Treat severely dry and chapped hands by protecting them with rubber gloves whenever possible, washing with mild soap and warm water, and using moisturizers. Do not avoid proper hand-washing just because the skin is dry and cracked.
When exposing the hands to irritants, provide protection in the form of gloves. Rubber or latex gloves protect from water and harsh cleansers. Silicone is another option for people who are allergic to latex.
Even with severely dry hands, hand-washing remains important to prevent the spread of germs, including the flu virus. Make the process less harmful to the skin by avoiding the use of hot water. If the water is too hot, it tends to strip natural moisture from the hands and increase their dryness. Avoid foaming, deodorant, antibacterial or astringent soaps, which cause more irritation.
Moisturize the hands with a product that locks in the moisture. Petroleum jelly forms a waterproof layer on the skin. Glycerin draws moisture into the skin and helps to retain it. Avoid using water-based moisturizers, which do little to retain moisture. Wear cotton gloves at night over the moisturizer to keep it in place.
If the dry skin does not improve with treatment, see a dermatologist. The dermatologist is able to diagnose the underlying cause of dryness and provide prescription medication to help with the condition.