Q. When the skin on my fingertips cracks open, the splits are painful and take a long time to heal. I went to a dermatologist for a series of different pills and lotions but nothing has worked.
This problem seems to happen more in the winter months. It just started again, with cracks on two fingertips of my left hand. What can you suggest?
A. Dermatologists sometimes recommend moisturizers, “the greasier the better.” By these standards, plain petroleum jelly should work great. But many readers tell us that Vicks VapoRub is especially helpful against splitting skin on the fingertips. The herbal oils in the petrolatum base seem to add a little extra power.
Another great greasy remedy for cracked fingertips is A&D Ointment. This contains vitamins A and D in a petrolatum base and seems to help fingertips heal fast.
A couple of other old-fashioned approaches to this problem include Bag Balm (again, this uses petrolatum as the base) or Udder Cream (which sponsors our radio show). Both products were originally designed to keep cows’ udders from chapping in cold weather. If you apply any of these moisturizers at night, wear light cotton gloves like the ones photographers use for handling negatives. They’ll keep the sheets from getting too greasy.
One last approach readers have recommended is sealing the cracks with instant glue. A liquid bandage product from Band-Aid is formulated for skin and less likely to be irritating than a household adhesive.