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Suffering From Sandpaper Skin & Cracked Fingertips

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Q. My skin is in terrible shape. This winter has dried out my skin, nails and even my lips. The tips of my fingers are so dry that they have split open and are incredibly painful. Even typing on a keyboard hurts.

I have tried the instant glue on the cracks and while it helps a little it does nothing for the dry skin. I have tried first aid cream and hand lotions without any improvement. What else can I use to ease the sandpaper that my skin has become?

A. Dermatologists often recommend super greasy creams and lotions like Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Aquaphor or Eucerin. You may feel a bit like a greased pig, but these products can ease the discomfort of dry cracked fingers, especially if you smear the moisturizer on thickly before climbing into bed and then wearing cotton gloves to protect the sheets.

We are even more fond of skin creams with urea. This is a natural compound that is found in the body (unlike petroleum jelly). When urea is included in a skin cream it offers superb skin protection. Not only does urea improve the barrier function of the skin, it actually regulates gene activity to improve the skin's defenses against bacteria. This has been described in detail in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Redex Industries, the makers of Udderly Smooth Udder Cream (and sponsors of our radio show) have come up with two urea-containing versions of their famous moisturizer. There is Udderly Smooth Extra Care Cream with 10% urea. You can also get what we consider "professional strength" Extra Care 20 with 20% urea. This is the strongest urea cream you can buy without a prescription. People with diabetes or those undergoing chemotherapy find this skin cream especially helpful, but it is also great for people with dry, cracked "sandpaper" skin.

We are offering our Winter Skin Survival Kit with Extra Care 20 containing the cream (20% urea) plus our all-natural lip care products (pomegranate, berry and chocolate mint). We are offering a 15% discount OFF the individual pricing for these products for everyone who has been experiencing especially dry skin and lips this winter. Here is a link to Special Sale for the Winter Skin Survival Kit.

One unexpected bonus from using a 20% urea cream came from a reader:

I developed a skin condition on my lower leg for which my dermatologist recommended skin cream with 20 percent urea (OTC). The area was near some spider veins, and during the course of treatment the spider veins faded where some of the urea cream got on them.

I began to cover the entire spider vein area with the urea cream and now they are almost completely gone. Have you heard of using urea cream to treat spider veins?
The change was really dramatic. I assume it was due to the action of the urea on these superficial veins.

Since we shared this story we have heard from others:

RLM wrote:

I applied the cream at night before bed. The patches began to fade in 2 weeks and were almost totally gone in another 3 weeks. My doctor was surprised at the results and assumed it was due to the keritolytic action of the Urea on the superficial veins.

And then there was this:

"I do not have serious eczema but it arises periodically on my hands. I have tried all of the remedies that I know of--including dietary restrictions-- and the one that cleared my eczema quickly and thoroughly was Udderly Smooth Udder Cream Extra Care 20, WITH 20% UREA.

"I was amazed at the almost instant pain relief, followed by total clearing within a few days. The Udderly Smooth cream without the urea was good for simple dry skin but didn't cure the eczema. I ordered this product for those on my Christmas list and highly recommend it to anyone with eczema or any other skin problem. Thank you, once again, People's Pharmacy!"
TTPOL

We would also like to learn what you have been using for your dry skin, cracked fingers and chipped nails. What works for your dry lips? Share your story below.


And don't forget our Winter Skin Survival Kit.

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40 Comments

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Why don't you answer people with winter dry skin and cracked lips to take Omega-3 fish oils. I used to get very dry, cracked lips and dry hands a few winters ago, but since I've taken liquid fish oil daily for at least 3 years, my lips and hands stay equally moist, winter and summer. I'm 72 and I regularly get compliments on my soft skin and almost wrinkle free face.

These 'remedies' work for me: ***in the winter, unless you are a chimney sweep(er?) or mix mud, don't take frequent showers and wash needed body parts at the sink, ***when you do shower, reduce temperature of water and use mild soap sparingly, ***if you get an itch, use Vaseline (not much) following a shower, ***and importantly, wear plastic gloves if you hand-wash dishes, ***use Vaseline on hands and/or around finger nails, not to the extent of getting greasy, just rub it in good and wipe off excess.

I don't find that Udderly Smooth helps with the dryness at all. It seems to hold moisture and softens only. Plain old Vaseline works best

Dial foaming hand wash dried my hands to the point of cracks down the knuckle side that looked like cat scratches. Clear tape used to hold IV needles produced a crater about the size of a quarter when removed. My hands were even swollen.

Goats milk soap helped clear the problem. I also used the heavy creams and cotton gloves at night. It started to clear up the first week to the p0oint that it didn't hurt anymore, but took a long time to completely heal.

Readers might also consider using coconut oil. It is easily accessible. I have used it myself though not often enough to recommend it for stubborn cases. Super Glue is usually sufficient to heal the cracks on my fingers. Many traditional cultures use coconut oil as an emollient, and it is used as part of a bush medicine treatment for dandruff. I would be interested to know if others have tried it for dry, cracked skin.

Omega-3 fish oil helps with dried skin. My husband has suffered from dry cracked skin for years, but he would not take fish oil. He started taking fish oil on doctor's recommendation for another problem. His skin has improved so much. It is almost normal now. I have also found that putting bag balm on my hands and wearing gloves or on my heels and wearing socks to bed works very well. I tried a dermatologist recommended expensive prescription with urea without success. I told him to recommend bag balm to his patients.

My husband and I use shea butter (NOW brand) for our fingertips and hands. It has a nice smooth feel, is not too greasy, and although it may not be the most heavy-duty treatment, it is nice enough to use several times a day.

Products with urea are the only thing I have found that works great on callouses. Even though I exercise rigorously, since I have used urea products on my heel, I don't have callouses anymore. My heels are smooth as silk!

Years ago I continually had cracked fingers or some type of rash that itched even during the night. I tried cotton gloves over medicated fingers but they would absorb the medication. I resorted to covering each finger with a piece of plastic wrap after medicating and slept with it through the night. It's a little trouble but worked like a charm. It was amazing the difference I saw and felt the following morning.

I have had excessively dry skin since I was a child. I must have gone through thousands of bottles of hand lotion or cream for dry skin! I have used Vasoline at night, but last month I found another form of it, Vasoline Creamy Petroleum Jelly. It's not as oily, it takes a bit to rub it in, but it has softened the sandpaper areas of my hands and helped the dry cracks heal a little faster. I'm mentioning this for the people who can't afford expensive creams, I found the 7 oz. creamy vasoline at a dollar store. I does help the budget! The cream with urea sounds good too, I think I might try that too.

Coconut oil works for me. But it is terribly greasy.

I have always wondered how you can recommend and sponsor Utterly Smooth products. Have you looked at the lists of ingredients? They include a host of things I would not put on my skin, including parabens. There are so many clean lotions and creams on the market now that are so pure you could eat them. I also never use a product that comes in plastic given what we now know about the harmful chemicals leaching into the products.

I bathe with Dove (unscented) soap and use Aveeno lotion on my body after. It woks OK. I am anxious to use the "Udder" lotions.

I use shea butter from Compliments of Nature (an internet company in Jacksonville FL) I have scleroderma, which causes drying of my tissues, and this product has been better than the expensive creams and lotions from the dermatologist.

I have Sjogren's and Raynaulds so dry skin is a given. My mom used to rub me down with lard. For fingernail cuticles, a dermatologist recommended Elon cream. It's the only product that keeps my cuticles from cracking and bleeding. He also gave me a recipe to make my own body oil--1/2 cup each of mineral oil, glycerin, and water with a tablespoon of salt. Works great.

The biggest difference, though, is in limiting the times I put my hands in water. Rubber gloves are under every sink, and I use Latex disposal gloves in preparing food. Never touch raw meat. Unless I really feel it necessary, I do not use soap and water to clean my hands. I use Gold Bond Hand Sanitizer because it is alcohol free.

Also, I use hand cream several times a day. If you handle a lot of paper at work, wear cotton gloves. You can order them on the internet. I've not tried the Udder cream you recommend, but look forward to using in the future. A product called Epilyt helps coat the skin and prevent cracking. However, it is not a moisturizer. It did, however, help the cracking. My lips are so dry they burn constantly. I use Aquaphor during the day and Lip Medex by Blistex at night.

For my dry lips I find cocoa butter very helpful. Also, I use coconut oil on dry rough hands, arms and other areas exposed to the atmosphere. It seems to absorb well into the skin not leaving it greasy. I am in my 80's.

The liquid from freshly broken pieces of aloe vera plant put on the cracks helps.

Painfully dry & itchy skin is often a sign of low thyroid. A few other diseases are reflected in the skin. A check with your doctor may find an underlying problem.

My dermatologist recommended Vanicream for the terrible rash on the front of my legs (that appeared as soon as the furnace was turned on this past fall). I apply it as soon as I get out of the shower and it works! No more rashes. But I'm going to try the Udderly Smooth Extra Care with 20% Urea as my hands have been terrible this winter (sandpapery + those nasty "paper cuts" that hurt unless you put bandaids on your fingers). Thanks for the great info'.

I am a redhead with extremely dry skin and various skin conditions and sensitivities, including palmopalmar pustulosis psoriasis and various forms of eczema. I have spend hundreds of dollars over the years on new and improved products, but I always return to raw shea butter (no brand and no additives) which may feel oily at first, but it goes into your skin and does not feel oily after a few minutes. When I am producing skin so fast that it forms layers and cracks and bleeds, I occlude my hands and feet with raw lanolin. Shepherds treat cuts by running their hands through sheep's wool for the healing effect of the lanolin. Both shea butter and lanolin which are sold under brands and labels are usually watered down or contain additives which hinder more than help. Petroleum-based products or petroleum itself causes your skin to become addicted to petroleum.

Independent or compounding pharmacies can order raw lanolin and Google import/export companies for info for ordering raw shea butter (the markup and addition of water in the USA is very common).

I juice one pound of organic carrots every morning and drink the juice with my breakfast. I began this two years ago. It took about two week for the rough red bumps on my legs to begin disappearing. I do use the Redux 20 percent cream for occasional flare ups. Today is my 83rd birthday.

The udder cream you mention is great. I'm looking forward to trying the one with urea. I have very dry itchy palms and between fingers. At one point I put my hands together and without even realizing what was happening I rubbed them so hard, they released a clear fluid and itched even more. I found that I could not fully open my hands without splitting the skin,{like paper cuts.}I then rubbed vitamin A & D cream deep in to palms and between fingers, it seemed to help. Thank-You for your site, I have been able to help others who cant afford or do not want a P C.

YOU SHOULD check for low vitamins and minerals... you probably are deficient in some. coconut oil will help, its antibacterial. etc...

Definitely try coconut oil. Put a lot on at night, and it does absorb into the skin well after a few minutes. Also SURGEON'S SKIN SECRET. It says beeswax moisturizing cream wih 25% beeswax on the tube. It helps chapped lips too. You could try that at bedtime. I ordered it online. I think maybe this column mentioned it at one time. When you wash your hands use the popular soft soap that has shea butter in it. And Udderly Smooth helps too. Once you get under control use a little all the time. And put a little on your wet legs after you get out of the shower..your razor will glide and your legs will be smooth. Just rinse your razor well.

A few respondents have the right idea, just the wrong process. Coconut oil taken INTERNALLY is the secret.

I used to have really serious dry skin problems, especially through the winter. About 13 years ago I discovered coconut oil and started making an afternoon treat of hot chocolate with it. My body loved it so much I sent for a book about coconut oil and was totally amazed.

I worked up to about two TB of coconut oil daily and it has done amazing things for my skin...and weight. Yup, I've lost almost 100 pounds since I started using the stuff. My afternoon treat has helped me fight the nibbles and leave some of the naughty stuff alone.

I've tried lots of different brands but seem to keep coming back to Tropical Traditions. It is minimally processed and is lovely in my hot chocolate as well as used externally. I've found that their liquid hand soap and body lotion are really great.

I emulsify the cocoa powder in the coconut oil in a heated cup and mix in cinnamon and sea salt. Add boiling water, stevia and cream.

Is there ANY remedy for WARTS? My husband has had them for years.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE:

Try searching this website for warts. You will find dozens of remedies. If one doesn't work there are LOTS more to consider.

You will also find them in our most recent book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies from The People's Pharmacy:

http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/home-remedies/index.html

When my skin cracks on the end of my finger, I dip it in golden Listerine and it heals after a few dips.

Yes, coconut oil is good taken internally for this and other reasons. It has had bad press (by soybean oil industry and others) because it is a tropical oil, considered a saturated fat, but it is in fact a medium chain fatty acid. Yes, as counter-intuitive as it seems it can help you lose weight, because of the metabolic energy costs in breaking it down. Like anything else, it shouldn't be overdone, but it is a healthy choice.

I suffered from dry cracked skin for years and have tried many lotions and creams with no satisfactory results. This winter I have been using JR Watkins (JRWatkins.com) "Petro-Carbo First Aide Salve" and have not had a single crack! I use a little morning and night. It's the only thing that has worked for me.

As a working nurse I have had years of cracked and painful fingers, mainly on the R hand. Don't like being exposed to all the germs we work in either. My Mom's MD reccommended lanolin. I order this at the Walmart pharmacy for around 3 bucks. Putting it on at bedtime(after warming it enough to spread) has been very effective. Other folks who have tried it where I work agree.

An article on hand cream containing urea on eHow states, "Urea cream shouldn't be used on broken skin, open wounds, infected areas or by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding."

I just got some because of cracked fingertips, but wonder why I shouldn't use it on "broken skin"?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It may sting, but we don't know of other reasons. We've found it helpful for that.

I like that --- very basic sometimes is the best!

I am trying the Udderly smooth cream after I read that a reader's spider veins were reduced. After I put on the cream I noticed a white residue on top of my skin. Might that reader think that this residue in fact made the spider veins look less noticeable?

Udderly Smooth people? HOW COME this EXTRA CARE 20% stuff isn't on the drug store shelf???

It's amazing! I have a type of psoriasis that causes scaling and cracking of my fingertips, and one application softened the scaling at my fingertips so that I can feel sensation again. It toned down the redness and made the scaling layers almost imperceptible. I put it on cracked, raw skin and it tingled a bit, but then the hypersensitive pain calmed right down.

One application! I can hardly WAIT to see what my hands look like in a week!

Folks, eight applications of Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20% cream over two days' time has done what eight WEEKS of cortisone cream couldn't. I'm flabbergasted by the improvement. I was hoping for a little relief--this is close to miraculous!

I'm buying stock in this stuff. Please don't ever change it!

Liberally applied virgin coconut oil to my fingers, hands as well as my extremities, before bed last night. I suffer from severe hyperthyroidism (Graves' Disease) and have bouts of cracks and fissures in my fingertips. It doesn't help that I work in a hospital setting and am required to use antibacterial gel many, many times each shift. I rubbed in the oil, and noticed that the palms of my hands were less like sandpaper. I applied a bit more. Today my hands, legs (rough and thickened due to the disease state) are exponentially improved. I am grateful for the anecdotal entries above. I'm hopeful. I also applied it to my big dog's elbow where he has a chronic patch of psoriasis. I've used all the OTC and Rx offerings of my medical experts. Nothing gave enough relief to warrant the challenges of side effects.

THAT HAPPENED TO ME several years ago until I found out that I was allergic/sensitive to most soaps and detergents. I only can use PH neutral with no hard chemicals… there are two soaps basis and…? ( I can't remember the name now) that are ok for sensitive skin. NORMAL SOAPS ARE A NO NO's
my skin got so bad that I had to wrap the hands with cotton gloves and tape to absorbed the antibiotics (I got a bad infection) it took me 6 months to clear it up. Try to see if you are also sensitive to strong soaps and detergents at home.

I have used Dove soap (fragrance free for sensitive skin) on my face and body for years. It has helped prevent any problems since I have psoriasis and very light sensitive skin.

I am in my seventies and have suffered from dry cracked fingertips for years. Every winter my fingers and elbows get cracked open from being so dry. I had tried many products and steroid creams from my doctor.

A friend of my wife recommended a product called epizyn. I have been using it for the past few years with great results. I apply with the first feeling of dryness and no symptoms appear throughout the winter with daily applications. I just wanted to share because I was so miserable.

George

I used to use coconut oil for the cracks in my skin on my thumbs during the winter. Now I put a drop of superglue on the cracks which stays in place for a week or two, during which time the crack heals. This is the easiest and fastest way to deal with this. Just make sure the superglue has dried before touching anything.

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