Cracked skin describes fissures, or cuts, that typically appear on dry or irritated skin. Treatment will depend on the cause, but it typically involves moisturizing the skin.

For many people, cracked skin appears or gets worse during the winter, when dry air can lead to dryness on the hands, lips, or feet. Sometimes cracked skin occurs due to a skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis, or because the skin came into contact with an irritating substance.

Cracked skin can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. For example, people with diabetes may notice cracked skin on their soles.

This article covers some common causes of cracked skin on hands, feet, and lips. It also looks at medical treatments and home remedies that may help.

View the slideshow below for photos of different causes of cracked skin.

Cracked skin on the hands, feet, and lips can develop for a variety of reasons.

Dry skin

Harsh winter temperatures and wind can irritate the skin. When air humidity drops, the skin can become dry and start to crack.

In cold or dry weather, many people also develop dry and cracked lips. Licking, biting, and picking can make cracked lips worse.

Learn about patches of dry skin.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an itchy, dry skin rash that develops when a person comes into contact with a specific substance. Allergic contact dermatitis may occur because a person has an allergy, while irritant contact dermatitis can happen because the substance is toxic or irritating.

For example, someone with a latex allergy may develop contact dermatitis while wearing latex gloves. During the flu season, frequent handwashing can also cause dryness, itchiness, or cracking. This also applies to handwashing in response to COVID-19.

Learn about contact dermatitis rashes.


People with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, have dry and itchy skin. The skin may look inflamed. Often, scratching will make the rash worse.

Eczema occurs when the skin barrier allows too much moisture to escape. The lack of moisture leads to dryness and, sometimes, cracked skin. It is not always clear what causes eczema, but it can run in families.

Learn about severe eczema.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin. People with psoriasis have patches of extremely dry skin, typically on the scalp, trunk, and around the joints.

However, patches can appear anywhere on the body. Some people with psoriasis also experience pain.

Learn about psoriasis on the face.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is an infection of the feet caused by ringworm. Ringworm is a type of fungus.

Symptoms of athlete’s foot can include:

People are more likely to get athlete’s foot if they:

  • spend a lot of time in hot, humid weather
  • sweat a lot
  • wear shoes that do not allow the skin to breathe

Learn about how to tell the difference between athlete’s foot and eczema.

Diabetic neuropathy

People with diabetes may develop problems with their feet. This includes dry or cracked skin.

Due to changes in their nervous system, people with diabetes have feet that sweat less. Too little moisture can make the skin dry, causing fissures.

Cracked skin on the feet can go unnoticed until the person develops an infection or a painful skin ulcer. It is important to regularly check the soles of the feet or visit a doctor for a checkup to help monitor any skin changes.

Learn more about how diabetes can affect the feet.

It is important to keep the skin hydrated. Various home remedies can help with this.

Moisturizing the skin

When choosing a moisturizer for cracked skin, people should look for these ingredients:

  • jojoba oil
  • shea butter
  • lactic acid
  • hyaluronic acid
  • dimethicone
  • glycerin
  • lanolin
  • mineral oil

As alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also cause dryness, dermatologists may also recommend applying moisturizer after using them.

Learn about some of the best face moisturizers.

Tips for washing or bathing

A person can do this by applying fragrance-free and dye-free hand cream or ointment immediately after washing their hands.

To prevent cracked skin from getting worse, people should avoid washing their hands with hot water. Hot baths and showers can worsen dry or cracked skin. Dermatologists may recommend:

  • using warm rather than hot water
  • closing the door of the bathroom to lock in moisture
  • limiting time in the shower to a maximum of 10 minutes
  • washing with a small quantity of a gentle fragrance-free cleanser
  • drying the skin by blotting, not rubbing
  • applying moisturizer immediately after blotting

Wearing gloves

Doctors may also recommend that people wear gloves to protect their hands when:

  • performing tasks that get the hands wet
  • going outside in the winter or in cold weather
  • using harsh chemicals, degreasers, and other substances

Other remedies

Other remedies that may help manage dry skin include:

  • using a humidifier in the house if the air is dry
  • using lip balm to help soothe dry or cracked lips, avoiding any balms with ingredients that may cause burning or stinging due to their ingredients
  • wearing breathable fabrics, such as cotton and silk
  • avoiding textured materials, such as wool
  • using hypoallergenic laundry detergents and fabric softeners

Learn more about home remedies for dry skin.

Medical treatments for dry skin can depend on the underlying cause. Treating the condition directly may help to manage symptoms of dry skin.

People with eczema and psoriasis may require treatments to control flare-ups. These can include corticosteroid creams and other medications.

People with athlete’s foot may need to change their footwear and apply prophylactic tolnaftate powder to prevent sweating. They may also need to use antifungal products to treat ringworm.

A lack of blood flow in the feet can contribute to cracked skin in people with diabetes. Managing blood flow to the feet by wearing diabetic-friendly socks may help.

People with dry, cracked skin are more prone to infections because the skin barrier is broken. Bacteria and other germs can get inside the skin and cause an infection.

People who notice symptoms of infection at the site of the fissure must contact a doctor. Symptoms can include:

  • pain
  • redness
  • inflammation
  • pus

Fissures can also start to bleed.

Other complications may be due to the underlying condition. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and beginning treatment as early as possible can help to prevent other complications.

If moisturizing regularly and avoiding any triggers do not help manage cracked skin, it is best to contact a doctor. The doctor can check for any underlying conditions.

A pharmacist can help a person choose an appropriate cream or ointment to soothe cracked hands and feet.

People who have signs of complications from cracked skin must also contact a doctor.

People with diabetes should contact a doctor if they develop ulcers from cracked skin on the soles of the feet. Ulcers can make it difficult to walk and require medical attention.

What is it called when the skin cracks?

Cracks in the skin are also known as skin fissures.

Can dry cracked skin be repaired?

Keeping the skin moisturized and avoiding hot baths or showers may help repair dry, cracked skin. However, if cracked skin occurs due to an underlying cause, then medical treatments for the condition may be necessary.

Should you moisturize cracked skin?

It is important to moisturize cracked skin to keep it soft and hydrated. It may help to choose moisturizers with ingredients such as jojoba oil, shea butter, mineral oil, or hyaluronic acid.

Possible causes of cracked skin include dry skin, contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, and diabetic neuropathy.

Moisturizing regularly and after washing can help manage cracked skin. People should also avoid using hot water and harsh chemicals. Wearing breathable fabrics may also help.

People with skin conditions that lead to cracked skin may require medication to treat the underlying cause. If moisturizing frequently and avoiding triggers does not help, a person should contact their doctor.