  • blisters
  • intense itching
  • rough, scaly patches

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a disorder of immune dysfunction that makes skin cells grow too fast. As the extra cells build up, the skin becomes scaly. Inflammation also plays a big part.

The rapid accumulation of cells can lead to dryness and cracking, along with:

  • red patches
  • silvery white scales
  • itching, in some cases

These symptoms can develop anywhere, but they often appear on the:

  • scalp
  • elbows
  • knees
  • lower back

Diabetic neuropathy

Cracked heels are a common complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The condition can lead to diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage due to diabetes.

In diabetic neuropathy, your nerves can’t properly control the skin’s moisture. This can lead to dryness and cracking, especially on the feet.

Other symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include:

  • numbness in feet or hands
  • pain in feet, legs, or hands
  • foot calluses
  • ankle weakness

People with diabetes are prone to skin infections. In many cases, dryness on the feet can be a result of athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis.

Athlete’s foot

Another cause of cracked feet is athlete’s foot. This is a skin infection caused by a fungus.

The infection, which usually develops between the toes or on the bottom of the feet, can cause cracked skin. Other symptoms include:

  • redness
  • flaking
  • swelling
  • itching

Athlete’s foot often affects people who have constantly damp feet, such as swimmers and runners. It’s also common in people with diabetes.

Chapped lips

When your lips become very dry or irritated, they can crack, flake, and in some cases, became swollen, itchy, or sore.

Inflammation or dryness on the lips can occur for several reasons. Some of the most common reasons for cracked lips include:

  • frequent lip licking
  • cold weather
  • exposure to the wind
  • an allergic reaction to a lip balm or other product

Keratolysis exfoliativa

Keratolysis exfoliativa causes peeling on the hands and feet. It usually affects the palms, but it can show up on the soles of your feet, too.

The skin loses its natural barrier as the top layer peels off. This can lead to dryness and cracking.

Other symptoms include:

  • air-filled blisters
  • redness

7 Natural Ways to Combat Chapped Skin on Little Faces

If you enjoy winter activities like I do, you know Jack Frost nips at much more than noses. In fact, chapped faces are among a parent’s top complaints when trying to get their kids out of the house once in a while.

Are there any ways to treat or even prevent chapped skin naturally? Of course! Over the years I’ve learned what works—and what doesn’t—for protecting little chins, cheeks, and noses from the dry winter air. Here are the best ways to prevent, and in some cases treat, irritated facial skin in winter.

Hydrate from the Inside Out

Require a glass of water the morning before anyone heads outdoors. Hydrating young bodies supplies their largest organ (the skin) with the necessary fluids needed to withstand the elements as they perspire. A dehydrated epidermis is more susceptible to irritation than the skin cells of someone who has had plenty to drink, so encourage little ones to have an extra glass with breakfast or take a few swigs after brushing their teeth.

Serve a Vitamin-Rich Diet

According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, nutrients are vital to your skin’s ability to block environmental elements from harming the sensitive tissues inside. That’s why nutritional antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E are so essential; they can help protect and heal chapped face and neck skin simultaneously. Keep a steady supply of spinach, almonds, and citrus fruits in your family’s diet, even in winter. That way, when a spontaneous cold weather outing presents itself, you can say “yes” without reservation.

Butter Late than Never

It’s common to enjoy a successful snowshoeing or hiking trip only to come home and find your child’s face chaps hours later. Often this is the immune system’s response to the dry conditions, and it can be treated naturally. Lotions like the Baby Moisturizing Lotion from Tom’s of Maine carry natural moisturizers like shea butter that work after the first application, offering quick and lasting relief.

It’s surprising to hear sunburn is a common injury in winter since you deal with this environmental assault more commonly in the summer months. But UV rays are always present—even on cloudy days—and young cheeks, noses, and chins serve as a reminder of the sun’s power year round.

Discourage Lip-Licking

When lips are dry, instinct says licking them will provide a quick shot of moisture. Adults can self-regulate because they know it’s counterproductive, and instead reach for their favorite natural lip balm. Because kids don’t have the same self-control yet, they lick every time. Nonetheless, saliva irritates the skin around the lips, spreading quickly to chins and cheeks. Break the cycle before it starts by arming your kids with a stick of lip balm to keep in his or her jacket pocket so it’s never out of reach. Then, in the same way you make everyone use the restroom before heading outside, make it a habit to “balm up” together.

Wipe Noses Promptly

Snot happens. Luckily the clear mucus that appears (almost) the instant your kids step outdoors is harmless, unless you let it dry there. Keep multiple tissues with you so you’re always ready to dab clean the inevitable drips that can create irritation later.

Take a Page from the Diaper Diaries

Zinc oxide, the active ingredient in most diaper-rash ointments, is an all-natural mineral that does not absorb into the skin; it stays right on the skin’s surface, deflecting UVA rays. Plus, some natural ointments have sunflower oil and the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, which both work to repair damaged skin cells and protect against further irritation. Am I suggesting you lather your kids’ faces with bottom cream? You bet I am. For my family, nothing has been as effective for both prevention and treatment.

Recognize the Difference

Your kids’ skin is, by nature, more sensitive than your own. This knowledge alone will make you more vigilant, which is the first step toward prevention. Watch for signs of discomfort before irritation appears. Scratching, rubbing, or nose-stretching are all indications of environmental threats that can be thwarted early.

Don’t let chapped skin threaten your family’s outdoor fun. Equip yourself with some insight and a few simple natural supplies before heading out. What would you add to this list? Have you found a surprising source for natural chapping prevention or treatment? Tweet your tips to @TomsofMaine.

Image source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Dry skin: Seven home remedies

Share on PinterestStudies suggest that sunflower seed oil may be used as a moisturizer.

There are a variety of home remedies a person can use to relieve dry skin. Most of the treatments below can be used as moisturizers unless otherwise stated. The best way to use a moisturizer is to apply it liberally to damp skin after a bath and let it soak in.

1. Sunflower seed oil

A 2013 study found that sunflower seed oil improved hydration when used as a moisturizer on participant’s arms.

The same study found that olive oil actually damaged the skin’s barrier, suggesting not all natural oils are suitable for use as moisturizers.

2. Coconut oil

Another natural oil that works well to treat dry skin is coconut oil. A 2014 study found that coconut oil is as safe and effective as petroleum jelly for treating dry skin. It was found to significantly improve skin hydration and increase the number of lipids (fats) on the surface of the skin.

As 2016 research explains, coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids that have emollient properties. An emollient is a fat or oil that acts as a moisturizer by filling in gaps in dry skin, making it smooth.

3. Oatmeal bath

Oatmeal is another natural ingredient that can help treat dry skin. Adding powdered oatmeal to a bath or using creams that contain oatmeal may help to relieve dry skin.

A 2015 study found that extracts from oatmeal had anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, suggesting it can help treat dry skin.

4. Drinking milk

Milk could also offer relief from dry skin, but not when applied to the skin. Research from 2015 suggests that a diet including milk could improve dry skin.

The study found that a fat contained in milk, called phospholipid, improved the skin barrier in mice when added to their diet. More research is needed to see if drinking milk has the same effect on skin in humans.

5. Honey

A 2012 review of research notes that some studies have shown honey to be beneficial for many types of skin diseases.

Share on PinterestSome studies suggest that honey may be used as an at home treatment to relive dry skin.

Various studies have found honey to be:

  • moisturizing
  • healing
  • anti-inflammatory

These are all qualities that suggest honey is an ideal at home treatment to relieve dry skin. It is completely natural and can be applied directly to the skin.

6. Petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly, otherwise known as mineral oil, has been used as a moisturizer for years.

In 2017, researchers found that the skin barrier in older people improved after they used petroleum jelly. This finding supports the use of petroleum jelly to treat dry skin, especially when caused by aging.

7. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel may help provide relief from dry skin, according to a 2003 study.

A person with dry skin on their hands or feet can apply aloe vera gel and cover the affected area with a sock or glove. People may prefer to do this before they go to bed and leave the gel on all night.

If dry skin is on another area of the body, applying aloe vera gel liberally and allowing it to soak in may achieve a similar effect.

Cracked or Dry Skin

Is this your child’s symptom?

  • Cracked skin or dry, rough skin
  • Cracked skin on hands, feet and lips
  • Dry, rough skin of entire body surface

Causes of Cracks in the Skin

  • Most cracked skin is found on the feet, hands or lips.
  • Feet. The soles of the feet are most commonly involved. Most often, cracks occur on the heels and big toes. This is called tennis shoe dermatitis. Deep cracks are very painful and can bleed. The main cause is wearing wet or sweaty socks or swimming a lot.
  • Hands. Cracks can develop on the hands in children. The main cause is washing the hands too much or washing dishes. Can also occur from working outside in winter weather. The worse cracks of the fingers occur with thumb sucking.
  • Lips. The lips can become chapped in children from the sun or wind. If the lips become cracked, it’s usually from a “lip-licking” habit. The skin around the lips can also become pink and dry. This occurs especially in children who suck on their lips.

Causes of Dry Skin

  • Dry skin is a common condition.
  • Soap. Dry skin is mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (soap dermatitis). Soap removes the skin’s natural protective oils. Once they are gone, the skin can’t hold moisture.
  • Climate. Dry climates make dry skin worse, as does winter weather (called winter itch).
  • Genetics also plays a role in dry skin.
  • Dry skin is less common in teenagers than younger children. This is because the oil glands are more active.
  • Keratosis Pilaris – dry, rough, bumpy skin on the back of the upper arms. It’s made worse by soaps. Treat with moisturizing creams.
  • Pityriasis Alba – dry pale spots on the face. These are more prevalent in the winter time and are also made worse by soaps. Treat with moisturizing creams.
  • Eczema. Children with eczema have very dry itchy skin.

Liquid Skin Bandage For Deep, Chronic Cracks

  • Liquid plastic skin bandage is a new product that seals wounds. It is a plastic coating that lasts up to 1 week.
  • It is the best way to relieve pain and promote healing. As the crack heals from the bottom upward, it pushes the plastic seal up.
  • After the wound is washed and dried, put the liquid on. It comes with a small brush or with a swab. It dries in less than a minute. Then apply a second coat. It’s waterproof and may last a week.
  • You can buy this at any drug store. Many brands of liquid bandage are available. No prescription is needed.

When to Call for Cracked or Dry Skin

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness)
  • Cracked red lips and fever lasts 5 days or more
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks infected (pus or spreading redness)
  • Bleeding from cracked lips
  • Cracks on feet that make it hard to walk
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Cracks from thumb-sucking or finger-sucking
  • Peeling skin and cause is not clear
  • After 2 weeks of treatment, cracked lips are not healed
  • After 2 weeks of treatment, cracked skin is not healed
  • After 2 weeks of treatment, dry skin is still itchy
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Cracked skin on the feet
  • Cracked skin on the hands
  • Chapped lips
  • Dry, itchy skin caused by soap or cold/dry weather

Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations

If your child’s illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.

Care Advice

Treatment for Cracked Skin on the Feet

  1. What You Should Know About Cracks on Feet:
    • Most often, cracked skin of the feet is caused by repeated contact with moisture.
    • The main cause is often wearing wet (or sweaty) socks. Swimmers also have this problem.
    • The soles of the feet are most often involved. Usually, you see cracks on the heels and big toes.
    • This is called tennis shoe or sneaker dermatitis.
    • Cracked, dry feet usually can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Shallow Cracks – Use Ointment:
    • Cracks heal faster if protected from air exposure and drying.
    • Keep the cracks constantly covered with petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Put it on the cracks 3 times a day.
    • If the crack seems mildly infected, use an antibiotic ointment instead (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Put it on the cracks 3 times a day.
    • Covering the ointment with a bandage (such as Band-Aid) speeds recovery. You can also cover it with a sock.
    • Option: If you have it, a liquid skin bandage works even better. Don’t use liquid bandage and ointment together.
  3. Deep Cracks – Use Liquid Skin Bandage:
    • Deep cracks of the feet or toes usually do not heal with ointments.
    • Use a liquid skin bandage that will completely seal the crack. Many brands of liquid bandage are available. No prescription is needed.
    • Start with 2 layers. Put on another layer as often as needed.
    • As the crack heals, the plastic layer will be pushed up.
  4. Prevention of Cracks on Feet:
    • Change socks whenever they are wet or sweaty.
    • Take an extra pair of socks to school.
    • When practical, do not wear shoes. Go barefoot or wear socks only.
    • Do not use bubble bath or other soaps in the bath water. Soaps take the natural oils out of the skin.
    • Use a moisturizing cream on the feet after baths or showers.
    • Wear shoes that allow the skin to “breathe.”
  5. What to Expect:
    • Most cracks heal over in 1 week with treatment.
    • Deep cracks heal if you keep them covered all the time with crack sealer. Deep cracks will heal in about 2 weeks with crack sealer.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks last more than 2 weeks on treatment
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Cracked Skin on the Hands

  1. What You Should Know About Cracks on Hands:
    • Cracked skin of the hands is usually caused by repeated contact with moisture.
    • Examples are washing dishes or washing the hands often.
    • Soap removes the natural protective oils from the skin.
    • Cracked, dry hands usually can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Shallow Cracks – Use Ointment:
    • Cracks heal faster if protected from air exposure and drying.
    • Keep the cracks constantly covered with petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Put it on the cracks 3 times a day.
    • If the crack seems mildly infected, use an antibiotic ointment instead (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Put it on the cracks 3 times a day.
    • Covering the ointment with a bandage (such as Band-Aid) speeds recovery. You can also cover it with a glove.
    • Option: If you have it, a liquid skin bandage works even better. Don’t use liquid bandage and ointment together.
  3. Deep Cracks – Use Liquid Skin Bandage:
    • Deep cracks of the fingers usually do not heal with ointments.
    • Use a liquid skin bandage that will completely seal the crack. Many brands of liquid bandage are available. No prescription is needed.
    • Start with 2 layers. Put on another layer as often as needed.
    • As the crack heals, the plastic layer will be pushed up.
  4. Prevention of Cracks on Hands:
    • Wash the hands with warm water.
    • Use soap only if the hands are very dirty. Also, use soap for anything that won’t come off with water.
    • Wear gloves when washing dishes.
    • During cold weather, wear gloves outside.
    • Use a moisturizing cream on the hands after anytime they have been in water.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Most cracks heal over in 1 week with treatment.
    • Deep cracks heal if you keep them covered all the time with crack sealer. Deep cracks will heal in about 2 weeks with crack sealer.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks last more than 2 weeks on treatment
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Chapped Lips

  1. What You Should Know About Chapped Lips:
    • The lips can become chapped in children from too much sun or wind.
    • If the lips become cracked, it’s usually from a “lip-licking” habit.
    • The skin around the lips can also become pink and dry. This occurs especially when children suck on their lips.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Lip Balm:
    • A lip balm should be used often, even hourly.
    • Be sure to put it on after eating or drinking.
  3. Avoid “Lip-Licking”:
    • Help your child give up the habit of lip-licking or sucking.
    • This habit usually is not seen before age 6.
    • This habit will only change if you can gain your child’s active participation.
    • Appeal to your child’s pride. Show your child in a mirror how lip-sucking has affected their appearance.
    • Give them a lip lubricant to put on their lips. Tell them to use it when they feel the urge to suck on them. Another option is to replace lip-sucking with chewing gum.
    • Offer an incentive for going an entire day without lip-sucking. Examples of rewards are money or points towards a prize.
    • Avoid any pressure or punishment. It will backfire, cause a power struggle and make the habit last longer.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks last more than 2 weeks on treatment
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Dry or Itchy Skin

  1. What You Should Know About Dry Skin:
    • Dry skin is a common condition.
    • Mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (soap dermatitis).
    • Soap removes the skin’s natural protective oils. Once they are gone, the skin can’t hold moisture.
    • Dry climates make it worse, as does winter weather (called winter itch).
    • Genetics also plays a role in dry skin.
    • Dry skin is less common in teenagers than younger children. This is because the oil glands are more active in teens.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Bathing – Avoid Soap:
    • Young children with dry skin should avoid all soaps. Soaps take the natural protective oils out of the skin. Bubble bath does the most damage.
    • For young children, the skin can be cleansed with warm water alone. Keep bathing to 10 minutes or less.
    • Most young children only need to bathe twice a week.
    • Teenagers can get by with using soap only for the armpits, genitals, and feet. Also, use a mild soap (such as Dove).
    • Do not use any soap on itchy areas or rashes.
  3. Moisturizing Cream:
    • Buy a large bottle of moisturizing cream (such as Eucerin). Avoid those with fragrances.
    • Put the cream on any dry or itchy area 3 times per day.
    • After warm water baths or showers, trap the moisture in the skin. Do this by putting on the cream everywhere after bathing. Use the cream within 3 minutes of completing the bath.
    • During the winter, apply the cream every day to prevent dry skin.
  4. Steroid Cream:
    • For very itchy spots, use 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid). No prescription is needed.
    • Use up to 3 times per day as needed until the itching is better.
    • Eventually, the moisturizing cream will be all that you need for treating dry skin.
  5. Humidifier:
    • If your winters are dry, protect your child’s skin from the constant drying effect.
    • Do this by running a room humidifier full time.
  6. Preventing Dry Skin:
    • Don’t use soaps or bubble bath.
    • Wash the hands with warm water. Use soap only if the hands are very dirty. Also, use soap for anything that won’t come off with water.
    • Don’t use swimming pools or hot tubs. Reason: Pool chemicals are very drying.
    • Run a humidifier in the winter if the air is dry.
    • During cold weather, wear gloves outside. This helps prevent drying of the skin.
    • Drink lots of fluids.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Dry skin lasts more than 2 weeks on treatment
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the ‘Call Your Doctor’ symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 02/01/2020

Last Revised: 03/14/2019

Copyright 2000-2019 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Temperatures are dropping and there’s less moisture in the air, and we all know what that means — lips start to get dry, itchy, and cracked. Yet, while you obviously know what chapped lips feel like (hint: they’re super tight and uncomfortable), you might not know exactly what causes your lips to get this way. Turns out, there are a number of reasons for chapped lips, and once you know the triggers, you can look to a few lifestyle habits that will help keep them soft and hydrated — even when the weather isn’t cooperating. Here are common causes of chapped lips, along with a few dermatologist-approved tips for treating and preventing them, to keep on your radar.

First off, what exactly are chapped lips?

Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, can have many triggers, says Erum Ilyas, a dermatologist in Pennsylvania. “When you hear ‘chapped lips’ most people are thinking about cheilitis sicca,” she says. “This is chapped lips as a result of excess dryness.”

The skin on the lips is among the most sensitive areas on the body and the most exposed to the environment, explains Joshua Zeichner, dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The lips do not have the same concentration of oil glands as regular skin and are constantly exposed to environmental factors, like lip licking, cosmetics, and cold weather. “All of these factors can dry out the skin barrier, leading to irritation, inflammation, and flaking,” he says.

What are the major causes of chapped lips?

As the weather gets colder and drier, the thin skin on the lips tends to dry out faster than the rest of our skin. This can make the lips look cracked, flaky, and raw in some areas, which can be really uncomfortable, Ilyas explains. But the weather isn’t always the cause of your parched lips. When there’s irritation from a product or an allergy, called contact cheilitis, lips can also become inflamed. These allergic reactions are usually due to pigments in lipsticks, fragrances, and flavoring agents in foods. You can do patch-testing at your dermatologist’s office to see if that’s a cause.

But irritation could also be from your everyday skin-care products. “I find that when patients use acne products, they often inadvertently get some on their lips,” says Ilyas. “These products are designed to exfoliate your skin to improve . If they get on your lips, you will find your lips are persistently dry and cracked.” Apply white petrolatum or balm to your lips before applying products formulated with salicylic acid. “The balm acts as a protective barrier on your lips to avoid the irritation they can cause,” she says.

And if you have a history of sun damage, your lips are probably taking the heat, too. “In adults with a lot of sun damage over the years, it’s not uncommon to have patients come in concerned about ‘chapped lips,’ which may be in one spot or along the entire lower lip year-round,” says Ilyas.

Unfortunately, this can be the sign of precancerous changes to the lips, called actinic cheilitis, she says, so you’ll want to get this checked by a doctor, for sure. “This is important to consider as we need to treat the underlying sun damage to improve the texture and appearance of the lips,” she says. It’s often treated with cryotherapy, a topical chemotherapeutic agent, or photodynamic therapy.

How can you prevent chapped lips?

In mild cases, the skin on the lips may be able to repair itself. However, in cases of significant irritation, the lips may need outside help to repair a damaged skin barrier, says Zeichner. A good rule of thumb is to keep lips moist throughout the day to prevent drying from occurring in the first place. Regularly applying lip balms containing ingredients like occlusive agents, such as lanolin in Aquaphor, white petrolatum in Vaseline, or simply beeswax, will help protect the lip skin and make them more effective.

CRACKED SKIN

With age, everyone’s skin naturally becomes thinner and drier. The sun, wind, and other elements we expose our skin to can take its toll on the health of our skin. Excessive dryness can cause skin to shrink and become brittle, leading to cracked skin on fingers, hands and feet. When the skin dries, it can become extremely rough, scaly and flaky, with small tears that can lead to deeper cracks called fissures.

Cracked skin on fingers can make even the simplest tasks, such as typing, turning a page, or doing up a button, very painful. Cracked skin on feet is equally common, causing areas of dry, thickened skin, known as callouses, around the rim of the heel. As you walk, the fat pad under your heel expands. This causes callouses to crack. In most cases the problem is more of a nuisance and less than appealing to look at, but when the cracks or fissures become deep, standing, walking or any pressure placed on the heel can be painful.

Other factors that can cause cracked skin on feet include:

  • standing for long hours
  • walking barefoot, or with open-back sandals
  • taking long, hot showers
  • using harsh soaps that can strip the skin’s natural moisture

Six fixes for cracked heels

Share on PinterestCracked heels or heel fissures are a common foot condition that may affect one fifth of adults in the U.S.

Moisturizing treatments in the form of creams, lotions, and ointments can help retain moisture in the skin. This may prevent the skin from drying out and cracking. Moisturizing treatments can also help fix skin that is already cracked.

In mild cases of cracked heels, moisturizing two or three times per day may fix the problem. Rubbing any calluses gently with a pumice stone and applying a moisturizer can also help. However, be careful not to overuse the pumice stone, which can make cracked heels worse.

The following steps may help treat cracked heels:

1. Using an emollient or humectant moisturizer

Emollients penetrate the skin and reduce water loss. They fill the gaps between skin flakes, which makes the skin feel smooth, soft, and flexible. They help to reduce water loss in the skin.

Humectants penetrate the outer skin layer, attract water from the air, and maintain moisture. They also help to increase the water capacity of the skin.

In dry conditions, humectants may draw moisture from the lower skin layers instead of from the atmosphere. This may result in more dehydrated skin overall. Combining a humectant with an occlusive may help seal in moisture.

If you want to buy humectant moisturizers, then there is an excellent selection online with thousands of customer reviews.

2. Applying an occlusive moisturizer over the top

Once the emollient or humectant is absorbed, people can apply a thick layer of an occlusive moisturizer over the top just before bed to seal the moisture in.

Occlusive moisturizers coat the skin in a thin film that prevents moisture evaporating from the outermost layer of the skin.

Examples of occlusive moisturizers include:

  • petroleum jelly
  • lanolin
  • mineral oil
  • silicones, such as dimethicone

Petroleum jelly is considered to be the most effective occlusive moisturizer, reducing water loss from the outer skin by more than 98 percent.

Although occlusives work well to lock in moisture, they can be greasy, sticky, and messy.

3. Wearing 100 percent cotton socks to bed

Wearing 100 percent cotton socks to bed after applying petroleum jelly to the heel may help to:

  • keep the moisture in
  • allow the heel skin to breathe
  • prevent the bed sheets from becoming stained

The skin on the heels should soften after this routine is repeated for a few days.

100 percent cotton socks are available online.

4. Applying a keratolytic to thickened skin

When the heel skin is thick, applying a keratolytic may help thin it, as well as the other treatments.

Keratolytics are agents that thin thickened skin, cause the outer skin layer to loosen, and help with removal of dead skin cells. This process allows the skin to keep in more moisture.

Examples of keratolytics include:

  • alpha hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid and glycolic acid
  • salicylic acid
  • urea

Products that contain both keratolytics and humectants may be the most useful. For example, urea is both a keratolytic and humectant that moisturizes and removes dry, cracked, and thickened skin.

5. Gently rubbing thickened skin with a pumice stone

Gently rubbing a pumice stone against the heel, once the skin is moisturized, may help reduce the thickness of the hard skin and calluses. Pumice stones are available here.

Razors and scissors should be avoided for scraping back and cutting skin. People with diabetes or neuropathy should not use pumice stones and should instead visit a dermatologist or podiatrist.

6. Using a liquid bandage

Liquid, gel, or spray bandages can be used to cover the cracked skin. These may provide a protective layer over the cracks, help reduce pain, stop dirt and germs entering the wounds, and aid faster healing.

People should see a podiatrist or dermatologist if their heels are severely cracked, or if self-treatment does not improve cracked heels after a week.

Medical treatments

In severe cases of cracked heels, or if medical care is required, a doctor may:

  • remove dead skin
  • prescribe stronger softening or removal agents
  • apply medical glue to seal cracks
  • prescribe an antibiotic if there is an infection
  • strap the heel with dressings or bandages
  • recommend shoe inserts, heel pads, or heel cups
  • help the patient change how they walk

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR CRACKED OR DRY SKIN

Treatment for Cracked Skin on the Feet

  1. Reassurance:
    • Cracked skin of the feet is usually due to excessive and repeated exposure to wetness.
    • The main cause is frequently wearing wet (or sweaty) socks. Swimmers also have this problem.
    • The soles of the feet are commonly involved, especially the heels and big toes.
    • This is sometimes called tennis shoe or sneaker dermatitis.
    • Cracked, dry feet usually can be treated at home.
  2. Shallow Cracks – Use Ointment:
    • Cracks heal faster if protected from air exposure and drying.
    • Keep the cracks constantly covered with a plain ointment (e.g., petroleum jelly) 3 times a day.
    • If the crack seems mildly infected, apply an antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) 3 times a day instead.
    • Covering the ointment with a Band-Aid or socks speeds recovery.
    • Option: If you have it, a liquid crack sealer works even better. Don’t use crack sealer and ointment together.
  3. Deep Cracks – Use Liquid Crack Sealer:
    • Deep cracks of the feet or toes usually do not heal with ointments.
    • Apply a liquid skin bandage (no prescription needed) that will completely seal the crack (e.g., Nexcare Skin Crack Care by 3M)
    • Start with 2 layers. Reapply another layer as often as needed.
    • As the crack heals, the plastic layer will be pushed out to the skin surface.
  4. Prevention:
    • Change socks whenever they are wet or sweaty.
    • Take an extra pair of socks to school.
    • Avoid shoes when practical.
    • Go barefoot or wear socks only.
    • Avoid bubble bath or other soaps in the bath water. Soaps take the natural oils out of the skin.
    • Apply a moisturizing cream to the feet after baths or showers.
    • Wear shoes that allow the skin to “breathe”.
  5. Expected Course: Most cracks heal over in 1 week with treatment. Even deep cracks of many years duration can be healed in about 2 weeks if they are constantly covered with crack sealer.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks persist over 2 weeks on treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Cracked Skin on the Hands

  1. Reassurance:

    • Cracked skin of the hands is usually caused by excessive and repeated exposure to wetness.
    • Examples are frequently washing dishes or frequently washing the hands.
    • Soap removes the natural protective oils from the skin.
    • Cracked, dry hands usually can be treated at home.
  2. Shallow Cracks – Use Ointment:
    • Cracks heal faster if protected from air exposure and drying.
    • Keep the cracks constantly covered with a plain ointment (e.g., petroleum jelly) 3 times a day.
    • If the crack seems mildly infected, apply an antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) 3 times a day instead.
    • Covering the ointment with a Band-Aid or gloves speeds recovery.
    • Option: If you have it, a liquid crack sealer works even better. Don’t use crack sealer and ointment together.
  3. Deep Cracks – Use Liquid Crack Sealer:
    • Deep cracks of the fingers usually do not heal with ointments.
    • Apply a liquid skin bandage (no prescription needed) that will completely seal the crack (e.g., Nexcare Skin Crack Care by 3M)
    • Start with 2 layers. Reapply another layer as often as needed.
    • As the crack heals, the plastic layer will be pushed out to the skin surface.
  4. Prevention:
    • Wash the hands with warm water.
    • Use soap only if the hands are very dirty or for substances that won’t come off with water.
    • Wear gloves when washing dishes.
    • During cold weather, wear gloves outside.
    • Apply a moisturizing cream to the hands after anytime they have been in water.
  5. Expected Course: Most cracks heal over in 1 week with treatment. Even deep cracks of many years duration can be healed in about 2 weeks if they are constantly covered with crack sealer.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks persist over 2 weeks on treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Chapped Lips

  1. Reassurance:
    • The lips can become chapped in children from excessive exposure to sun or wind.
    • If the lips become cracked, it’s usually from a “lip-licking” habit.
    • The skin around the lips can also become pink and dry if the child sucks on the lips.
  2. Chapped Lips: A lip balm should be applied frequently, even hourly. Be sure to apply it after eating or drinking.
  3. Avoid “Lip-Licking”:
    • Help your child give up the habit of lip-licking or sucking.
    • This habit usually is not seen before age 6.
    • This habit will only change if you can gain your child’s active participation.
    • Appeal to your child’s pride. Show your child in a mirror how lip-sucking has affected their appearance.
    • Give them a lip lubricant to apply to their lips whenever they feel the urge to suck on them. Another possible replacement activity is chewing gum.
    • Offer an incentive (e.g., money, or points towards a prize) for going an entire day without lip-sucking.
    • Avoid any pressure or punishment. It will backfire, cause a power struggle and make the habit last longer.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
    • Cracks persist over 2 weeks on treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Dry or Itchy Skin

  1. Reassurance:
    • Dry skin is a common condition.
    • Mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (soap dermatitis).
    • Soap removes the skin’s natural protective oils and once they are gone, the skin can’t hold moisture.
    • Dry climates make it worse, as does winter weather (called winter itch)
    • Genetics also plays a role in dry skin.
    • Dry skin is less common in teenagers than younger children, because the oil glands are more active.
  2. Soap and Bathing:
    • Young children with dry skin should avoid all soaps. Soaps take the natural protective oils out of the skin. Bubble bath does the most damage.
    • For young children, the skin can be cleansed with warm water alone. Keep bathing to 10 minutes or less.
    • Most young children only need to bathe twice a week.
    • Teenagers can get by with using soap only for the armpits, genitals, and feet. Also, use a mild soap (e.g., Dove).
    • Avoid any soap on itchy areas or rashes.
  3. Moisturizing Cream:
    • Buy a large bottle of moisturizing cream (avoid those with fragrances).
    • Apply the cream to any dry or itchy area three times per day.
    • After warm water baths or showers, trap the moisture in the skin by applying the cream everywhere within 3 minutes of completing the bath.
    • During the winter, apply the cream every day to prevent dry skin.
  4. Steroid Cream:
    • For very itchy spots, use 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription is needed).
    • Apply up to 3 times per day as needed until the itching is better.
    • Eventually, the moisturizing cream will be all that you need for treating dry skin.
  5. Humidifier: If your winters are dry, you can protect your child’s skin from the constant drying effect by running a room humidifier full time.
  6. Preventing Dry Skin:
    • Avoid soaps and bubble bath.
    • Wash the hands with warm water. Use soap only if the hands are very dirty or for substances that won’t come off with water.
    • Avoid swimming pools and hot tubs (Reason: pool chemicals are very drying).
    • Run a humidifier in the winter if the air is dry.
    • During cold weather, wear gloves outside to protect against the rapid evaporation of moisture from the hands.
    • Encourage adequate fluid intake.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Dry skin persists over 2 weeks on treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the “Call Your Doctor” symptoms.

Winter comes with some obvious perks, like cold-weather sports, cozy sweaters, and an extra excuse to cuddle inside. But it also has some serious downsides, like dry, cracked skin that can make you feel like the Crypt Keeper’s younger but similarly dehydrated sister.

At least you’re not alone: “Almost every patient I see in the wintertime suffers from at some point,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF. The lack of moisture in the environment dries out your skin, he explains, and when you head inside and blast the heat, that can make it even worse.

You’re also probably washing your hands a lot to try to fend off colds, the flu, and other nasty bugs that seem everywhere during the winter, and that can strip your skin’s moisture even more, New York City dermatologist Doris Day, M.D., author of Beyond Beautiful, tells SELF.

This uphill battle to keep your skin moisturized can lead to serious dryness, peeling, and cracking. And this isn’t just an aesthetic concern; any breaks in your skin can serve as portals for bacteria or viruses, potentially making it easier for you to get an infection, Dr. Day says. Here’s what you can do.

1. First things first: Treat the cracks.

If you notice a crack in your skin, you should address it to avoid infection. Dr. Bailey recommends first washing your hands, rinsing the crack with water and washing around it with soap, then applying an antibiotic cream. Since this is likely just a small break in your skin, you don’t need to bandage it, but of course you can if you want to. You do, however, need to keep an eye out for signs of infection that warrant a visit to your doctor, like redness, pain that’s getting worse, warmth, and swelling.

You should also figure out how to prevent this kind of dryness and cracking in the future. Luckily, there are a few solid techniques you can use.

2. Switch to a body moisturizer that has oil within the first five ingredients.

In general, lotions tend to be water-based while creams are typically oil-based, says the Mayo Clinic. (To be 100 percent certain, though, research any product you’re considering buying to find out what it contains.) In the winter, you may want to switch to heavier moisturizers that contain oil since it traps moisture in the skin better than water does, Dr. Day says, adding that you should look for oil to be one of the first five ingredients to make sure it’s a major part of the product’s formula. (Be wary of using anything oilier than usual on your face if you’re prone to acne, though.)

Dr. Day also recommends looking for products with humectants like propylene glycol, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid—they help pull and hold water in your skin.

3. Moisturize immediately after you shower or wash your hands.

The Mayo Clinic suggests juuust barely drying your skin, then applying moisturizer. This helps trap water in the surface cells of your skin better than applying moisturizer once you’re completely dry.

4. Then slather on some more right before bed.

This is a good way to ensure your skin will get a solid dose of moisture that won’t be interrupted much until the A.M., Dr. Goldenberg says. You’ll want to target your driest areas, and it’s also not a bad idea to put breathable cotton socks or gloves over your feet and hands after you lube up. This helps to keep your moisturizer close to your skin while you sleep rather than rubbing off on your sheets, Dr. Day says.

5. Use gloves when doing your dishes to feel both fancy and moisturized.

You’re likely already bundling up in gloves, mufflers, or a scarf to protect your hands, cheeks, and lips when you go outside. But it’s also a good idea to wear rubber gloves when you wash dishes at home since harsh soaps and solvents in your dish soap can strip away your skin’s natural moisture, Cynthia Bailey, M.D., F.A.A.D., president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology, Inc and founder of DrBaileySkinCare.com, tells SELF. “I recommend getting in the habit of protecting skin every day to prevent chapping from even starting,” she says.

6. Avoid detergents and soaps that have fragrance, alcohol, or dyes.

It’s not just about your dish soap. If dry skin is an issue for you, Dr. Bailey suggests steering clear of all cleansing products that contain fragrance, alcohol, dyes, and perfumes, because these can irritate and dry out your skin. Instead, choose gentle, fragrance-free soaps (even better if they have added oils and fats to boost moisture), and unscented (or at least less scented) detergents.

7. Use a humidifier in your bedroom.

Using a humidifier helps replace some of the lost moisture in the air. This is especially important at night, since a lot of moisture can evaporate from your skin during the hours you spend sleeping, Dr. Day says. If you don’t have a humidifier handy, you can also place a soaking wet towel in a bowl in front of your heating vent, Dr. Goldenberg says. It’s not the same thing, but it’ll release some moisture into the air all the same, he says.

8. Think of super hot showers as a special treat, not an everyday necessity.

Regularly showering up in temperatures that err on the side of scalding will dehydrate your skin by removing important oils, Dr. Bailey says. This effect just gets compounded if you hop out of the shower into your heated home, don’t apply moisturizer right away, and so on. Try taking a warm vs. super hot shower instead—it can make a big difference.

9. Opt for clothes with fibers like cotton instead of wool.

Harsh fabrics like wool can irritate your skin, Dr. Bailey says. Instead, go for fabrics like cotton or silk, which let your skin breathe. Obviously you’re not going to face the outside chill with an armor that’s pure cotton, so Dr. Day suggests making sure these gentler fabrics are the ones closest to your skin, then layering warmer materials like wool on top.

10. Stay properly hydrated.

“You have to hydrate on the inside, too,” Dr. Day says, explaining that when you’re not hydrated enough, your body prioritizes sending fluids to important organs like your heart and lungs rather than your skin. While everyone’s hydration needs vary, the Mayo Clinic recommends women get 11.5 cups of fluids per day (this counts water, other beverages, and any liquids that come from food). Here’s more information about how much water you should drink each day for optimal health.

11. And know when to bring in a professional.

If your skin is dry no matter how much you baby it, or if it’s constantly peeling or cracking, don’t just ignore it. “It can become medically important if you don’t deal with it properly,” Dr. Day says. Sometimes persistent dryness is a sign of a health condition like psoriasis, eczema, or contact dermatitis in response to a substance that irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction. In any case, it’s definitely a reason to see your doctor to create the most moisturizing action plan possible.

Related:

  • 11 Reasons Your Skin Is So Damn Dry
  • How to Tell the Difference Between Psoriasis and Eczema
  • How to Know if That Pimple on Your Eyelid Is Actually a Stye

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