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

Compared to most health problems, cracked fingertips seem trivial. But anyone who has ever struggled with sore painful fingers will tell you they can turn normal daily activities into agony.

A reader confided:

“It is very frustrating and sometimes depressing to be in so much discomfort and have to refrain from peeling and eating an orange, washing dishes, buttoning clothes, putting on jewelry and other normally enjoyable activities.”

Why Fingertips Crack:

It is not entirely clear why fingertips sometimes split open. This problem is most common in winter, so dry skin is the usual suspect. People who wash their hands a lot, from mechanics to health care providers, are especially vulnerable. When thyroid hormone levels drop too low, dry skin, particularly cracked fingertips, may result.


Fungal infections may be an unsuspected contributing factor.

One reader discovered:

“While using the antifungal shampoo Nizoral for a dandruff condition, I noticed the cracked skin on my hands also improved tremendously. Now when symptoms appear I wash my hands using Nizoral (ketoconazole) three times a week. I’ve tried everything my dermatologist had to offer but this is the only treatment that actually worked.”

Nizoral shampoo is available over the counter.

A Baltimore reader used a prescription drug:

“I had a prescription for nystatin and triamcinolone cream. After applying it to my fingers several times a day they healed quickly. I suspect the cracks may be caused by a fungal infection, since nystatin is an antifungal medicine.”

Another reader uses a natural product:

“Fingertip splitting can be very painful, especially since I’m using (and washing) my hands a lot as a massage therapist. I found that applying tea tree oil to the splits helps them heal in just a few days. It takes much longer when treating with moisturizers alone. I now apply the oil at the first sign of cracks and haven’t had much pain from them in years.”

Tea tree oil has antifungal activity, which may explain the success. Beware, though, that some people break out in a rash when they are exposed to tea tree oil.


A good moisturizer is invaluable. According to dermatologists, the greasier the better. You might want to put on simple cotton gloves at bedtime after applying a heavy moisturizing ointment such as Vaseline or Aquaphor to protect your sheets. We are enthusiastic about urea-containing moisturizers such as Udderly Smooth Extra Care Cream. (Disclosure: the manufacturer underwrites our public radio show.) During the day, a quick fix may be as close as your lip balm.

One person shared this:

“ChapStick works for temporary relief of cracked fingertips.”

Sealing the Skin:

Many readers have discovered that sealing the cracks can help them heal faster, too:

As one reader reported:

“I am a carpenter and I have had split fingers and thumbs every winter for years. I read about instant glue being used by medics in Vietnam so I tried it. It works great to seal splits and make the pain go away. This approach is easy and cheap.”

Household instant glue may be irritating for some. Liquid bandage could accomplish the same outcome and be safer, though more expensive.

Keeping Hands Dry:

Protecting hands from water and detergent is also important.

Here’s what one reader says about waterproof gloves:

“What helped me most was rubber gloves. Now I never put my hands in water, except to shower. This is a great preventive measure, and well worth the cost and the inconvenience.”

Protective gloves, available in latex-free formulations as well as rubber, can be extremely helpful for people who need to wash dishes or anything else on a regular basis.

Moisturizers are crucial in the fight against cracked fingertips. Adding some of these other tricks may also help ease winter discomfort.

How Can You Heal Your Cracked Fingertips?

Revised 2/19/18

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Nancy
    Athens, Ohio

    A friend told me about applying hand lotion immediately and always after his hands get wet in winter. This works beautifully for me. When the skin is wet, it absorbs water, so even with towel drying, there is still water in the skin tissue that evaporates into dry air, robbing the skin of moisture. Putting lotion on immediately prevents that drying.

  2. Royce
    San Antonio, TX

    I worked with a retired US Air Force man, years back. He informed me that anytime you get cracks on mouth/hands, you need more water in your system. For some people it means going to the bathroom to sit down, is the only side effect I know of.

  3. Bill

    O’Keefe’s Working Hands. Best stuff out there.

  4. Diane
    Central NY

    I occasionally have a cracked area around a fingernail and find that putting triple antibiotic ointment (over the counter, various brands) on it then covering with band aids really helps- sometimes just overnight.

  5. Jim

    Wisconsin winters play havoc with my fingertips. I apply liquid vitamin E as often as I can. I buy it in 3oz bottles from Puritan’s Pride but you can pierce capsules with a sterilized pin too. Vitamin E speeds healing of any cut and reduces scarring; as an oil it moisturizes too. If a really bad split, put the oil on a bandaid esp. before bed. I’ve also had success with liquid bandage and epoxy.

  6. Marianne

    Many years ago a friend told me to use Foamy Shaving Lather to wash my hands to avoid cracked finger tips. It has no detergent. I did — now it is next to every sink in my house. Worked amazingly.

  7. Jan

    My mother went to medical school. In the winter, when our hands were dry, she put us to bed with lanolin on our hands in cotton gloves. Next morning, all were healed.

  8. Bill B.
    Fort Worth Texas

    In the winter I used to get painful little cracks on my knuckles and fingertips. The soles of my feet would also become dry and crack. I put plain old inexpensive petroleum jelly on both and never again had this problem. It may not work for everyone, but for those that it does, it is hard to find a more effective and economical solution.

  9. Jan

    15 years ago I suffered from cracked fingers every winter and tried everything to moisturize them to no avail. About the same time I began taking CO-Q-10 for crippling arthritis. 200 mg a day. Within weeks my cracked fingers disappeared and have never returned, and within 2 years my arthritis was gone. CO-Q-10 works to improve your heart, gums, hair growth, and just about every part of your body.

  10. Jak
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Last comments were posted 2.2013, not sure anyone will comment now in 1.2016…I have slits on thumb and index fingers only on both hands. They get dirty looking and I’m constantly scrubbing them trying always to use only drysoap.. I have tried days on end moisturizing with aquaphor healing ointment,vaseline,cocoa butter,vitaminE oil, coconut oil etc..NOTHING WORKS,Its very embarrassing being a female . I am out of ideas, tried cotton gloves after moisturizing, rubbergloves while washing dishes in sink, I can’t figure out why I have this problem nor how to help it…Any ideas from anyone? There is no pain ever .Just slit like cuts that I can’t clean or heal..

    • Jim

      As I just posted, use vitamin E; put it on at night with a bandaid — lots of E on the band aid. Use it throughout the day. the post about Co-Q-10 sounds intriguing too.

  11. NF

    I discovered “Working Hands” in a round, green, plastic container (there’s also Working Feet in a blue container – same ingredients). A dab usually does it. Works wonders for me!

  12. MT

    I put neosporin on the cuts and then a pair of disposable latex gloves on my hands and wear to bed at night and when I awaken in the morning the cuts are pretty much healed, even though temporary it really helps with the pain! I reuse the same gloves until they wear out.

  13. EPF

    I live in AZ, where it’s super dry, and I’ve had this as a chronic problem for years. (Never happened to me back in my native, humid New York!) I’m telling you now: Forget the fancy lotions and cremes– I tried all of those. Save your money. I just recently found the miracle cure: GLYCERINE.
    Ask for a bottle at your local pharmacy. I started rubbing it into my hands every night, and after just a few days the cracks were gone! I have never since had those cracked and painful fingertips. It works, period.
    (Caveat: If you have bad splits, it does burn a little the first couple of times you apply it, but as your cracks heal, the pain goes away and it just feels good). Just make sure it’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep, since obviously your hands will be all greasy from it.
    A couple of mentions of glycerine soap appear below, but nobody really touched on using pure glycerine. It has not only healed them, but is maintaining my fingers crack free. As a musician, this is extremely important to me!

    • James
      United States

      I also use Neosporin on the cuts on my fingers (I get them every year during the cold months in Virginia). I also use a lotion called “Elta Lite” (I get it from my doctor, but it is available over-the-counter in some stores). When the cuts get really bad, I put Neosporin on the cuts and then lather my hands in the lotion and wear gloves to bed. The next morning, my fingers feel great and this will usually last me about a week or so before I have to do it all over again. Very frustrating….and painful…..but just something I’ve learned to live with during the cold months in Virginia.

  14. pl

    My fingers were cracked and bleeding with nothing helping for years. I read some of the suggestions here and decided to try the nizoral shampoo and the vicks vapor rub. What a relief my fingers are almost completely healed and the vicks relieved the pain immediately. They started healing right away. It has only been about 4 days.

  15. Raymond B.

    Try using badger balm soothes in minutes best stuff I’ve ever used.

  16. Les

    Get some “Skin Shield” (it smells like clear nail varnish and may very well be the same thing) and put a couple of coatings on your cut. It will sting at first but, like super glue, will hold the cut together and keep the water out; also dries very quickly and stays put on your finger all day and night. Cuts clear up in a couple of days. I used to suffer from these cuts all the time and used endless band-aids but this cures them and is a blessing.

  17. Deb

    You can also purchase finger rubbers at the dollar store of Walmart.

  18. DL

    An extraordinarily common ingredient in body lotions, hair products and creams — even supposedly hypoallergenic formulas — is silicone or variants thereof (dimethicone, trimethicone, etc.). Patch testing by a dermatologist can reveal if one is allergic to it — I was!
    I recommend U-Lactin lotion, available online or by special order through a pharmacy. The formula is free of silicone additives whereas the active ingredient, lactic acid, works to heal dry, cracked skin with daily application. Although pure shea and cocoa butter will help in a pinch, U-Lactin lotion, which is PH balanced, provided complete relief to my spouse, whose cracked, split fingers persisted year around in spite of Bag Balm, Noxema and many other supposed remedies. Amlactin is a bit more expensive and more readily available, but is a bit harsher — acidic enough to impart a burning sensation on extremely dry or sensitive skin. U-Lactin is the gentler, less costly alternative.
    If a fungal infection is suspected, daily soaks with warm water, epsom salts, apple cider vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil will help bring it under control (followed by the U-Lactin cream). The pH of human skin is 5.5 whereas the vast majority of soaps and so-called skin care products on the market aren’t suited to support the skin’s natural, protective mantel, typically because they are too alkaline. ACV, Urea, Lactic Acid — work to more closely align with the pH of human skin.
    Just about any product with sufficient quantities of Urea or Lactic Acid, specifically, ought to do the trick. Finally, consider adding high-quality EFAs to one’s diet, be it flax, fish (EPA/DHA), olive oil and/or borage oil (for GLA content).

  19. Deborah

    I have suffered for years both winter dryness as well as summer gardening with dry cracked, split finger tips including thumbs. It is a real pain just doing normal daily activities. The pain is unbelievable. I never realized just how many activities involve using the hands, fingertips.
    I have used hand lotions, petroleum jelly for years and nothing helped. Finally I stumbled on Nystatin or an antifungal cream. Relatively cheap, no scrips, OTC from your local pharmacy. Viola, after 6 years of being in misery and avoidance of daily activities I am finally healed.
    Trust me what have you got to loose. Slightly more than hand cream or Vaseline which never provided me with any relief.
    Hope this helps

  20. Deb

    Many people here are hungry for a cure (some even put it in ALL CAPS) but as with any problem, prevention can’t be overlooked. I think it’s really important to look at what soaps and lotions you’re using (the problem for me has become much worse since taking a full-time office job where I’m regularly using a commercial soap to wash my hands). Since leaving a bottle of chemical-free (including Sodium Lauryl Sulfates) soap into the bathroom at work, the problem has really decreased.
    Steering clear of chemical-filled lotions seems to make a difference on the rest of my body and I’m going to try it on my hands. (After decades of suffering from a very itchy back I switched, on the advice of a well-known beauty editor, to a Burt’s Bees lotion. It turns out a lot of the itching was coming from ingredients in the allegedly super-healing lotions.)
    As far as treatment, I recommend buffing away dry skin on your finger and thumb tips using whatever you use for calluses on your feet before embarking on your preferred treatment regimen. If I do it morning and night (on dry skin) it really helps. Go gently around the edges of the crack — it may be a little ouchy at first but only for seconds, and it’s worth it.
    Once I’ve buffed away the dry skin the edges of the crack can knit together and heal much more easily. After cleaning with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, I moisturize with Burt’s Bee’s Res-Q balm or, if it’s a more serious situation, I dab on a little Liquid Bandage or Crazy Glue (which totally goes against my go-for-natural remedies thing and I think is ultimately counterproductive but sometimes a person gets desperate!).

  21. Andy K.

    As some one by the name of Holly mentioned Vick’s Vapo Rub or a generic brand works for me. It doesn’t burn me. I rub it on my hands after I finish getting read for bed. I wash my hands only partially drying them and then apply the Vick’s and wear plastic gloves to seal in the moisture. My hands are better in 2 to 4 days but I have be sure to not skip. It also helps if during part of the day you can wear the plastic gloves after applying hand cream.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.