Dry Chapped Skin

Chapped skin and what causes it

Dry, sore, cracked skin can crop up anywhere on your body, but is usually most apparent on hands, fingers and feet. Chaps are small cracks that occur when the skin is very dry. It’s not in itself a serious disease, but it can be very annoying, especially if the cracks open and bleed. You’re more likely to get trouble with chapped skin in the winter, when skin is usually damaged by dry, harsh conditions both indoors and out. Temperature fluctuations don’t do our skin much good either – and they, too, are going to affect us more often in winter than summer. If you have a generally dry skin, then it is likely that you will suffer from chapped skin at some time.

What are chaps?

Chapped skin happens when the skin is extremely dry, with too little natural oil, meaning insufficient moisture is retained. The skin finds it harder to perform its barrier function and becomes much more sensitive to irritants from outside. That explains why chapped skin is so often seen on the hands and fingers, which have most contact with antagonistic elements like harsh soap, detergent and extreme temperature differences.

Your feet can also be sensitive to cracks and chasms, because the skin in that area is subject to pressure and friction. Your body finds a natural solution by thickening the skin in the areas feeling most pressure. This callus layer is very dry and therefore often prone to cracking.

Start with prevention

It's best to start from the principle 'prevention is better than cure'. Since people who get chapped skin often already have dry skin, it’s wise for people with dry skin to guard against future problems by getting the skin back in balance, so it can carry on its natural barrier function. That lessens the chance of cracks and splits appearing, when it’ll be much harder to address the problem.

But if you’ve already got chapped or cracked skin, there are fortunately several things you can do.

1. Repair and intensively nourish

Moisturise cracked skin areas as often as necessary with a rich restorative and nourishing cream based on natural ingredients. Avoid creams containing mineral oils, as they create a film on the skin that seals pores shut, so that eventually they will dry out even more. Weleda’s Foot Balm, one of our Skin Heroes, is ideally composed of rich natural creams with extracts of plants to nourish and freshen the feet.

Take advantage of a night’s rest to feed your skin intensively. Apply a thicker layer of cream that will last the whole night. In the case of your hands or feet, put on cotton gloves or socks afterwards, to let the cream soak in rather than rubbing off on the sheets. Weleda has a Foot Rescue Kit – with foot balm and free cotton socks – and a Pomegranate Hand and Nail Kit which offers a free pair of cotton gloves. Just the job for letting moisturising goodness soak in.

2. Wound care

If the cracks in your skin are so deep that they become like small wounds, or even bleed occasionally, make regular use of healing care ointment based on calendula. Extracts of calendula officinalis (pot marigold) have a soothing effect and support the self-healing ability of the skin. Weleda’s Calendula Cuts and Grazes Skin Salve is a healing balm, and browse our Calendula Baby Range for various bodycare products to continue the soothing treatment.

3. Protect and survive

Your hands have a lot to put up with, so give them extra protection. Wear gloves when you’re washing up to avoid getting detergent on your skin. Wear gloves when working in the garden, too, to protect against soil-borne bacteria, and make sure both hands and feet are warm and comfortable, especially in winter weather. Try to avoid shoes that pinch or which tend to make your feet sweaty – such as wellies, trainers and rubber slip-ons.

4. Avoid products with synthetic ingredients

Care products that contain synthetic ingredients may affect the natural barrier function of your skin. Watch out for perfumes, preservatives and synthetic detergents in soaps and shower gels. By choosing mild, natural products you will keep your skin in balance – or get it back there after a bad patch. Weleda’s website is full of natural bodycare, skincare and haircare products that are always guaranteed without synthetic or mineral-derived additives, and there are special ranges for extra sensitive skin too.

5. Let your skin breathe

Dry air in your home has a direct impact on your skin. A humidifier, or simply containers of water near the radiators, can return air humidity to the ideal of 45 to 50%.

Don’t forget, if cracked skin bleeds or becomes sore, inflamed or infected you should speak to your GP. For most people, treating dry skin well is the best route to avoiding winter chaps and rough, sore skin.