dry and cracked clay at sunset

Q. Every winter my skin gets awfully dry and itchy. My hands and particularly my fingertips really suffer. At times they crack and bleed. I heard that you have written about solutions for these problems. I would be so grateful if you would send me any information you have.

A. As indoor heating systems come on, humidity drops. That may be why dry skin is worse in the winter. Washing hands frequently to avoid colds or flu also aggravates dry skin.

Readers have suggested a variety of solutions, including O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream, TheraSeal Hand Protection and Lotil Cream. Inexpensive farmers’ moisturizers such as Bag Balm, Corn Huskers Lotion or Udder Cream (an underwriter of our radio show) are also popular.

Cracked fingertips can be extremely painful and moisturizing isn’t always enough. Some readers use Chap Stick or liquid bandage on split skin. We are sending you our new Guide To Skin Care and Treatment with many other ways to help heal cracked fingertips, ease eczema and relieve itchy, dry skin.

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  1. Randy C.

    Years ago, while working as an industrial electronics technician, I often got cracked knuckles in the winter time. This was painful and affected my work.
    I usually carried a Chap Stick for my lips and soon found that if I rubbed a little across my knuckles it helped to keep them from cracking. Also, I found that if any cracked I could rub Chap Stick right on the crack and would get instant relief from the pain and faster healing.
    I have been retired almost 14 years now and still use this occasionally.

  2. Nan

    I have been suffering from dry cracked fingertips for six years now. It has been one of the most painful, annoying conditions I have ever experienced. I traveled to three major medical centers to find a cure for my problem, with no success. I have spend hundreds of dollars on prescription and non prescription medications. A Dermatologist recently prescribed Salex Cream (6% Salicylic Acid).
    I began using it only three days ago and I have found great relief from this product. It is expensive ($235 for a 400g jar, pricey if you do not have insurance coverage) but worth every penny of it. My hands are 98% clear and I am thrilled. Unless you are suffering from this condition, you do not know the agony.

  3. Renay

    I have used Vicks with great success!! I also use liquid bandage and it has brought me all the way to March (almost) — pain free!!

  4. Paula

    As a school teacher, handling chalk always caused fingertips to dry out and crack. One of our veteran teachers suggested this tip: wrap the cracked fingertip with adhesive tape for a few days. It usually solves the problem if you do it before the crack gets too deep.

  5. TAS

    Just a bit of Kerasal on the palms of my hands works for me. It’s in the cracked heel section of the drug department.

  6. Holly

    When my hands are cracked open and bleeding, I rub Vicks into the area before going to bed. It really helps. There are times they heal over night. Some take a couple nights but it works wonders. You would think the Vicks would sting, but it doesn’t. Give it a try.

  7. PGW

    I use four pycnogenol capsules daily. It works for me.

  8. MJW

    Shea butter (100%) is the best I’ve found for cracked skin. I use is regularly.

  9. Gin

    Corona ointment which is on the order of Bag Balm, weve used it for years and it works. One can buy it at a feed store or where vet products are sold.

  10. mm

    100 percent African shea butter works better and is less expensive than all other creams I’ve used over years. Visit an African shop or buy online. Don’t be fooled by manufactured shea products — they contain little shea butter and are expensive. Real shea butter works on crows feet, lips, cracked skin, dry patches and for minor therepeutic pain relief and is safe if ingested. A natural safe product.
    Also like Vaseline — but Shea outshines by megawatts.

  11. MCD

    I had extremely painful cracks on my fingertips for years (in winter). At night, I would put Neosporin Pain Relief on most of my fingers (sometimes more than one crack per finger) and cover them with bandaids. The cracks would last 2-5 days each. I found a cream made for cracked heels that has eliminated all my problems: no more cracked fingers. The cream is called: Heel Rescue, Superior Moisturizing Foot Cream. It comes in a tub with a pump top. It has no fragrance or lanolin (both which could also be causing you problems).

  12. Emily G.

    I’m from New Mexico, always dry and dryer in the winter. You recommended some lotions by brand name, a cheap and great alternative is vaseline. For dry hands or feet slather them with vaseline and wear gloves or socks to bed. Socks can also be worn on hands for the same effect.

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