Tips for Dry Hands as You Travel


Are you suffering from dry cracked hands? How many times a day do you wash your hands?  Probably too many to count. Hand washing is a necessary part of a nurse’s life so we have to know how to treat or prevent dry hands. Recently one of our travelers had sore dry cracked hands and was seeking the advice of what worked best.  Many of you replied with your favorite treatments.

I spent 16 years working in the OR both as a surgical tech and as an R.N. I have tried many lotions and creams over the years some worked better than others.  Whether you are washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, by the end of a long shift your hands are screaming for moisture.  Just as hand washing became a habit so can TLC for your hands.

Some nurses experience irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis from alcohol-based hand sanitizers.  Hand sanitizers are endorsed by the World Health Organization and thus most facilities provide them in each patient room.

What makes you dry?

As a traveler, you move from one climate to another which will have an effect on your skin as well.  Over the years I moved from Alabama to northern California, to Arizona in the desert and then back to Alabama.  I can tell you from experience that changes in the temperature and moisture in the air played a role in my skin dryness.

When the temperature is 115 degrees and the air is dry your skin will begin to very short time.  On the other side when the temperature is 80 degrees and the humidity is 75% you need less to keep your skin moist.  The environment has to be considered when trying to keep your skin from drying and cracking.  Along with moisturizer staying hydrated is key.

Another factor that can play a role for nurses is the use of gloves.  I am not allergic to latex gloves but powdered gloves are very irritating.  Most medical facilities now provide both powdered, non-powdered and non-latex gloves for staff.

Tips to help restore your dry sore hands:

  1. Try a different technique when washing.
  • Use warm or cold water not hot water.
  • As an OR scrub nurse I had to ask for a milder soap for scrubbing.  Dove was approved for those of us who had drying issues with our skin.
  • Do not use soap or hand sanitizer with alcohol.  These dry, irritate and will sting dry cracked skin.
  • Paper towels can be irritating to the skin but hard to avoid using.  Hospitals rarely provide cloth towels for drying hands.  Avoid rubbing when drying just pat dry.
  1. Protect cracked or split skin.
  • Try a liquid bandage to keep splits or cracks from getting worse or bleeding.  You know an open sore can get infected.
  • If the wound is severe then a band-aid may be needed and cover with a glove.

Seacret is one of the best hand creams I have ever used.




  • If you are suffering from extremely dry cracked hands you may need a heavier lotion with emollients.
  • Oil-based moisturizers are heavier than water-based ones and are better at keeping moisture from evaporating.
  • Constant hand-washing will take its toll on your skin so use a product that has a thick consistency doesn’t run when put in your hand.
  • Apply lotion each time you wash your hands.  Keep it handy to remind you to use frequently.
  • Some lotions will affect the integrity of gloves so make sure you check with infection control before adopting this practice.
  • Sensitive skin needs a soothing lotion.  Find one that contains ingredients like aloe or chamomile.


  1. Cover up from the elements.
  • Use gloves when out in the cold to protect from the elements.
  • Protect with sunscreen in the summer and lotion as often as you can.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
  1. Keep up the good work at home
  • I found that using a green dishwashing liquid at home made my hands crack.  Use a gentle soap at home when washing dishes.
  • Wear gloves when using cleaning products.
  • Lather up before bed.  I can’t wear gloves in bed but if that works for you it will help lotion to penetrate deeply into the skin overnight.

Finally, if your hands become dry and cracked and the above tips do not help you may need to see a dermatologist. You may need a prescription medication or treatment.

When you use responsible hand hygiene practices you can still maintain soft hands and provide excellent patient care. You can practice responsible hand hygiene by incorporating these tips into your everyday routine.

You might also want to try these:

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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