My hands got progressively worse from year to year until one winter back in about 1995 or so my fingers constantly oozed blood and were so cracked I couldn't straighten them. I finally went to see a dermatologist who told me I had exczema. What happens is the cold dry air saps water more quickly from your skin, causing it to dry and crack. Intuitively, you'd think keeping your hands wet would help? But it doesn't . . . at least not wetting them with warm (or worse, hot) water. The warm water evaporates more quickly and actually ends up drying your skin faster. The dermatologist instructed me to take cold showers, don't do dishes and begin using a hydrocortisone ointment. It's important it be an ointment. Creams and lotions provide temporary relief, but wear off relatively quickly (depending on how dry your skin is). Because an ointment is oil based, it traps the moisture in your skin.I didn't last long on the cold shower regimine. Becky didn't let me get away with no dishes. The ointment did it though. I found it worked best if my hands were still damp when applying the ointment . . . like right out of the shower or right after finishing dishes. And it doesn't have to be a lot of ointment. Just a thin layer is enough to provide the moisture barrier your skin needs. My hands have been fine ever since. The only thing that's ever come close to helping as much as the ointment is a spray Becky found and bought half as a joke last year: Zim's Crack Cream (http://www.crackcreme.com/). I swear, it worked great. For some reason, it's not working as well this year, but last winter it did. Amazingly well.
Mine only crack and bleed when I subject them to really cold temps and then really hot temps continuously for about 3 months. Oh wait...
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Still living in interesting times