hand washing

Q. I am a preschool teacher and have to wash my hands dozens of times a day in the attempt to avoid colds and flu. I am suffering the worst case of dried-out winter skin I can remember with deep painful cracks around my fingernails.

I’ve tried everything under the sun from Eucerin and Corn Husker’s Lotion to Aveeno and Aquaphor. My hands are still a mess and the cracks make it hard to type or fasten buttons. Help!

A. Cold dry air and frequent handwashing are guaranteed to cause dry skin misery. Readers tell us that using Chapstick (or other lip balm) on the cracks is sometimes helpful. Another approach for cracked fingertips is instant glue. A safer solution might be liquid bandage such as New-Skin or Band-Aid brand.

For more recommendations on healing dry, cracked skin we are sending you our Guide to Skin Care & Treatment. Wearing cotton or disposable vinyl gloves over a greasy moisturizer overnight can also help dry cracked skin heal.

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  1. Steve
    Lafayette, Colorado

    I am being treated for cancer and one of the chemotherapy side effects is dry, splitting skin, especially on fingertips. In my opinion the absolute BEST thing I’ve found is from O’Keeffe’s, called Working Hands. Usually at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc., in the paint department, as painters really dry out their hands. It is awesome – feels a little greasy for a few minutes, but it soaks in.

  2. Jackie
    Tampa, FL

    I suffer from painful cracked fingertips, every winter it seems, for a couple of years. Recently my husband saw TV ad for O’Keeffe’s Working Hands hand cream. I doubted but it works!!! Got it at Walmart.

  3. MRH

    My wife was also a school teacher and has experienced the same dry, cracking skin on her hands for years. Nothing seemed to help; Bag Balm, various seed oils,etc., until she discovered Working Hands. It is non-greasy and is now part of her daily care regimen. This has been a terrific find, so I hope that you have the opportunity to hear about it and try it for yourself.

  4. Peggy

    I have had a rash on my hand and wrist for several years. I had no success with any of the medical treatments the doctors gave me. I read about using pepto bismol and chap stick on the area in your column. While both worked extremely well, the area on my wrist was helped the most by the chap stick . As the area began to heal, each time it began to itch, I applied the chap stick, and in about two months the area was healed. There were a few times this summer when it looked like it was going to break down again, so I began to apply the chap stick and it stopped the problem in it’s tracks. Thank- you for the suggestion!.

  5. C R

    Get some socks – cotton, before going to bed every night, wash your hands very thoroughly, then dry them completely. Next rub large amounts of A&D skin ointment on the cracks, then cover with socks. A few nights of this treatment should heal the cracks completely. My husband uses this after working in the freezer at work.

  6. Sara C

    I can heartily recommend Kiss My Face plain Olive Oil soap, the bar only. Since I have used that soap exclusively, dry skin, hangnails, and hard cuticles are a thing of the past. Whenever I use regular soap in a public washroom, my hands dry out immediately. And people say my facial skin looks pretty darn good, too, and I never use moisturizer.

  7. Gayle

    When I have had this type of really dry skin I used pure lanolin. It comes in a tube and can be found at some pharmacies. It takes very little at a time, but used regularly, especially at night, will soften the skin and prevent a recurrence.

  8. Diane

    I am a nurse and wash my hands a million times a day. I buy lanolin-based hand creams, when available, but I also rely on Duluth Trading Company’s “No Crack Hand Cream.” This is a non-greasy formula and contains allantoin. I thought I would need something with a greasy feel, but I put this on at night, it soaks right in, and in a couple days those cracks around my fingertips are gone. A 16-oz tub lasts forever. My husband uses this too; we will not be without it.

  9. Jennie

    Nothing works better than O’Keeffe’s Working Hands cream. Just try it- you will notice an improvement overnight. It’s the only thing that ever worked for my husband. The winter after he discovered it his hands didn’t even crack.

  10. LCA

    Thanks for all the “cracked fingertips” suggestions. I need relief for cracked and thick cuticles. Does anyone have a remedy? Help!

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