Q. What’s the story on petroleum jelly? I have used it for years to soothe dry cracked skin, split finger tips and chapped lips. Why do some people badmouth this cheap moisturizer?

A. People seem to either love or hate petrolatum (petroleum jelly). One visitor to our website offered the following:

“For years I tried just about every lotion or cream on the market. Nothing worked for my cracked fingers and hands. A nurse told me about Vaseline (petroleum jelly). It worked both for me and for my husband. Several times a day and especially at night I rub some on my knees, elbows, knuckles and anywhere skin tends to crack. I love my petroleum jelly.” L.

Others are not so happy with this approach. Some complain that petroleum jelly is a byproduct of the oil-refining process and is not environmentally friendly. Others find it is not all that effective:

“I have tried petroleum jelly. I put tons on and rub it in and sleep with gloves. Nothing works. This morning I woke up with another crack.” Cheryl


“My thumbs and two fingertips on both hands crack and are very sore. I have gotten several different creams from doctors and nothing works. I have been dealing with it for a couple of years now. I have tried all the lotions and petroleum jelly. I have to type at my job and my fingers are always bandaged. Unsightly to say the least. HELP!” Dee


“I am constantly using my smart phone, iPad and computer throughout the day. Petroleum jelly is just too greasy. I hate smearing up my phone and keyboard. Trying to wipe this stuff off is a constant hassle. Surely there is something that will work for my dry skin that won’t make everything I touch feel slippery.” J.


We are not impartial observers to the moisturizer controversy. One of the underwriters of our radio show is Redex Industries, makers of Udderly Smooth skin moisturizing lotions and creams to relieve dry skin. We are especially fond of their urea-containing products. That’s because dermatologists report that urea protects the barrier function of the skin. Here is just one recent message from a visitor:

“I have dry skin and for years suffered with sore cracks on my thumbs.

“I read about Udderly Smooth Moo Cream in your newspaper column, searched for it and finally found it at a CVS store and bought the only two jars they had left.

“I gave one to my daughter-in-law who is a nurse who has to wash and disinfect her hands frequently. Within a short time my sore cracks healed as did hers and with regular use have not reappeared.”

“I now carry a tube with me as does my daughter-in-law. Another plus, the price is affordable. Thank you.” EL

People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to skin problems. Quite often their skin becomes dehydrated and dry, despite drinking lots of water during the day. The barrier function of the skin becomes especially vulnerable when air is dry during the winter. A report in the Journal of Cosmetic Science (Sept-Oct, 2013) reports that urea helps hydrate and protect the outer layer of the skin.

Anyone who would like Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream with 20% urea may be interested in our Winter Skin Survival Kit, with two tubes of Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream and three (+ 1 free) tubes of Pomegranate All Natural Lip Care. This sale will cease on March 1st, so stock up now! You may also find the large size 8 oz tub of Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 an attractive bargain.

Join Over 54,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. SGH
    Reply

    Me too. I don’t normally use a bandaid, but it does work. I put it on a hangnail too; heals more quickly.

  2. MCM
    Reply

    I am looking into urine treatments for dry, cracked feet and hands. I am thinking seriously about giving it a go. That is something I have plenty of…and it’s free. I have read that it also treat foot fungus. Comments from people that have tried it seems to swear by it. I do not like the thought of messing around with urine but dry cracked skin is an even worse of a problem for me. If it actually works I could learn to like it.

  3. MIS March 4, 2014 8:23 PM
    Reply

    For cracked fingertips, use either SKIN SHIELD or Kroger brand LIQUID BANDAGE. It covers the open cracks like clear nail polish and sorta smells like nail polish, but does the job.

  4. A.X.
    Reply

    I use organic olive oil on dry hands. I put it on at night before going to bed and my skin seems to love the stuff. No additives or chemicals, and it works well.

  5. MR
    Reply

    Since I’ve been using an omega-7 (sea buckthorn) supplement, I have not gotten the cracked fingertips that I used to often get in the winter. I have a feeling it’s good for my cell membranes in general, and I’m going to continue using it.

  6. Judy M
    Reply

    I have always understood that petroleum jelly or petrolatum is actually DRYING and that is why many skin lotions do not contain it.

  7. MDP
    Reply

    I am 70yrs old. I have Crohn’s colitis and avoid wheat and diary. I have had chronic topical dermatitis since childhood. Also bouts with eczema. After years of prescribed cortisone (which I now refuse to use because my skin is thin and papery) plus every lotion that claimed to address extremely dry skin, including Udder Cream, a new dermatologist told me to save my money and just use a light coating of Vaseline all over after every shower and at bedtime. It has worked wonders! Yes, it’s a little messy for a short time, but to have relief from scaly, maddening itching skin, I can handle it.

  8. fbl
    Reply

    Gluten may not be the only allergen. Testing for allergies is a good idea. The Food Safe test is a blood test that is quick and easy. Also it is a LOT cheaper (and easier) than the old needle prick tests that I had to go through many years ago.
    Our society has been brainwashed about fats and so many people avoid them like the plague. Our body needs fats but not the vegetable oils. I found this out years ago when I gave up giving my hubby low cholesterol and a low fat diet. His numbers kept going up!
    So what did I do and what does it have to do with skin? We went back to the old fashioned eating of natural fats and got rid of the oils, other than Virgin Olive Oil. We use organic coconut and palm oil, organic bacon drippings etc. This did a great job with hubby’s cholesterol numbers-down over 100 points. Has been amazing for my skin too.
    Our afternoon treat (for him too now that he is retired) is a hot chocolate made with a base of coconut oil mixed with organic cocoa in a heated mug, cinnamon, a pinch of sea salt, boiling water, stevia and about 6-7 teaspoons of heavy cream.
    Sounds crazy? Yup, but crazy works! I don’t have cracked fingers or feet anymore, I’ve lost about 100 pounds and even my Dr. has commented on how great my skin is. I also use the Tropical Traditions hand lotion as needed. It is coconut and palm oil based.

  9. JK
    Reply

    Dish detergents may be the culprit for some of these folks so they so they should try wearing gloves if they need to do dishes by hand.

  10. Mairzy Doats
    Reply

    My allergist told me I’m allergic to petrolatum. It causes unbearable itching, in addition to the greasiness.

  11. Suz
    Reply

    My husband and I both swear by Neosporin and a bandaid for cracked skin. Works over night every time!

  12. Jane
    Reply

    For those of you whose cracked skin does not resolve with any topical product, your cracks are most likely due to either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. My hands were raw, and nothing worked. Three months after being diagnosed and giving up gluten, my skin was healed, and I haven’t had a crack in over 10 years. Gluten has a profound effect on the entire body — head to toe — not just the gut.

  13. CAK
    Reply

    Being that you are underwritten by the folks that make Udder Cream, I have been wondering of late about the fact that it contains parabens. I’ve been using Udder Cream for years and love its feel and find it helpful. I don’t know much about parabens but read about them in a negative context, and I see products labeled paraben-free. I use it all over my old wrinkly body after showering. Could you shed some light on the paraben issue?

    • cary
      Canada
      Reply

      Oh hey, Vaseline makes me itchy too! Well, that’s good to know. I can’t handle mineral oil either.

      Lol @ old wrinkly body. Some people just say cute things.

  14. CAH
    Reply

    Two votes from our house for Udderly Smooth cream–if used regularly, will keep those nasty finger cracks away. An additional (but lovely) side note: it is not “greasy” like many hand creams, and of course, petroleum jelly is the worst for this particular feature. A jar will last for a winter, so it is economical as well as the other good points. By the way, a plug for “The People’s Pharmacy–it was on this site that we first heard of Udderly Smooth cream!

  15. Kahleen
    Reply

    I’ll go with Utterly Smooth!

  16. alxzba
    Reply

    would like to get comments on this, please. Thanks.

  17. JG
    Reply

    I use petroleum jelly for my dried cuticles. It is the only “medication” that seems to work. Give it a try if you have not already done so. Good luck.

  18. lk
    Reply

    solid lanolin. works extremely well with dry, cracked, bleeding hands. also works on lips. my son’s hands would chap severely in the winter. one over night application and the next morning we would see a marked improvement. he was under 10 and it’s sticky and he didn’t like it, but it worked! still at 16, he doesn’t like it, but he uses it on his own to heal his cracked, chapped skin. I have not found anything that works this quickly and this well. by the way, I have tried liquid lanolin and it just doesn’t work as well.

    • cary
      Reply

      Aquaphor is amazing lip balm, but I cant use lanolin on my face, it makes me sweat.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.