Q. I am a preschool teacher so I can’t grease up my hands. My lessons are individualized and I am handling materials for them all day.

I am suffering! Cracks near my fingernails appear out of nowhere. I wash my hands up to 25 times a day and wear bandages at night.

I live at 9400 feet and the lack of humidity at this altitude is extreme. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with these painful cracks?

A. Greasy moisturizers work well for dry skin and cracks, but they make it hard to handle paper or computer keyboards. Many readers of this column have suggested tips for healing cracks. They include liquid bandage, lip balm, vitamin D and flax seed oil. We are sending you our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment with many other suggestions for dry skin and cracked fingertips.

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  1. RALPH

    Hi, One of the main problems might be that you are washing your hands too often. This is un-natural & if you are using soap it can cause all sorts of problems.
    As a keen gardener, I learned from an old chap that it was far better to wash hands thoroughly with just cold water, using a nail-brush if necessary, as soap removes natural oils & dries the hands, causing them to become increasingly more susceptible to absorption of dirt & bacteria (especially if one uses anti-bacterial soap which removes all Good bacteria as well as bad) and makes them harder to clean – A vicious circle!
    Increased consumption of seed oils such as flax will find their way to the skin too, far more effective than suffocating the skin with mineral oils (ie; Vaseline)
    Good luck!

  2. mk

    I have severely dry skin and I tried amlactin one time and it burned me so bad I was screaming and washing it off. I guess when you have severe dry red skin you can’t use this stuff. I now use oils such as almond, coconut, and avocado. Much better and its natural without toxic chemicals.

    • Paul
      United States

      My guess is that it is due to rubbing in shaving foam with your fingers. I had that problem and my fingertips would bleed when playing the piano

  3. JRP

    I have been having this problem, and I soundly believe it is due to using Clobetasol Propionate Cream. It is known for causing thinning of the skin, and I always use the same finger to apply it. Now I wear a finger cot to protect myself from the cream on my fingers. When cracks do appear, I use pain-relief neosporine. I also use finger cots 30 count for 4.99 at local walgreens to wear until it heals.
    Skin cracks typically come from a swelling, then a crack, and it continues to crack until it is able to retain moisture again and heal. If you just put a good amount (toothpaste amount) inside the finger cot, and then slip it over your finger, in 2-3 days you will be right as rain. Plus, the pain will go away and that’s the best part. Ugly fingers I can deal with, super finger pain I cannot.
    ps- I used to worry about infection so I would wash it constantly to keep infection out. That is just about the worst thing you can do. Wash it, get it cleaned, and then just keep liquid on it, but make it an antibacterial one. Also, stay away from ANYTHING (lotion) with fragrance. It’s like putting a lemon to razor burn.

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