Q. Every year during the winter months, I have a problem with my thumbs cracking at the edge of my thumbnails. It takes weeks for them to heal, and the cracks are very painful. They do not respond to any crack creams or lotions. They clear up on their own only to reappear a few weeks later. They look exactly like a cut, but they hurt a lot more. What can you suggest? Winter is almost here!

A. Many people find that liquid bandage can help protect these fingertip splits so they can heal more quickly. Here’s another reader’s report on this problem:

“It can be extremely painful just doing everyday things: washing dishes, picking up small objects, buttoning clothes or writing. The only thing that gives me any relief has been instant glue. My doctor said I could use it as long as it wasn’t a big, gaping wound. The glue gets hard enough to protect the cuts, keeps out water, dirt, bacteria and stays on just long enough to let my cut heal from the inside out and then it peels off.”

We are sending you our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment for many more suggestions on healing cracked fingertips and dry skin.

Although you have not been satisfied with any ointments or lotions, other readers have found some that help:

“I am an artist. Since I turned 50, my fingertips would split and bleed whenever I handled paper, worked in the garden or washed too often. It was almost impossible to put any kind of pressure on my fingers. I was wearing bandages on my fingertips and feeling debilitated.

Since treating them with Vicks, my hands have stopped splitting and bleeding. They had been so sore I had trouble doing any fine finger work. I conclude my fingers must also have had a fungal infection and the oils in the VapoRub have helped my skin stay whole.”


 

“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.”


 

“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.”

 

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  1. phil p
    Reply

    just tried the superglue remedy, it worked a treat. brilliant.

  2. dme100
    Reply

    I get cracks from being outside in the cold NH winters. Just when one seems to be just about healed, it cracked open again. I now apply Gel Super Glue with a tooth pick and it works great! Sounds strange, but Super Glue was used by the military in Vietnam for wounds, especially near the eye where it was difficult to stitch.

  3. Cellochik
    Reply

    Regarding latex gloves and finger splits, please be very careful with this if you have any history of latex allergy. Latex proteins that create latex allergy are water soluble, so close contact with the moisture rich fissures in the fingertips could create a latex allergy in those who are susceptible. Latex allergy can become life threatening and creates major problems when accessing health or dental care where latex is widely used.
    Nitrile gloves are a bit more expensive but safer alternative. Vinyl gloves also a choice but may not be as durable. Sign me one who is latex allergy from wearing latex gloves!

  4. JenJJ
    Reply

    Pamela,
    I feel for you – I well know that dread of having to wash your hands because you know in advance that it’s really going to hurt!
    Would your employers allow you to wear latex gloves at work? (ie The sort of gloves that nurses put on before they draw blood.) When my hands are particularly painful in the mornings I wear these around the house. I wash my hands a LOT, too and I wash my hands with the gloves on, which gives me a bit of protection and stopes them hurting quite so much.
    You can buy multipacks of them in drug stores and in some supermarkets at a fairly reasonable price. If you’re allergic to latex, there are latex-free versions, too.
    Apart from the wonderful Working Hands cream suggested by earlier posters, the other thing that I find makes a big difference is the soap I use. I find that as soon as the cold weather arrives, certain soaps adversely affect my hands much more than others. It happens with both liquid and bar soap and not only with the cheaper brands. Even some of the more expensive soaps leave my hands raw.
    Last year, I bought a number of bars of Laura Ashley soap in Ross (a discount store like TJ Maxx). They were huge – bath bars, really – but I cut them into smaller bars and used them as hand soap. They really helped. I have yet to work out what the magic ingredient that makes the difference is, but the Laura Ashley soaps I bought do contain shea butter, which an earlier poster mentioned, so maybe that’s it?

  5. pamela p.
    Reply

    I have this trouble every year my fingers hurt. I can’t do dishes any thing my fingers hurt so bad. I am a maid at an inn. I work outside rooms my hands are in and out of water I have used everything nothing helps just started this when I turn 50, help help.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Protecting your hands from water with disposable gloves (latex or non-latex) should make a difference, given your work. It is an extra expense, but being able to use your hands without pain would be worth it.

  6. Rich N
    Reply

    Have suffered for several years with cracked fingertips and as a passenger train conductor I have to use my hands a lot. I treat the cracks with antibiotic ointment, cut the tips off some cheap rubber gloves and tape them to the tips of my fingers. Heals up quick and I can still wear gloves and work with some level of dexterity. I intend to begin the night time treatment with the gloves as prevention and try some better hand cream daily.

  7. ab
    Reply

    Use Chap Stick!!!!!! it works on finger cracks. (not only for chapped lips). Wash the cuts with soap and water…..dry them good……trim off excess dead skin, then pack the Chap Stick cream into the cuts. Instantly it will feel better and heal quickly!!!!! Do it till they heal.

  8. ep
    Reply

    I, too, had awful problems with my finger tips cracking open in winter. Then my niece, the nurse, told me to put a little Vaseline on the tips at bedtime, and wear gloves to bed. All winter, I put on an old pair of nylon dress gloves I used to wear years ago. Sure works for me!

  9. J J
    Reply

    I posted this in the honey/sugar and wounds article comments, but realized it might be most helpful here:
    I have a routine of keeping my hands covered, using rubber gloves and using a pumice stone on the problem areas. But I never found anything to KEEP the trouble spots healed. They would seem to heal but come back with the least amount of exposure.
    My method with the honey = I used a pumice stone and clippers as usual to soften and remove thickened skin around the wound (very gently and carefully, obviously). Then I applied a drop of honey and made sure it was IN the wound. I covered the entire thumb with athletic tape, pinching the tape at the wound to keep it from sticking in that area. I did this every night at bedtime for five nights. It has been about a month now, and the original wound has not come back. I have continued using the pumice stone each day as the skin still gets hard.
    The problem area remains healed and pain-free. Yay!! Honey works for me.

  10. Crystal
    Reply

    Wow interesting, I too suffer from one single split on the right corner edge of my right thumb! It never heals, its painful and when its not painful the split is still there, just hard and thick skin surrounding it, then soon it starts all over again being painful, etc. Its hard to not put hands in water, as I am a potter! and its hard to always remember to put on gloves. My hands are always lubricated but this does not seem to help with eradicating this annoying re-occurring split !!!!!!!!!!! Come on Dermatologists help us out with something that is a sure fire solution !!!

  11. JenJJ
    Reply

    I read this page a few weeks ago, because I, too, suffer from cracked fingertips in the winter. I was in such pain that I did an internet search to try to find help and arrived here. And I just HAD to come back, to post my heartfelt thanks to JJD, jk and Susie, for their recommendation of “Working Hands” cream!
    I’d never heard of it before, but since three people here had recommended it, I dashed out and bought some. (Of course, I had no idea what the product looked like! So for anyone else who’s never heard of it, it comes in a small, bright green shallow, round pot. :-)) Anyway, it worked brilliantly and I was so grateful for the help.
    Many thanks, too, to everyone else who has posted to this thread. I’m sure that I’ll also try several of the other suggestions as well, because for me, cracked fingertips are a regular problem, so I’ve made myself a file containing ALL the ideas and products mentioned!

  12. lou g
    Reply

    Reference my comments above about using New Skin liquid bandage. I decided to buy some Udder Cream as my fingertips were still taking a long time to heal with the skin bandage. I used it once a day and it seemed to help, so decided to use it more regularly. It really worked, to my surprise. I’m still using it but I don’t need to apply it as often as I did. My wife uses it on hands and feet and just loves it. Great stuff!

  13. lou g
    Reply

    Reference my comment above. For whatever reason, this year my cracks are worse even though I’m used moisturizing creams. I’m still applying New Skin liquid bandage, but it takes a few more days more to heal.

  14. Sandy
    Reply

    My solution during the winter months has been to put a dab of HONEY on the crack and cover it with a band aid before going to bed. I usually only have to do this for two nights and the cracks heal up.

  15. SL
    Reply

    In my experience, treating your fingertips EVERY NIGHT before you go to sleep is key, whatever you use. For me, lip balm keeps my fingertips crack-free.

  16. Susie
    Reply

    Have had this problems in the summer and winter. Started using Working Hands last year and after a few weeks my hands were healed and had only 2 cracked fingertips. My fingers used to look like a road map with dry, cracked skin and now that problem is also gone.

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