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Speed Healing of Cracked Fingertips

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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."

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"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."

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"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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46 Comments

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I have had this going on with my right thumb for many years. I never had any luck with creams, lotions, Vaseline or Vicks so for some reason I decided to try my son's athlete's foot cream last year. It cured it within days! My thumb started splitting two days ago and again I used the fungal cream. I'm on my third day and it is almost gone! I have to wonder if it is a recurring infection that never really goes away, just like athlete's foot.

I used to have a similar problem with the skin on my knuckles. It occurs to me that I haven't had this problem in years--I'm 82--since I began taking L-Lysine(1000 mg/2X daily for five days)for cold sores. [It's worth a try.]

Buy a tin of Bag Balm, it's perfect for dry cracked winter skin. I use it every other day during winter months and have not suffered split fingertips.

The slight thickening of cuticles that precedes a crack is a signal to double the amount of fish oil I'm taking. Once I do that, I don't get cracks. Happens every year. I'll cut back again when the weather warms up, and I'll be ok.

It's not clear to me why we treat dry skin as a problem to be solved with external solutions, when it's so often a marker of dietary status.

If my fingertips can't keep up with the stresses placed on them, what's happening to the more important parts of my body? (I get it--my heart and other innards are grabbing the important nutrients, and leaving my fingertips to fend for themselves.)

Still--cracked fingertips are a marker than I need more of something. In today's crazed fat-fearful food plans, many people are deficient in essential fats.

I have this problem in the winter, too. I find that temporarily using Cetaphil cleanser, (or a generic equivalent), instead of conventional liquid handsoap provides relief, and allows my skin to heal.

Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment works for me on those painful nail corners. It has lots of anti-fungal herbs and the waxes in it form a good protective film.

Solid lanolin works wonders for cracked, bleeding hands. My youngest son's hands would bleed and turn bright red when he was little, but would almost be healed after one application of lanolin. My knuckles will crack and bleed in the winter as well, but heal quickly with the use of a solid form of lanolin. It's really amazing. A bit sticky, but amazing!!!! My husband also uses it for chapped lips.

For years I worked in construction and would have my most used fingers and thumbs crack and split at the ends near the corners of the nails. Much of my work with my hands was very difficult to do with protective gloves. To bring healing and to provide protection to sore and cracked fingers, I used plain yellow masking tape. I wrapped the ends of my fingers completely and treated the cracked areas beforehand with Chap Stick. It worked great and provided protection to the sore areas like gloves but gave me more freedom than gloves. I would also wear the tape and treat the fingers at night before bed to aid in healing.

Bach's Rescue Cream with a bandaid overnight, takes a couple days but always works. For severe cases, keep it up during the day. Takes the pain away usually in one night.

I suffered with this problems for years until I discovered O'Keeffes Working Hands at my hardware store. It was like a miracle cure. With 24 hrs the pain was gone. Within 2 weeks all the cracks were healed.

Washing my hands with goat's milk soap, or a pure soap with calendula and chamomile, healed my hands from an open sore to cracks like cat's scratches from the knuckles all the way to my wrists. Then I applied a salve to my hands and wore cotton gloves all night.

I haven't had this particular problem, but has anyone tried A & D Diaper Rash Cream with zinc and aloe? --In a blue and white tube. It's made by MSD Consumer Care in Memphis, a division of Merck. It's a little messy, but the zinc has healing qualities. My hands used to crack and peel from allergies and this really helped.

A TV doctor has talked about coconut oil lately. It is a great skin softener, so I think it might help cracked hands. It's kinda messy to use, but it does soak in after a few minutes. If you don't mind smelling like a macaroon it's worth a try. Available at health food stores.

My Dad & I have always had this problem. He taught me to carry a Chapstick in my pocket. When a split begins, I just dab on the Chapstick & instantly there is no more pain. It seems the pain is caused by air coming in contact with the underlying skin down in the crack. So, fill the crack with Chapstick & you're done! Obviously this isn't good if you constantly have your hands in water, but it has always worked for me.

I, too, have problems with the skin on my fingers splitting. I have been using shea butter during the day and before going to bed at night. It has worked wonders. If I do get a split, it heals within a day or two. The moisturizing lotion put out by the company also helps my skin, especially when the humidity is low.

I've had this problems for years, and yes, it can get every painful. Although Winter is worse, I can get it at any time I believe, as I also have psoriasis. I found New Skin liquid bandage works very well and in usually two days it's healed.

Has anyone tried corn husker's lotion?

I have had the problem of splitting fingertips...all of them...year round for over 10 years. My Dermatologist prescribed a couple of different prescriptions, but Atopiclair works great! Just a pea-size amount massaged all around the fingertips 2-3 times daily. I buy a 100 GM tube & it lasts 'forever'. Any extra is good for the cuticles & hands.

I had the same problem several winters ago. I tried Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula hand cream (fragrance free).I used it on my hands and cuticles before going to bed at night, and it helped the skin and cracks to heal. Many pharmacies carry it.

I understand that a product I knew about years and years ago (I'm 81) is still on the market--called New Skin. Would this help the cracked skin?

I also suffered this problem for years. Once I discovered O'Keeffe's Working Hands, which was created by a pharmacist, I don't have a problem anymore. I use it every night before bed. If I start to get a crack at the nail corner I use it several times per day for a couple of days and then it's gone. Working Hands is the only thing that really works for me.

I've tried many different things to heal cracked finger tips in the winter, the best results I get is from Desitin Diaper Rash Cream. I rub it on very good before I go to bed, it can be a little messy. Desitin is a healer and provides a moisture barrier.

Hi,

My solution during the winter months has been to let my thumb and forefinger nails grow a little longer. This protects the area that tends to split. Also, I wear gloves when working outside.

Will these treatments work for cracks in heel?

Vaseline helps hurting fingers, but what I've found works even better is Preparation H ointment. It's important to use the brand name product. Generics don't seem to close the cuts and sores as well.

I used to have the same problem for years , I ended up switching from dawn to joy dish soap for one, I think the dawn was so harsh. Also got a rx of Lac Hydrin from dr and don't have the issue anymore. Actually I don't even have to use the lotion now.

Anne; yes. See my comment above.

I've determined my cracked fingertips are caused by the skin becoming thick and inflexible at the edges of the nails. Starting at age 60, my mother and now myself, have tried all kinds of lotions with minimum affect. I now get 100% cure by removing the thick skin with a diamond file about twice a week. I also soften the skin with a nightly application of The Boots Co. Shea Butter Extract from Target.

The produce guy at the health food store recommended plain Glycerin from most pharmacies. Works great! I apply it to my hands before sleeping and on my feet before putting on socks.

Reduce your intake of grapefruit, lemon, or other acidic foods. I have also found that Udder Cream is terrific in combating this problem. And it is not greasy like Vaseline so gloves aren't necessary and it doesn't stain.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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 !!!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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!

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.

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

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