What should I look for in a lotion for severely dry and cracked skin?

Dry skin. Solvents like water & soap make dry skin worse. While moisturizers help combat this, minimizing skin exposure to solvents & applying moisturizers immediately after any solvent exposure are key. A general rule of thumb is that thicker greasy products are more effective for dry skin... Ointments are better than creams are better than lotions. Fragrance-free products are best for limiting irritation.