Cracks in the system

With temperatures sitting stagnant at a level below zero day after day, it’s no wonder that our skin is dry, chapped and even worse, cracked. If you’re one of the unlucky ones who contends with cracks in your skin, there is a reason and some possible relief to the misery.

Ann Welch, family nurse practitioner with a specialty in dermatology at Trinity Health, said that skin in the winter loses its moisture and that’s how cracks can occur.

“You have to remember how much water is lost. Cold and wind dehydrate the skin,” she said.

Once cracks appear in the skin, you are more prone to getting them again, Welch said. People in the age 30 to 60 year range seem to get cracks, she added, but don’t typically seem to get them prior to or after those ages.

“Cracks are specific to that age group from what I see in my practice,” she said.

There are some ways to prevent the skin from cracking, though. Prevention tips include keeping the skin well moisturized with lotion and cream, using petroleum based products, wearing gloves outside and keeping yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, Welch said.

“Prevention is the big thing,” she added.

Keeping skin cracks moisturized will help in healing and being less painful.

“When the skin gets dry, it’s like brittle plastic and hard to get it back together,” she said. Sometimes prescription topical creams are necessary, though, too.

Welch said she recommends Vanicream moisturizing skin cream, Aquaphor healing ointment, Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream or Vaseline products.

“Any of the creams, because the emollient factor is greater,” she said. “Lotions are thinner.”

Welch also said the liquid bandages can be helpful since it adds another layer of protection and the cracks don’t get as painful.

So why do some people get cracks in their skin while other people do not?

“It has a lot to do with age and occupation,” Welch said. Health care workers wash their hands several times a day and lose moisture, she added. Also, patients on diuretics tend to have skin cracks because diuretics dry out the skin. Patients with eczema or psoriasis are also more prone to dry skin.

“When you get done washing your hands, put on something to help restore the moisture loss,” Welch said. However, that can be difficult for some people who can’t work with lotions or because of allergies. Also, Welch added that anti-bacterial lotions can be really drying to the skin depending on the alcohol base they contain.

Welch offered tips on ways to keep the skin moisturized in the winter.

“Use lotions or creams, stay hydrated and wear gloves and protective clothing outside,” she said.