According to WebMD, dry and cracked hands are treated with moisture both inside and outside the body. Drinking plenty of water supplies the body with the moisture it needs for skin to provide a strong, healthy barrier against the elements. Lotions and other moisturizers applied directly to the skin lock in the water. Five to six applications of lotion daily are optimal.
WebMD notes that the whole hand should be covered in lotion including cuticles and nails. The most effective lotions contain both emollients and humectants. Emollients lubricate and seal in loose cells, while humectants pull in environmental moisture to replete the skin's moisture content. Common emollients are lanolin, jojoba oil and glycerol stearate. Common humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic and lactic acid. The more damaged the skin, the thicker the moisturizer needs to be.
Only wash hands in warm water using a mild soap. Additionally, apply moisturizer immediately after washing hands. A humidifier can also provide effective protection as long as it is maintained appropriately and thoroughly cleaned on a consistent basis. WebMD cautions that more severe cases, noted as such by their continuance despite precautions, should be seen by a dermatologist. In some cases, dry and cracked skin are the product of eczema or psoriasis.