Rough hands: causes, treatment and home remedies

Rough hands: causes, treatment and home remedies

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Especially at low temperatures, many people get rough hands because the skin is exposed to environmental influences and is severely stressed by cold and dry heating air. In addition, for example, frequent hand washing, lack of fluids, hormonal changes or constant contact with chemicals or harsh cleaning agents can cause the skin to become brittle, flaky and dry.

Rough hands are not just a cosmetic problem, because if the skin's natural protective acid layer is damaged, it becomes more susceptible to inflammation, eczema and allergies. Accordingly, dry skin should always be taken seriously and treated with appropriate care. Various protective measures (such as household gloves) and home remedies help to alleviate skin problems. As it can be a symptom of various skin diseases, allergies or diseases such as diabetes, a doctor should always be consulted as a precaution to get to the bottom of the cause.

The skin: structure and function

The skin (Greek: "derma"; Latin: "cutis"), with a surface area of ​​1.5 to 2 square meters, is the largest and at the same time the most multifunctional organ of the human organism. In doing so, it takes on some of the vital functions of the skin Protects the body from pathogens, heat, cold or drying out. Added to this are, among other things, sensory functions (touch, perception of pain, touch, vibration, etc.) and the regulation of the heat and water balance.

The structure of the skin consists of three layers of tissue arranged in layers, which are referred to from the outside in as the epidermis, dermis and subcutis. The thin epidermis consists mainly of horn-forming cells (keratinocytes), which act as a protective barrier against pathogens and loss of moisture. The much thicker and more robust “leather skin” contains, among other things, blood and lymphatic vessels, nerves, as well as a large number of skin glands and pressure receptors for the sense of touch (Meissner probe bodies), while the subcutaneous fat tissue serves, among other things, as an energy store and for protection against Cold.

Symptoms of rough hands

Dry and rough skin on the hands feels like parchment or paper and in many cases there are fine cracks, red spots, small, barely visible pores and a pale, "tired" appearance. It is typical that the skin is tight, flaky and itchy, with the complaints often intensifying when it is warm or cold.

In more severe cases, a so-called "desiccation eczema" can develop, which is characterized by inflammation and fine reticulated cracks and / or redness and abrasion of the skin. Symptoms such as burning or itching often occur particularly intensively after bathing or showering. Elderly people, neurodermatitis sufferers and small children are particularly affected. In winter there is an increased risk of developing such eczema.

Causes of rough skin on the hands

The skin is an extremely sensitive organ that reacts quickly to external influences as well as to processes inside the body by showing redness or an itchy rash or other skin problems such as allergies, eczema or psoriasis.

The skin on the hands is particularly sensitive because, on the one hand, it is comparatively thin, and on the other hand, it is normally subjected to more stress than anywhere else on the body by being permanently exposed to all weather and environmental influences.

Normally, sebum glands permanently produce a special water-fat mixture on the skin, which ensures suppleness and acts as a "protective barrier" for the skin by keeping the moisture inside and at the same time protecting it from harmful external influences. If there is a lack of moisture and fat, the hands become dry and rough, which happens particularly quickly on the back of the hand, since the skin here is particularly thin and has fewer sebaceous glands.

There are various reasons for the loss of function of the protective skin barrier. Often these are external factors such as cold, heat, sun exposure, pollutants, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Genetic factors can also be responsible for dry, rough skin on the hands. Likewise, the risk of brittle, cracked hands increases with age. The reason for this is that the skin stores less and less moisture over the years and forms fats. In addition, sweat production continues to decline. As a result, the natural “protective barrier” is becoming increasingly fragile and permeable, which means that internal and external influencing factors attack an already sensitive skin faster and can lead to even drier hands.

There are also a number of other "internal" factors such as malnutrition, insufficient fluid, hormonal influences (e.g. menopause, hormonal contraceptives), alcohol and nicotine consumption or stress or other psychological stresses, which cause the skin to become a so-called "mirror of Soul "shows rough and cracked.

Possible triggers are chemical or physical factors at work or in the home that damage the hands. These include, for example, chemical substances, cleaning and washing agents, paints or solvents as well as frequent skin contact with hot water and soap products.

Rough skin on your hands from washing your hands too much

Water can severely clog the skin, because while regular hand washing cleanses the skin and is an important measure to protect against infections, "too much" can quickly lead to it "leaching out". On the one hand, this happens because the skin softens when washed (especially with hot water) and is therefore more susceptible to harmful substances.

Added to this is the soap, which not only removes the dirt, but also attacks the natural protective acid mantle of the skin when used frequently. If the resulting lack of fat and moisture is not subsequently compensated for by appropriate care, dry, cracked and / or flaky skin quickly develops and becomes uncomfortably tense. In addition, the attacked barrier increases the risk of inflammation and allergies.

Cause medication

Certain medications can be considered as the cause, as these can possibly cause a change in the fluid balance or certain glandular functions. Examples are skin creams containing cortisone or medicinal products that are used to flush water out of the body (diuretics), e.g. in the case of edema, high blood pressure or heart failure.

Rough hands as a sign of illness

Brittle hands can also be signs of a disease and, as in the case of neurodermatitis, contact eczema, psoriasis or ichthyosis ("fish scale disease") indicate a serious loss of fluid in the body. Diabetes mellitus is possible, which often leads to rough, itchy and cracked skin due to the changed metabolism in those affected.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is possible, since the lack of thyroid hormones also changes the complexion. As a result, facial paleness and scaly, rough skin often occur, especially on the hands, feet and lower legs. Other typical symptoms that may appear in this context are brittle hair, chronic fatigue, constipation, weight gain, slow heartbeat (bradycardia), difficulty concentrating and brittle nails.

Skin problems can be caused by mental illnesses such as be an OCD. For rough, dry hands, for example, a pathological compulsory washing is possible, by which the affected persons feel compelled to constantly clean their own body or individual body parts, certain objects or the whole apartment.

The background is usually a panic fear or disgust at dirt, bacteria, viruses and body fluids or excretions, which persist even when the contaminated objects are not touched (“fear of contamination”).

There is a strong inner restlessness and discomfort, which leads to extensive washing and cleaning rituals, which can sometimes last for hours. However, this means that the person affected achieves exactly the opposite of the actual goal, because excessive washing gradually destroys the skin's natural protective acid layer. As a result, pathogens can penetrate more easily and lead to fungal infections and other infectious skin diseases. In addition, eczema, itching, open spaces and allergies are very common.

Brittle hands in winter

Especially in winter, many people get brittle and rough hands, because dry air, temperature fluctuations, icy wind and an immune system weakened by flu infections affect the skin particularly hard in this season. The background is that the body limits the production of sebum at an outside temperature of less than 8 ° C, which makes the natural protective barrier more permeable.

Since cold air is very dry, additional moisture is removed from the skin, which also happens with dry heating air in the office or at home. The parts of the body that are not protected by clothing, such as the face, lips and hands, are particularly affected, which subsequently become dry, brittle, flaky and cracked. In addition, there is usually severe itching, small wrinkles and feelings of tension. Likewise, eczema and inflammation can occur faster than usual.

Rough hands: what to do?

If the hands become rough, extremely dry and / or flaky, it is important to recognize the cause. The symptoms can indicate a skin disease such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis or other diseases such as diabetes or an underactive thyroid. Accordingly, the complaints should first be clarified with a doctor. This can be done by thorough questioning of the patient (medical history), examination of the affected areas and other measures such as an allergy test to determine the reason for the skin changes.

The therapy depends on the cause, for example by the dermatologist prescribing preparations containing cortisone or recommending individually tailored care, through which the skin is supplied with fat and moisture. If there is an underlying disease, this must also be treated. Here e.g. in the case of neurodermatitis usually treated in several stages, in addition to basic care to improve the skin structure and medication for itching and inflammation e.g. patient training and complementary and alternative medical measures are also used.

Those affected can also do a lot themselves to treat their rough hands and prevent dry skin. First of all, it is important to wash your hands correctly. Regular hand washing is important on the one hand to avoid infections, but at the same time the natural barrier function of the skin is impaired by constant contact with (hot) water and detergent substances (surfactants).

The horny layer swells, which loosens the cell network and reduces the tear resistance of the skin. Protective fats are removed from the skin, which makes it brittle and cracked, making it more permeable to harmful external influences. Accordingly, the hands should be washed regularly and thoroughly, but only with lukewarm water and a skin-friendly (liquid) soap without colors and fragrances, which are indicated by labels such as "PH 5.5" is recognizable.

After washing, the hands should be dried thoroughly, but without rubbing. Gaps between fingers should not be forgotten. For sensitive, rough skin, it is essential to apply cream to your hands regularly, especially if you work frequently in damp conditions or if there is contact with dirt, lubricants and chemicals.

In some professions (e.g. hairdressing or metal industry), the hands are generally more stressed and strained, but these can also be heavily strained by cleaning agents, fertilizers etc. in the context of household and garden work.

There are various means of care to choose from, the main feature of which is to compensate for the existing lack of fat and moisture. Supporting the skin during regeneration only works if the care is regularly distributed throughout the day and carried out consistently, which is why it is advisable to place the products wherever the hands are washed.

When choosing the "right" cream, it is advisable to use dry, rough hands to choose products that are as greasy or rich as possible, but should not contain any fragrances or preservatives to avoid skin irritation or allergies. These so-called water-in-oil emulsions, which contain more oil / fat than water, smooth the rough skin surface and prevent further water loss through the skin. Water-binding ingredients such as urea (urea), lactic acid and glycerin can intensify the effect here.


In addition to the appropriate care, an important step in the treatment or prevention is to protect the hands in such a way that they cannot even come into contact with harmful influences. For example, gloves can offer good protection in winter by not only keeping you warm, but also protecting the skin from drying out. Protective or rubber gloves should be worn whenever possible in the relevant professions and for all household chores that come into contact with liquids, chemicals and cleaning agents.

Is the direct contact with the latex, plastic or similar As uncomfortable and / or sweaty hands, cotton gloves can also be worn under the waterproof gloves to absorb the sweat of the hands and thereby reduce the swelling of the skin.

The skin can be well supported in its health and functionality through nutrition. Especially in winter, many people tend to eat heavier and more greasy, but this is often not good for the skin. Instead, the body should generally be better balanced and mainly supplied with whole grains and dairy products, vegetables, legumes, fruits and fish in order to Vitamin A, zinc and iron strengthen the immune system and thereby also the skin.

At the same time, you should always make sure you drink enough, because even if the feeling of thirst is usually lower in winter, the body needs as much fluid here as at other times of the year. Every person should drink at least 1.5 to two liters of liquid (water, unsweetened tea, juice spritzer) regularly throughout the day in order to provide the skin with sufficient moisture, at least “from the inside”, despite the cold.

Natural home remedies for rough hands

Especially in cold temperatures, wind and snow as well as when the skin is under permanent strain at home or at work, the hands need a cream that is as high in fat as possible, although the drier the skin, the more extensive the care should be. Products with olive or evening primrose oil, for example, are available here, and cracked hands can also help with creams containing the ingredient dexpanthenol. A rich hand cream with urea (urea) is also highly recommended, since it can bind water very well and thus helps to bind moisture in the skin and prevent skin dryness.

If the cream does not improve, the hands need an extra portion of care, e.g. by Hold for a few minutes in a hand bath made from olive, pumpkin seed or almond oil. For this, a small bowl is filled with lukewarm water and a few drops of oil, in which the hands are soaked for 10 to 15 minutes. After the bath, the hands should only be dabbed carefully, if necessary, a nourishing cream can then be applied.

In many cases, it is just as helpful if the hands are greased with a fat-containing cream before sleeping and then protected with cotton gloves overnight to allow the care to be absorbed well.

An almond paste, for which a few drops of almond oil are mixed with a tablespoon of powdered sugar and applied to the affected areas several times a day, has proven its worth.

A mixture of two teaspoons of lemon juice and two tablespoons of honey can be helpful, which is also massaged in several times a day and left on the hands for about five minutes each. Then wash your hands carefully with lukewarm water, dry them gently and optionally apply a greasy care product. (No)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Thomas Werfel et al .: S2K guideline for neurodermatitis, German Dermatological Society, (accessed on 04.09.2019), AWMF
  • Dorothea Terhorst-Molawi: Dermatologie Basics, Elsevier / Urban Fischer Verlag, 4th edition, 2015
  • Martin Röcken, Martin Schaller, Elke Sattler, Walter Burgdorf: Taschenatlas Dermatologie, Thieme Verlag, 1st edition, 2010
  • Bandelow, Borwin et al .: German S3 guideline for treatment of anxiety disorders, (accessed 04.08.2019), DGPPN
  • H. Krude: Diagnostics, therapy and follow-up of primary congenital hypothyroidism, German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, German Society for Endocrinology, (accessed on September 4, 2019), AWMF

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