What Causes Dry Hands?


What Causes Dry Hands?

Dry hands is a condition arising mainly from exposure to irritants or harsh weather.  Cleaning clothes and washing dishes frequently or residing in dry, cold environments can also increase the chances of developing dryness.

Understanding the causative factors will enable you to take the right precautions and treatment for dry hands.


What do dry hands signify?

Dry hands and palms could be a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as an under-active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). This situation causes the skin to lose moisture.

Your thyroid gland becomes under-active when it fails to produce adequate hormones. Symptoms to look out for are tiredness, depression, and weight gain.

Dry hands could also signify sensitivity to soaps, sanitizers and other cosmetics. The Harvard Medical School has discovered that oil stripping soaps, for instance, reduce the healthy fatty compounds found on the top layer of the skin around your hands. Therefore, they can cause both irritation and dry hands.

You could also develop the condition after menopause. During this period, hands tend to lose moisture and become dry due to a drop in estrogen levels.


What medical conditions cause dry hands?

People can develop dry hands due to underlying conditions. These include:

  • Psoriasis: Frequent hand washing and drying can expose food service providers, nurses, and health care workers to dry hands, leading to hand psoriasis.
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar (glucose) can cause dry hands.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema): A disease that makes the skin on your hands red and itchy.
  • Under-active thyroid gland: The inability of the thyroid gland to emit enough hormones.
  • Lupus: This autoimmune disease can affect the flow of blood to the extremities, hence, dry hands.


Other causes of dry hands

Genetic factors

According to research, you can inherit dry hands. The Scottish University of Dundee discovered that genetic mutations cause dry hands because they regulate the production of proteins. These elements, depending on their magnitude, form and hydrate the skin’s barrier. Therefore, people with mutations tend to develop drier hands, including eczema.

Weather/Dry air

Dry air can cause patches on your hands. Changes in temperature during winter and summer can cause a drop in humidity and dry winds; hence, aggravating dryness.

Indoor heating can also reduce moisture from the air. Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters can lower humidity levels, leading to dryness.


This condition can cause dizziness and low blood level, leading to dry skin on hands. On the reverse, taking adequate amounts of water every day can keep your hand tissues soft and supple.

Excessive hand washing and irritants

Frequent hand washing can also cause dry hands as this practice can strip off natural oils from your palms and the skin around them.

People whose occupations demand frequent hand washing, such as nurses and doctors, are also more likely to develop dry hands. Additionally, sanitizing multiple times a day can increase exposure to the condition.


Many medications for acne have exfoliating chemicals, such as salicylic acid, retinol, glycolic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. These substances can be severe on your hands, causing dryness.

Hot baths and showers

Long, hot baths and showers can cause dry hands. Frequent swimming in heavily chlorinated pools can also aggravate the condition.

Harsh soaps and detergents

Repeated exposure to soaps and chemicals when washing dishes or styling hair can also cause dryness. Cleansers and shampoos reduce moisture from the skin around your hands because they are made to remove oil.


How to prevent dry hands


Use moisturizers on your hands after every wash. This practice can help to restore your hands’ natural moisture. Moisturizing creams and coconut oil are ideal for an effective outcome.

You can also apply lots of cream overnight and cover the hands with gloves or mittens. The objective is to hold the moisture on the skin, where it is absorbed throughout the night.

It is important to keep replicating the precious lipids in the skin. Products that contain engineered biometric plant lipids like sterols, triglycerides, essential fatty acids etc can be used. That said, make sure that your chosen product uses botanical sources for these lipids. 

Additionally, look for products and hand creams that use natural skin relief agents like shea butter, spent grain wax, cold processed shea butter, etc. these ingredients provide rapid moisturization and help relieve skin irritation.  

Applying aloe vera gel can also prevent dryness. This gel is a common component in many skin products. Its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties can improve your hands’ health as it has a natural and safe moisturizing effect.

Use a humidifier

People who live in dry areas should have a humidifier in the house and preferably near the bed. The humidifier can protect the skin around hands from drying out.

Minimize stressful activities

People with eczema can minimize dryness on the hands by avoiding stress.

Avoid soaps with a drying effect

Soaps contain chemicals, some of which can cause a drying effect. Try to avoid excessive hand washing using soaps or even drying them out. Use sanitizers when hands are not visibly dirty.

Cover your skin during cold, dry, or windy weather

Protect your hands from prolonged exposure to the sun. You can do so using quality sunblocks.

Wear rubber gloves

People whose occupations require frequent contact with water should wear rubber gloves. The gloves protect hands from drying out.

Seek medical treatment

Underlying conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, should be treated by a doctor. Seek medical attention if dry hands are accompanied by bleeding, swelling, extreme redness, and discoloration.


Risk factors associated with dry hands


People in their 40’s and over have a higher risk of developing dry hands. Indeed, more than 50 percent of older people have a dry skin condition.


Living in places with dry, cold, or low-humidity climates can increase the risk of exposure.


Jobs, such as hair styling, catering, and nursing, demand frequent immersion of hands in water, hence, increasing exposure to dry hands.



Dry hands are caused mainly by underlying medical conditions, genetic mutations, weather, chemicals in hand washing products, and frequent immersion of hands in water. You should protect your hands from drying by seeking natural plant-based moisturising products.

Coreenna Ong

Coreenna Ong

Co-founder and Head of Research

Ms Ong has more than 25 years of extensive experiences in research and development, conceptualization, formulation, and production process development. She is currently the Head of Research and Development at aspurely skincare.

She has authored 2 best-selling Beauty and Wellness books with Marshall Cavendish, Nature’s Spa: DIY Beauty Treatments and Nature’s Treats: Recipes for Wellness, which are currently available in the Singapore National Library collection.

Ms Ong was also a Beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's largest Chinese-language newspaper publication, with huge regional presence. As its weekly expert contributor, she shared the latest research and technologies from the Beauty industry, and addressed many readers’ skincare issues and concerns, offered beauty tips, quick fixes and insider knowledge.



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