Here are some of the best solutions I’ve found.
Please note this is an anecdotal article, and I’m not a doctor. If you have consistent or worsening symptoms not solved by over-the-counter products, I recommend seeing a dermatologist. (I have. I’ve tried all the prescription stuff too. This is just about OTC stuff.) Please note: I don’t endorse these products. I’m sharing my experience. Please use your best judgment for yourself!
Why am I writing this article? Well, because I care about you!
These products come from constant testing because I’m one of 30 million Americans living with eczema. I’ve had eczema since I was three…and I’m talking splits and tiny blisters on my feet and hands simply from just being me. It’s not from washing my hands too much. If it was, why was the eczema bad on my feet, arms, legs, and face? It’s a condition that flares when it feels like it. So if you have eczema like me or just dry skin from winter air, you’ll hopefully find something useful here!
Winter makes dry skin worse. On top of it, the cold makes all things less pliable, so there’s also the loss of elasticity, which I’ll touch on as well.
What to avoid with lotions:
- Anything that is water-based. I know it will feel less greasy to put a water/aqua-based lotion on, but one of the key problems with dry hands is that moisture evaporates the oils from the skin.
- Hydrocortizone or steroid creams should be used in moderation. I’m not kidding here. Use these only when the itch or blistering and inflammation has reached a level that’s intolerable. Steroid creams cause thinning of the skin. I know. It’s already happening with my fingers, and I’m only in my 30s. I’m fighting using these to the last straw because I’m terrified of what my skin is going to be like 30 more years from now (If I’m that lucky).
Tips for hand care:
- Don’t wash your hands in super hot water unless you have to. Warm water is sufficient. Cold water can be as effective. Check out the CDC’s guidelines here. It’s not the temperature of the water that matters but the scrubbing action which frees germs to be flushed away. But seriously, who prefers washing their hands in cold water in the winter? Not me! Brrr!
- If it itches, don’t scratch it! This is soooo hard! But if you scratch dry skin, it makes tiny little lacerations in the skin surface, which can lead to splits.
- Additional note: If you have dyshidrotic eczema like me, scratching will encourage the little blisters to burst, and that will cause more inflammation. (It got so bad with me one year that I thought I was going to lose a finger – that was until I discovered hydrocortisone cream, which hinders the immune system’s response and therefore slows and stops blistering and inflammation. It also calms the itch which was driving me to tears.) But again, only use these products when necessary to get inflammation and itch under control, then switch to something else.
- Dry your hands really well. Don’t give the air anything to whisk away, or it can take oils with it!
- The best time to put lotion on is right after washing and drying your hands.
- If the dryness gets really bad, I slather that lotion on, let it soak in, then I put on a cheap pair of fabric gloves or socks to protect the lotion from being rubbed off during the night. Some of it will come off inside the fabric, but you will keep that lotion close to your skin and avoid getting in all over the blankets! No one wants to roll over in the middle of the night and wonder what that slimy spot is!
- Any time you can, use dishwashing gloves or disposable gloves for cleaning etc.
- Stay hydrated and eat healthy food. Want to know what foods are best for skin health? Check out this article on Healthline.
All About the Lotions
Warning: there is a picture below which shows my hand in its red and split state. If this bothers you, please don’t proceed.
#1 Loreal Paris – Collagen Moisture Filler
This has become my favorite of all the products I use. It is fragrance-free and can be (is meant to be) used on your face. And while that’s how I got interested in it, as a face moisturizer, it has become my go-to for dry skin repair. It goes on smoothly and really absorbs well, even into severely dry skin that resists other lotions. This will take dry, rough skin, and make it soft and moist again.
This one really helps with elasticity. I put this one at the top simply because of this fact. My skin has already started thinning because of the steroid cream use, but this product has really helped plump up my skin and prevent it from splitting from simple movement. Ever tried to grab something and felt your skin split open? Yeah… not fun. It’s actually kind of scary. This product has been a game-changer.
When I get eczema on my face, this calms it. My skin feels fresh, smooth, and 10 years younger without a greasy feel. The fragrance free one doesn’t sting in cuts, which is another bonus.
#2: Mary Kay – Satin Hands
This set has been amazing. You can see my transformation photos below.
I started using Mary Kay products when I was getting ready for our wedding over a decade ago. I was in need of quality products to save our photos from future cringes at the condition of my skin. These products work every time I use them. They’re well worth the price, in my opinion. From lipstick to foundation and lotion, their products are quality and have never let me down.
The Protecting Softener featured on the left goes on at night and really soaks into your hands. It’s very thick and somewhat like Vaseline, yet not as slippery. It really does feel like a shield over your skin once it’s rubbed in.
The Smoothing Scrub in the middle helps free dead and dry skin and any Vaseline feel left from the Softener. (I washed my hands with that in the morning)
And the Shea Cream on the right is a beautiful, cool lotion that makes your hands feel like.. well, satin! I was going to say silk! Silly me! It’s in the name! If you can’t or don’t want to buy the whole set, this lotion is the one I’d recommend.
Mary Robeson is my consultant and gave me this set when she saw how horrible my hands were at a craft fair this fall. I was worried about book sales, not my self-care. What a wonderful gift! I went from breathing through the pain to feeling like I had my hands back again.
No, I’m not getting anything for promoting her products. She’s just an amazing, caring person who saw someone in need. And to me, that means a lot!
Below, on the left, is what my hands looked like the night before Mary saw me at the craft fair. Some people might say that if I just put anything on, it will help. My skin is oily in this picture because all I had was Neosporin. Yeah, the cut healer? Didn’t work. It’s not supposed to be used as lotion. Satin Hands outperformed Neosporin that weekend.
I’m always taking pictures of my skin to show dermatologists how it looks over time. That’s why I had this lucky before picture! When Mary gave me this set as a gift, I immediately used it!
I was away from my RV, so I didn’t have anything else with me. The picture on the right is just over a week later after using Satin Hands. Big improvement…not just of my skin but in my pain level. I type all day, go to the gym and lift weights, and I hand-wash dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher. These products have held up to my routine. I am very impressed.
You can get a fragrance-free set as well. I personally like the light scent of the White Tea myself.
If you’re interested in checking this out, you can read more on Satin Hands here.
#3: Red Wolf Apothecary Healing Salve
Not a commercial product person? Prefer something more natural? This has worked really well and has a beautiful story about its creation. I won’t dive too deep into details to be respectful, but it was designed for a family member with [a severe illness] whose treatments caused additional injury. They were shipping medications in from overseas and during Covid had trouble getting them. Thus, their healing salve was born. They also have arthritis salve and other products.
They are wonderful, kind people. I sat next to them at the craft fair and also received this product out of the goodness of their hearts. And this product works wonders! It really does absorb well into very dry skin in seconds. It immediately takes the stiffness of dry skin away and relieves itch! And a dab goes a long way!
A note: If you have pets, they might go a little crazy trying to lick this stuff off of you! My dog loves it, so I always have to cover my skin before I get dog kisses!
This product is comparable to the above two. I used it on a different dry patch for about a week and noticed similar healing. I’m all for natural options when possible!
You can learn more and shop here.
#4 Medix5.5 Retinol & Hyaluronic Acid Pack
This set has been wonderful as body lotion. I wanted something light and effective that didn’t leave my clothes sticking to me, or me smelling like a perfume store.
There are multiple sets by Medix5.5 available online. I chose this one because retinol helps the body produce more collagen beneath the skin’s surface and fights wrinkles, and hyaluronic acid helps keep in moisture.
Often when we use retinol products, it causes drying and reddening of the skin. I don’t get the reddening (oddly enough) but definitely the dryness. So I use the retinol lotion at night (while body is healing) and the hyaluronic acid in the morning. My skin isn’t nearly as crepey as it used to be. And so far it’s been great on my face and neck as well. Months of use with no breakouts or clogged pores!
These pumps hold a lot and are super easy to use, especially when hands have lotion on them. Sometimes twist-off tops are frustrating with well-lotioned hands. If that’s an issue for you, or you have arthritis, these pumps are great.
#5: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration (Weightless)
This is my favorite summertime lotion, especially after being out in the sun. However, it’s wonderful year-round with a light fragrance and light moisturizing properties that leave your skin fresh and feeling like it doesn’t have lotion on it!
It absorbs easily and readily without any greasy feeling or sheen.
Check it out on Amazon here. You can buy it seasonally at Walmart and other stores.
#6 Gold Bond Eczema Relief
This one is usually in my purse. It comes in much larger squeeze tubes and pumps too. It has a light oatmeal fragrance due to the 2% colloidal oatmeal in it.
It absorbs decently but is best applied after washing your hands. It works pretty well for eczema relief, just like it says, without use of steroids.
It definitely tackles the itch, helps soften hands, and improve elasticity.
You can get this at Walmart and other stores, or you can check it out on Amazon here.
#7 Bodycology Body Cream
Like inexpensive lotion with fragrance? This one works pretty well. It’s best applied after hand washing when your pores are open. It leaves an almost polished kind of satiny coating on the outside of your hands.
If you have to put on gloves (especially disposable ones) after, this lotion won’t stick to the gloves.
Bodycology has a lot of fragrance options, and you can find them at Walmart. I also found it on Amazon here.
#8: Gold Bond Radiance Renewal
This lotion is really creamy and luxurious. This stuff goes on thick. It has a pleasant, sweet, and rich smell as it has cocoa butter in it.
This stuff is great if you have deep dryness, especially on your feet. I put this on after a shower, let it soak in for a few minutes, then put socks on and go to bed that way. This is also great if you’ve been out in the summer sun a lot. While I recommend aloe for sunburns, this is a great after burn remedy for very dry skin.
You can check it out on Amazon here.
#9: Tree Hut, Shea Moisturizing Body Lotion
While I love this lotion for its fragrance and similar effects to Bodycology above, my immune system didn’t like it. My blisters got irritated. That aside, it’s wonderful on my legs and arms (avoiding flare-up spots).
I think this is my favorite scent of all the lotions. It’s a bit lighter, but not quite as light as the Hawaiian Tropic Weightless lotion.
I believe this was also a Walmart purchase. I also found it on Amazon here.
Bonus Recommendation: Lip Care
I have tried TONS of products that I won’t go into here. There are lots of lip glosses and balms but these two take the cake, in my opinion.
ChapStick Total Hydration is a lip balm that’s very smooth and not waxy. It instantly makes your lips feel softer even when they’re split.
I recommend the fruit ones. The lavender one smells great but isn’t my favorite flavor. Check it out on Amazon.
Satin Lips Shea Butter Balm by Mary Kay is a creamy gloss, and it is the absolute best product I’ve ever used on my lips. It is easy to spread, especially with extra sensitive chapped lips. I put this on at night, and it really helps my lips heal. They’re always 10x softer and plumper in the morning! Check it out here.
There are a ton of other brands to check out too. (I don’t currently have these products with me.)
CeraVe, Nivea, and Cetaphil work very well. These were recommended to me by professionals over the years, but I never became fond of them. I basically live in my lotion, so scent is important to me. These have nice light scents, but they aren’t my preference for body lotion. They have worked well on my hands and feet.
Eucerin and Aquaphor got me through childhood. They work, but I remember reapplying them a lot.
My grandpa gave me his Bag Balm when I was little, and that worked well for my split feet. It wasn’t easy to run and play on the ranch with constant pain in my feet. This made a huge difference.
Aveeno and Dove have nice light scents and give your skin a soft, almost powder-fresh feel. I’m not as much of a fan of this, personally, but I can see the appeal.
Lubriderm, Jergens, and Curel I’ve used in a pinch or borrowed a bit of from family. They are nice products, but I haven’t used them enough to speak to their effectiveness.
O’Keefs works well for softening cracks, and is something I use more when I’m working outside.
Bath and Body Works body cream is pretty effective, with wonderful scent options. For very dry skin, I use their shea butter lotion. When I want to smell like whatever holiday it is, without wearing perfume or coating myself in waxy lotion, I use their body creams.
Vaseline is probably one of the most well-known products, same with Palmer’s cocoa butter. These products definitely work for softening and moisturizing skin but also require gloves and socks, or to not touch any screens or sensitive surfaces. It is finger print city!
If you have a recommendation, add it to the comments! Let readers know why you like it and where they can get it! Thanks!
Stay Healthy & Best Wishes!