Very dry skin

Q. Every year during the winter months, I have a problem with my thumbs cracking at the edge of my thumbnails. It takes weeks for them to heal, and the cracks are very painful. They do not respond to any crack creams or lotions. They clear up on their own only to reappear a few weeks later. They look exactly like a cut, but they hurt a lot more. What can you suggest? Winter is almost here!

A. Many people find that liquid bandage can help protect these fingertip splits so they can heal more quickly. Here’s another reader’s report on this problem:

“It can be extremely painful just doing everyday things: washing dishes, picking up small objects, buttoning clothes or writing. The only thing that gives me any relief has been instant glue. My doctor said I could use it as long as it wasn’t a big, gaping wound. The glue gets hard enough to protect the cuts, keeps out water, dirt, bacteria and stays on just long enough to let my cut heal from the inside out and then it peels off.”

We are sending you our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment for many more suggestions on healing cracked fingertips and dry skin.

Although you have not been satisfied with any ointments or lotions, other readers have found some that help:

“I am an artist. Since I turned 50, my fingertips would split and bleed whenever I handled paper, worked in the garden or washed too often. It was almost impossible to put any kind of pressure on my fingers. I was wearing bandages on my fingertips and feeling debilitated.

Since treating them with Vicks, my hands have stopped splitting and bleeding. They had been so sore I had trouble doing any fine finger work. I conclude my fingers must also have had a fungal infection and the oils in the VapoRub have helped my skin stay whole.”

“I work outside at night in the coldest of cold nights in Minnesota. What works best is Vaseline applied several times during the night. When I get home I apply it liberally again and then put on inexpensive cotton gloves before bed. My sheets stay clean and my cuticles are pain free all winter long.”

“Alaska winters and caring for a toddler combine to wreak havoc on the same finger and both thumbs every winter. My current scheme is to cut the fingers off rubber gloves, apply large amounts of Aquaphor over the splits and wear the cut-off fingers of the gloves. I switch to full gloves whenever my hands are immersed in water or I’m using cleaning supplies. If I can’t use salve, I switch to liquid bandage.”

If you’ve experienced cracked fingertips or dry cracked hands and skin, what’s worked for you? Please leave your story in the comment section below.

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  1. hurting

    I too suffer from cracked finger tips. You all are correct when you say that most people, including Doctors, have no idea how much pain radiates from your fingertips. I will try the vaseline and the finger cots, both sound pretty good to me. Incidentally, I have been told that my problem stems from Lupus, really! At 74!!! Guess it is possible. Any thoughts from you peeps?

  2. David

    I have used vasiline on cuts from the cold weather. Rub a lot over cut, and before going to bed, put a sock over it, so as not to get it wiped off during your sleep.

  3. Dave
    Phoenix, AZ

    I was telling Eric above that people who don’t suffer from cracked fingertips can not comprehend how painful they can be. Just sitting and not touching anything… the pain can be so intense that it literally feels like something is eating the tips of my fingers. That is one of the reasons I believe that it is caused by a fungus/bacteria infection, and the other possibility is a vitamin deficiency… or both, meaning that the lack of some vitamin(s) is enough to allow the infection. No doctor has ever been able to explain to me what actually is causing my problem, and none can comprehend the pain involved. I’ve shown doctors the missing tip of my middle finger on my right hand (the nail starts curving downwards at a 45/55 degree angle) where the entire tip is gone from the dozens of severe “cracks”, and they have nothing useful to say. I’ve tried everything from lotions like Corn Huskers, to pure vitamin E and Bag Balm, and combinations of all without much luck… although most give some degree of temporary relief. What I’ve found that works best is Super Glue. I apply it liberally on the crack(s), and after the initial burn… the pain decreases and the healing immediately begins. Within a couple of days the crack is noticeably smaller and will be gone in a few more days. Why this works… I’m not sure, but I think the chemicals in the glue kill whatever is eating my fingers, and seals the wound long enough for the healing to begin. On a few occasions I’ve had to apply the glue a second time within a day or two, but that was for the exceptional cases. I’m 67 years old, and have had this problem for 20 to 30 years, and although it happens more often in the Winter… it does happen in the Summer too. I hope this helps someone who suffers from this pain in the tips. PS I’m typing this with my little fingers and ring fingers.

    • Frank
      Tampa, FL

      Same problem in weather below 50-55F (that is COLD by FL standards!). Cuts are very painful and prevent you from handling small objects, tying your shoes, etc. Best solution so far has been the runny type of Crazy Glue. Gel type does no penetrate into the cut and will not hold skin edges together. Never leave home without it during my snowbird migration N.

  4. Mary

    I use super glu gel since it doesn’t run around the nail. This allows the skin time to heal while stopping the pain.

    Sometimes this isn’t enough or the location of the crack is thru a joint, and in those cases I apply a thin coat of tincture of benzoin on the skin where a butterfly bandage will hit. (Not in the crack – just where the bandage will stick to your skin.) Let it dry a few seconds, then apply the butterfly making sure the middle section is over the crack. This allows the bandage to stay stuck to the skin for 1-2 days so the crack can heal, which is much longer than the standard time these bandages stick these days. It’s too bad J&J stopped making butterflies, since those were the best. See for info on benzoin. You have to order it online but it really saves you shelling out for 5+ butterfly bandages each day. This will stop the pain in a few hours and then you just need to give it time to heal.

    • Brian

      Drink more water, it works for me… thumbs use to crack all season and drinking more water all day long solved it.

  5. Moore Arshad
    Connecticut, USA

    I Had stubborn crack in my fingers. It healed 95%, here what I did.
    1) Soak your hands with domeboro once per day, for 20 min, for 2 weeks, then moisturize with Antibiotic ointment
    2) Wipe your hands & fingers as often with hydrogen proxide, then moisturize with Antibiotic ointment. You may feel sting, but it will heal 95% in 2 months
    3) Eat eggplant regularly, it will heal from inside out
    Try it , it will work. I have visited Dermatologist several times, but he couldn’t cure the crack in my fingers

  6. Holly

    Cold sore (canker sore) cream is what clears them up for me.

  7. Phil
    Litchfield, il

    Everything i’ve read in the postings seems just like what i have. I feel it is something in my body chemistry rather than just a skin problem. Anyhow it comes and goes and at the present time, it is the tips of my first two fingers on my left hand. I have tried everything.

    Last week it was hurting so bad, I couldn’t hardly go to sleep. I have been using the “liquid skin” w ith pretty good results. This past monday Dec 7, 2015 my wife said try this. Up in the cabinet she had a half tube of Okeeff’S CREAM for working hands. My fingertips were so sore and the finger print pattern was gone. In a couple of days they were pain free and they seem to be healing. I put a very small dab on three or four times a day and rub it. I hope it works for me and anyone eles who is reading this. Phil in Illinois

  8. Phil
    Litchfield, il

    Try okeeff’s cream.

    • Bonnie

      Omg it hurts like crazy I started using it as well hoping it helps us all

  9. Stephen

    I have two words to say: finger cots. Buy them at your local pharmacy or via an online source like ebay. They are like latex gloves but are just for your fingers. You can wear one, two, or as many as you need, depending on how many fingers are affected. They are inexpensive, comfortable, not too ridiculous looking, and durable for a day or two. You can do all your normal activities while wearing them. They seal in your skin’s natural moisture, which emanates from inside your body. This is infinitely more effective than rubbing creams and ointments on your skin, which quickly wear or wash away. They return the micro-environment of your fingertips to the humid summertime. After about 12 hours you’ll notice that the pain is less and after 24 hours that the pain is gone. Then over the ensuing days the cracks quickly heal. Do what I say and your horrible problem, which I once knew every winter as a farmer, is over! Finito!

  10. Brittany

    I’m 27 years old and my hands have looked at LEAST 20 years older than my age, for as long as I can remember. They are dry, wrinkled, and 90% of the time, painful. I lived in PA until a few months ago when I came to Louisiana, and here all my life I thought it was the cold, dry weather that caused my skin on my fingers to split open, but now that I am in the exact opposite climate, and I have a total of 8 splits on my fingertips, I’m going to blame this one on genetics. hah. I’m a waitress, an artist, and do different types of woodwork, I can’t afford to have my fingers like this! So recently I’ve been doing a lot of research on natural healing and have been making my own organic skin care products (no alcohol in them!). I came up with a good combination for these splits, and all of the ingredients can be found at walmart. – takes 5 min to make.
    Ingredients (and a few properties they have)
    – Vitamin E Oil – Helps sooth, hydrate, and balance skin, also helps reduce scarring and speeds healing
    – Castor Oil – Reduces scars and cracks/promotes the production of elastin and collage
    – 100% Aloe Vera Gel (the clear one) – it’s full of antioxidants that help your skin to be more firm and hold moisture better.
    – Tea Tree Essential Oil – because this is basically neck and neck with lavender as being one of the most useful and amazing oils.

    Well, the ratio of Aloe : Vitamin E : Castor = 2:1:1 and dilution for essential oils for adults is 10-12 drops per 1 oz. carrier. I use 1 oz. aloe, 1 Tbsp each of Vitamin E and Castor = 2 oz. =20-24 drops Tea Tree, put in a glass measuring cup in a pot of boiling water until the aloe melts and they begin to blend. It only takes about 2 minutes. Remove from water, let cool 5 min and what you do from here is completely up to you. I pour about 1/2 oz. ea into latex gloves, tape them around my wrists and carry about my business (or do it right before bed). you can feel the splits starting to heal almost immediately after application (and by heal, I mean, it burns)

    Hey I hope this helps! It definitely helps me

    • Edward
      Chicago, IL

      I am interested in the finger cots. Having tried everything under the sun — including some of the proposed ointments and various other solutions — I bet they will work well by sealing the area and the moisture.

      Someone asked if perhaps AGE had something to do with this affliction. I don’t know, but it is a very TIRESOME menace to tolerate and very painful.

      One consolation is that so many people seem afflicted by it. Good luck, one and all !

  11. Craig

    I have seen skin cracks & splits on my fingers, hands & knuckles a lot, from all the CELLULOSE additives that are in all drugs, supplements & even foods now, as I am seeing I can not eat foods that I use to eat 4 months ago. I have learned too that these cellulose materials are bad for thyroid health, which may now make sense to the problem I have with skin cracking & splitting on my hands. ALSO any RED TEAS are now toxic for me to drink, once my hands cleared up, I had some and BINGO the skin started cracking again. Takes forever to heal when you do not know what else causes this problem no matter how much water & vitamin C you take. If someone else knows more about this cracked & split skin condition, do not keep it top secret. ORGANIC FOODS are not always ORGANIC & ALL NATURAL.

  12. Sandy
    Newark DE

    Soooo painful!! I want to shout this from my roof top to end everyone’s misery I suffered (past tense) from the painful cracks on my fingertips! It is from washing your hands with Antibacterial Soap!!!! Throw it out!!!! I never use soap in restroom dispensers anymore knowing most certainly they are filled with ABS. I rinse my hands and wash at home. I never use anything that says antibacterial anymore. I have not had a crack since. 100% relief. If you have cracks now and use antibacterial soap, go wash your hands with regular soap. Use a nail brush to make sure you get it out from under you fingernails, and rinse well and heal. Take some vitamin C which greatly increases to healing process. And smile.

    • Kathy
      Spokane WA

      I have had this problem for many years. A few years ago, I discovered that if I use a brush on super glue, it stops the pain and healing takes place underneath. It’s best to apply several coats of glue, allowing drying in between each coat. A hard plastic cap forms over the cut, which usually lasts about 36 hours. I worked in the operating room and this really helped. Loc Tire and Scotch brand brush on super glue work best.

    • Eric
      Qld, Australia

      Omg haha, I know exactly how you feel I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy , as soon as one starts to heal I’ll get another 2 cracks, they start out small then end up 1cm long wich makes the healing process much longer, I’m now contemplating cutting off both hands I can’t bare this anymore!!!

      • Dave
        Phoenix, AZ

        I hear you Eric… the pain was so bad on one finger (middle, right hand, which 90% of the severe cracks appear on) that I had to pull off the freeway and sit on my hand. It seems that pressure causes the pain to recede the quickest. That finger is visible shorter, and the nail bends downward at a 45 degree angle from the missing tip of the finger. I’m 67 and have had this problem for at least 20 years, if not 30, and have come to believe that the cracks are caused by two things. Although I’ve given up asking doctors for the root cause (they don’t know what I’m talking about, and don’t have a clue as to the extreme pain we suffer) I believe either a vitamin deficiency, or a fungus/ bacteria infection, or a combination of both are the culprits for what we suffer. I’ve also found that just plain old Super Glue works the best for healing them… although the initial burn gets your attention, you’ll notice by the next day that the pain has resided, and that the crack/cut is starting to heal. Apply it a second time the next day, and that crack should not be significant any longer. I’ve tried to explain how bad this hurts to friends and co-workers in the framing business, and they look at you like you left your gonads at the last job site… so, I don’t complain anymore. I feel for all of you who suffer this problem, and hope the Super Glue advice helps.

  13. MARCIE

    Help!! Will try some of these suggestions….thank you

    • Victor
      Edmond, OK

      I use Carmex on my finger tips several times per day and thin rubber gloves (Walmart)when I can. I am retired and have a woodworking hobby shop. I blamed my cracked finger tips on sanding wood projects.

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