Brittle nails, hair loss, thinning eyebrows, or dry skin might be indications of undiagnosed thyroid problems.

There are some common problems that may not warrant medical treatment. Cracked fingertips are a great example.
At this time of year, when the air inside is dry and we start washing our hands more frequently to avoid catching colds, many people find that the tips of their fingers become sore and even split open. While not a medical emergency, this is a constant annoyance in daily life. It becomes difficult to button clothes, use a computer keyboard or peel an orange.
Our readers come to the rescue. Many have had experience with this problem and have learned ways to cope with it. They are eager to share their remedies with others.
Here is a sample of some of their suggestions:

“I am a physician who hunts a great deal in the winter. I have a problem with my fingers splitting open when I am outside a lot in cold weather. The very best thing I have found is
 O’Keeffe’s Working Hands. I apply it heavily to my fingertips every night.”

Another reader offered a different solution:

“I work outside at night in the coldest of cold nights in Minnesota. What works best is Vaseline applied several times during the night. When I get home I apply it liberally again and then put on inexpensive cotton gloves before bed. My sheets stay clean and my cuticles are pain free all winter long.”
People also try ointments designed for other uses: “I use a dab of Preparation H ointment on my cracked fingers. I cover the spot with a bandage and it heals overnight.”

One young mother has come up with a novel idea:

“Alaska winters and caring for a toddler combine to wreak havoc on the same finger and both thumbs every winter. My current scheme is to cut the fingers off rubber gloves, apply large amounts of Aquaphor over the splits and wear the cut-off fingers of the gloves. I switch to full gloves whenever my hands are immersed in water or I’m using cleaning supplies. If I can’t use salve, I switch to liquid bandage.”

We are especially fond of Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. The manufacturer is Redex Industries and they have been sponsoring The People’s Pharmacy radio show and website for years. They offer wonderfully effective products at a very reasonable cost. Here is a link to their website. Here is what James in Gresham, Oregon had to say:

“I had constant painful cracks on my fingers. When current cracks would clear up (with the help of Neosporin and bandages) others would immediately appear. The solution: I stopped using paper towels. Also I started using UDDER CREAM, which has Lanolin in it. I went from constant pain (in which it was hard to button my shirt) with cracked fingers to ZERO PROBLEMS. Please pass it on”….James

A different reader weighed in with this:

“While I use creams for my knuckles and backs of my hands, I found the best remedy for cracked fingertips is instant glue (ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate, commonly sold under trade names like Super Glue and Krazy Glue). A little squirt on the crack seals it and allows it to heal. When I mentioned this to a pharmacist, he informed me that the product was developed as an alternative to sutures to seal wounds after surgery.”

Not all approaches to preventing cracked fingertips rely on topical treatments. One woman found an online recommendation for flaxseed oil:

“So I tried it and it worked. I have taken one capsule every day now for four years and not a single split or cracked finger since.”

Another reader got results from a different supplement:

“My problem of cracking fingertips ended completely when I started taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement. I started at 1,000 IU per day, then 2,000, and now I take 35 IU per pound of body weight, as recommended by vitamin D researchers. I no longer need to put lotion on my hands unless I wash dishes without gloves.”

It may take experimentation to find what will work best for your cracked fingertips. With so many remedies to choose from, we hope one will ease this painful condition.

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  1. Stephen
    Mineral, VA

    As a farmer in an area with dry, cold-enough winters, I’ve suffered from this painful, debilitating problem for many years. I found that creams, ointments, and all other stuff you rub on didn’t help much. Then I switched to putting on Band-Aids. They helped somewhat, but they came off pretty quickly, especially under the assault of physical labor and hand-washing. Finally I hit on the answer, also noted by another commentator here. My wife is a physician assistant, and there are always some latex gloves lying around the house. What I do is cut off the fingers and put them on over my split-ended fingers. The fit is nice and tight without being strangulating. They hold in the moisture of your skin beautifully, which is really the key to treating this condition. They just laugh off water. They stay on. They even provide a little protection against the bangs and dings of the day’s work. They last much longer than Band-Aids. After a few days they will tear, and then you simply replace them. But you’ll find that the underlying condition rapidly heals in the moist conditions of the glove fingers, and after a while you can do without the latex for a period. Trust me fellow split-fingertip sufferers, this is the BEST answer.

    • Stephen

      I wanted to add as a postscript that this method does not interfere with activities at all, another big advantage of it. Latex gloves are designed for physical exams by physicians, after all. Even surgery. You can tie your shoes with them on and do everything else too!

  2. Sue

    So glad I looked at this site like one lady I cut my finger one day and then it seems from that day on that almost all of my finger tips crack open. Like most people zips jewellery ear rings are now a problem as I fear without care another tear will appear. I have used many lotions creams steroid plasters etc but to no avail. I have just been told to try germolene with anaesthetic and then cover. Watch this space

  3. Aaron

    I love that there are fifty different solutions listed here and I have tried many of these with no luck. I’ve been using liquid bandage on my splits and it does help but I never had this problem until a year ago. It all began with a cut on my thumb and constantly putting bandaids on it to get it to heal. It has only gotten worse since (spread to other fingers) and I just don’t understand why. It seems like the skin starts to grow back and then all of the sudden it gets discolored and starts splitting again. I’m almost thinking I have some kind of fungus or something that won’t allow the skin to heal. Haven’t seen a doctor yet but I think I am leaning that way. Not a big fan of them, which is why I ended up here.

  4. Sandi

    thank you, thank you so much for making this site available. For years I have suffered with painful cracks on my fingers during winter months. This year has been the worst, having up to 17 cracks, cracked knuckles, dry and cracking palms. I read all remarks on the site, one suggestion was “lip balm”. I had tried most products listed (nothing worked). Ah, I tried Chap Stick. AND, it miraculously worked. I felt an amazing improvement in the morning. I apply it every time I wash my hands, and then some. Please try it, I have not had a crack or dryness for 2 weeks!!!!! :)

    • Lynn

      Have you tried a product called Gloves In A Bottle. It makes a shield with your own skin and locks in the natural moisture. Very good if you’re washing hands alot as it is water proof.

  5. Elizabeth

    Since I’m allergic to adhesive in any bandaids, what I use for cracks around fingers is something called ‘liquid bandage.’ It comes in a spray form, but I like the paint on version (it goes on little cuts exactly as if you are putting on nail polish. Allows the cuts to heal. Otherwise, I have a lotion bottle now in every room to remind me to use lotion to avoid it getting to this point. It happens to me since it’s so cold and dry out in the winter season, but year round it can happen on occasion due to washing my hands a lot. Good luck all!

  6. Peter
    Essex, England, UK

    I had a problem with painful cracks on my fingertips. They appeared over a period of 3 -4 months and the skin became very hard and thickened. Creams helped a bit but a comment from a medic about whether I washed my hands a lot and rinsed them properly got me thinking – pparently soap is a cause of thickening skin.

    I suddenly realised that I had been using an aerosol based shaving cream recently and rubbed it in with my fingertips, The previous 50 years or so I had used a shaving brush with an old fashioned shaving soap. I reverted to the brush and also stopped rubbing in shampoo with my fingertips and the fingers are back to normal after a couple of weeks. I also used more lanolin based creams etc. but am convinced it was the strong chemicals in the shaving cream and using my fingertips to rub it in that cased the drying out and then the cracking.

    I shall try the superglue remedy if I do get any cracks in the future.

  7. Janette C.
    Cecilia, Kentucky

    I have had cracked fingers for so many years, to the point of bleeding & cracking even more. I have found The People’s Pharmacy, with so many people that have the same problem as I have. There are so many wonderful ideas and I am so excited to try some because my fingers are very sore as of right now. I am very grateful for finding The People’s Pharmacy and looking forward to reading more in your Newsletter. Many Thanks!

  8. divyaritu

    my mom is having this fingertip cracking problem. We actually live in India, south part (chennai).
    she also has dry skin. can anyone suggest me what cream to use?

  9. jaksno

    I’ve been a tile contractor, and the mortar and grout really eats up the hands. I found a product on Duluth Trading Co’s website (there an online, craftsman designed and tested products outfit). It’s called CrackZapIt! I like the fact it’s all natural – Beeswax, Honey, etc. It’s real thick so it stays down in the cracks. Don’t be surprised by the lip balm tube it comes in – to stiff for lips! Got my really bad cracks closed up in 3 days or so. Being in a stick, I carry it with me. Other good stuff comes in jars and tubes I’m not gonna take with me. This stuff has an informational website tells about it, where to get it so you can see a lot about it before ever buying it.

  10. Deb v.

    I finally figured it out. My pharmacist orders pure lanolin in a small tube. It is 1.69, can you believe how inexpensive! I put it on my fingertips am and pm. No more cracked tender fingertips. Also, one other reader suggested gloves for reading newspapers. I got a 6.00 pair of cotton gloves, nothing fancy, at Ulta. You should see the ink on the gloves! Ink has toluene in it, which can’t be helpful. Good luck to you all

  11. karen b

    I have suffered with hand eczema for 12 years, ever since I bought my restaurant. I have tried everything including rx steroid creams from my dr. Nothing worked until I found Dermarest for eczema at my local CVS. My eczema was completely gone within 7 days of using it and it absolutely has not come back!!!! I recommend this to everyone I know – it truly is a miracle!!

  12. k davenport

    Calendula creme (also goes by the name marigold creme) is the only thing that ever worked for me. applying it twice a day decreased the cracks and pain by >80%.

  13. gg

    I tried all kinds of creams, including Vaseline petroleum jelly, Neosporin, all of them without any help. My dermatologist and Primary Care Dr did not have any idea in how to take care of this problem. Well, I started taking Vitamins, B1, B6, B12 and B Complex. I mostly take B6 & B12 When I miss two days without taking them, my finger tips start splitting.

  14. Cherry

    BAG BALM. This greasy stuff that comes in a green tin is great for cracked fingers and heels. I use it every winter and summer and have not had any cracked fingertips or heels for a long time. I bought it at my drugstore.

  15. Jimmy M. W.

    I read your article with interest because I have had cracked fingers for many years. I have almost cured my problem by wearing gloves when I go our in cold weather, If I forget to wear them and get a cracked finger I find that I can put a little Neosporin with pain relief in it and place a bandaide on it for the night and by nest morning it is much better. I have been doing this for two years and do not have the problem like I did.

  16. kg

    I apply ALKALOL to my cracked fingers at least twice a day. It eases the pain and clears up the cracks in a short time.
    I can only find ALKALOL at small, locally-owned drug stores.

  17. lynda

    I use superglue and reapply it every 3 days as needed. no pain. time to heal. be patient and let it dry before touching other things.

  18. SLN

    I have had cracked heels, finger tips including my thumbs and knuckles.
    For my fingertips, best lesson I quit using antibacterial soaps, that stopped the tips from cracking, not my knuckles or thumbs.
    When I went to the podiatrist for planters’ fasciitis my heels were cracked. He wrote down GOLD BOND FOOT CREAM. I had explained that I have had this problem since childhood and have done all the products including the ‘real udder cream’ from the farm supply store. He was right and as the lady at the checkout said, you only need a small amount. Excellent! For my feet I use a pedegg, this and white socks at night! Healed!!!! The magic ingredient according my Doctor is the UREA which is listed second ingredient. Don’t waste your money like I did on all the other products. This helps my feet and hands the best!!
    People’s Pharmacy response: We’re glad you found something that works. Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 also contains a high level of urea and you may find it helpful.

  19. SJM

    I use lip balm (generic) several times a day and before I go to bed. I don’t have to resort to “super glue” any more.
    Another product that helps is a cream called Kerodex. It creates a moisture barrier and is designed for people who work at wet jobs.

  20. JAK

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Our dear neighbor used to make this cream and share it with us. It works better than anything else we’ve tried. When she died we thought the recipe was gone for good. Now we can whip up a batch to share with our neighbors again.

  21. Terri R.

    I found that Bag Balm put on the fingertips at night and wearing a glove or sock to prevent dirtying the sheets works wonders. My dermatologist told me to use Super Glue to seal the cracks. My main problem is with my heels and using bag Balm softens them up and prevents the cracks. When cracks do occur I use Super Glue.

  22. kkm

    Lanolin won’t work for people who are allergic to it. My mother, one of my sons and I are all allergic. If you get itchy in wool sweaters, consider this possibility.

  23. JA

    I use lotion that has lactic acid in it, works wonders! You can find at any pharmacy, just look for lactic acid in the ingredients.

  24. cg

    I have recently been dx with psoriasis/eczema. So far only steroids have helped. I would love to try alt meds.

  25. MJW

    I use 100% shea butter and find it effective.

  26. P. Grossmann

    I use liquid bandage on all my hand cuts. I also use Corn Huskers Lotion frequently as it’s basically glycerin and isn’t greasy.

  27. JI

    I have suffered with cracked fingernails all my adult life so I know the pain. Using cuticle remover faithfully does help but this year a friend of mine gave me some home made hand cream that has eliminated the cracking, cuticles are softer and my hands are healing. The ingredients are all bought at a dollar store, so it is not expensive to make.
    It is one jar of Vitamin E cream, it is about an 8oz jar, 2 bottles of baby lotion, the ones I bought were 15 ozs each and a jar of petroleum jelly. I bought the 13 oz size but only used 1/2 of it in the mix.
    Combine all of the above and beat with your electric mixer till fluffy. I suggest using a glass or stainless steel bowl as that makes clean up easier. This makes quite a bit of “lotion” so you will have enough to share. I have given some to friends and they all rave about it, I have also used it on my heels and they are very soft now. For the first winter since I was a child my hands are smooth and soft.

    • Timea
      Webster, NY

      I tried liquid bandage but it burned so bad on the cracked skin that I could almost not bare it! How does that not burn your cracked skin like crazy????

  28. Karen

    Fish oil works for me. I rarely get splits anymore (perhaps living in NC has something to do with that), but if I do, adding one more capsule to my daily fish oil (EPA/DHA) intake makes it heal, and stops more from forming. Pretty much the same thing as the lady who found that flax oil worked for her.

  29. lkm

    Pure, solid lanolin applied in the evening will take care of red, cracking, bleeding hands. My son suffers from this problem in the winter (as soon as the heat it turned on) and if applied at bedtime, his hands are practically healed in the morning. Extremely effective. I use it too!

  30. JCB in NC

    My family keeps Healthy Hoof cream (found at CVS Pharmacy) by the sink every winter. As long as we use it faithfully after having hands in water, it absolutely does the trick. No more open splits and even nails are nice, no longer dry and brittle.

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