Winter is the worst time to have to deal with dry, flaky skin on your hands, but when the damage gets so bad that the skin cracks, that's even worse. If you catch the problem in time, there are quite a few things that you can do at home to reverse the problem before you suffer too badly.
Water Temperature Matters
Washing your hands if they're dry and cracked is probably painful, but it's a good idea so that you can keep germs from giving you a bigger problem. What you might be overlooking is that hot water can actually make the problem worse. To help your hands, switch to lukewarm water rather than hot water. The cooler temperature helps the skin on your hands to hold onto some of the moisture it's got.
Moisturize Often During the Day
Every time you wash your hands, apply a bit of moisturizer before you dry them. This does two things. First, your hands are a little softer from the washing so the lotion can penetrate dry skin more easily. Second, you're locking in some of that remaining water and keeping it in contact with your skin. Let your hands air dry afterward or gently pat them dry to keep from irritating your skin.
Moisturize Again at Night
At night is when you can really start to make some headway. Apply a thick moisturizing cream to your hands. Look for one that has glycerin or honey because these are humectants. Humectants are ingredients that attract water to them. When you use a hydrating cream that includes a humectant, the cream locks in the water that is already near your skin and attracts more to it. Once your hands are ready, slip on some soft socks. This helps to keep the cream from rubbing away on your sheets and it helps to hold in the moisture you want locked into your hands.
Don't Skip the Gloves
You need something to protect your hands during the day. If you're not a glove wearer, you need to change your tune. Every time that you go out into the cool wintry air, you need to have a layer over your skin. Even if you're only planning to dash from the car into the house, you still need to slip on your gloves. You'll find that the skin on your hands heals much more quickly if you protect it.
If you find that your dry, itchy hands aren't getting better even after some TLC, then it's time to talk to a dermatologist. They can help you to sort out what is causing the problem so that you can heal.