putting lotion on dry hands

Dry skin is a common problem in the winter, and it can often lead to split, cracked fingertips. One of the most basic recommendations is to keep the skin well moisturized. But what moisturizer is best?

Q. My skin is in terrible shape. This winter has dried out my skin, nails and even my lips. The tips of my fingers are so dry that they have split open and are incredibly painful. Even typing on a keyboard hurts.

I have tried the instant glue on the cracks and while it helps a little it does nothing for the dry skin. I have tried first aid cream and hand lotions without any improvement. What else can I use to ease my sandpaper skin?

Heavy-Duty Moisturizers for Sandpaper Skin:

A. Dermatologists often recommend super greasy creams and lotions like Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Aquaphor or Eucerin. You may feel a bit like a greased pig, but these products can ease the discomfort of dry cracked fingers, especially if you smear the moisturizer on thickly before climbing into bed and then wear cotton gloves to protect the sheets.

Skin Creams Containing Urea:

We are even more fond of skin creams with urea. This is a natural compound that is found in the body (unlike petroleum jelly). When urea is included in a skin cream it offers superb skin protection. Not only does urea improve the barrier function of the skin, it actually regulates gene activity to improve the skin’s defenses against bacteria. This has been described in detail in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Redex Industries, the makers of Udderly Smooth Udder Cream (and sponsors of our radio show) have come up with two urea-containing versions of their famous moisturizer. There is Udderly Smooth Extra Care Cream with 10% urea. You can also get what we consider “professional strength” Extra Care 20 with 20% urea. This is the strongest urea cream you can buy without a prescription. People with diabetes or those undergoing chemotherapy find this skin cream especially helpful, but it is also great for people with dry, cracked sandpaper skin.

Other Uses for Urea-Based Moisturizer:

One unexpected bonus from using a 20% urea cream came from a reader:

“I developed a skin condition on my lower leg for which my dermatologist recommended skin cream with 20 percent urea (OTC). The area was near some spider veins, and during the course of treatment the spider veins faded where some of the urea cream got on them.

“I began to cover the entire spider vein area with the urea cream and now they are almost completely gone. Have you heard of using urea cream to treat spider veins?

“The change was really dramatic. I assume it was due to the action of the urea on these superficial veins.”

Since we shared this story we have heard from others:

RLM wrote:

“I applied the cream at night before bed. The patches began to fade in 2 weeks and were almost totally gone in another 3 weeks. My doctor was surprised at the results and assumed it was due to the keratolytic action of the urea on the superficial veins.”

And then there was this:

“I do not have serious eczema but it arises periodically on my hands. I have tried all of the remedies that I know of–including dietary restrictions– and the one that cleared my eczema quickly and thoroughly was Udderly Smooth Udder Cream Extra Care 20, WITH 20% UREA.

“I was amazed at the almost instant pain relief, followed by total clearing within a few days. The Udderly Smooth cream without the urea was good for simple dry skin but didn’t cure the eczema. I ordered this product for those on my Christmas list and highly recommend it to anyone with eczema or any other skin problem. Thank you, once again, People’s Pharmacy!”

Other people with spider veins have tried using urea cream on them, and not everyone gets such excellent results. However, the Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream is superb as a treatment for sandpaper skin.

We would also like to learn what you have been using for your dry skin, cracked fingers and chipped nails. What works for your dry lips? Share your story below.

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. Sylvie
    Brownsville, TX

    I shower and use coconut oil all over my entire body, including my damp hair, which I comb into a ponytail and wash it again the next day. It has improved my skin far better than any expensive creams and lotions. I no longer have cracked fingertips, or freezy hair. Even my complexion has improved.

  2. Ben

    I am curious about using this on my knees where I have buildup on my knees from psoriasis. Any thoughts?

  3. Monica
    Potts Point

    Interesting, where do you buy the Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20% cream?
    I have a reoccurring fungus condition on my hands. The skin thickens, it peels, the skin becomes like sandpaper, it won’t moisten, the feet throb. I am going to try this. Thanks

  4. lewis

    I’ve had scaling, broken skin on my thumbs and fingers for years and oral prednisone cures it but when I taper off of the medication it comes back.

  5. Deja

    I’ve been buying Dermal Therapy, with 25% urea, from Costco. It’s advertised for dry, cracked heels, but works wonders on my poor fingertips during the winter months.

  6. JHM

    I used to use coconut oil for the cracks in my skin on my thumbs during the winter. Now I put a drop of superglue on the cracks which stays in place for a week or two, during which time the crack heals. This is the easiest and fastest way to deal with this. Just make sure the superglue has dried before touching anything.

  7. George K.

    I am in my seventies and have suffered from dry cracked fingertips for years. Every winter my fingers and elbows get cracked open from being so dry. I had tried many products and steroid creams from my doctor.
    A friend of my wife recommended a product called epizyn. I have been using it for the past few years with great results. I apply with the first feeling of dryness and no symptoms appear throughout the winter with daily applications. I just wanted to share because I was so miserable.

  8. Kahleen

    I have used Dove soap (fragrance free for sensitive skin) on my face and body for years. It has helped prevent any problems since I have psoriasis and very light sensitive skin.

  9. cpmt

    THAT HAPPENED TO ME several years ago until I found out that I was allergic/sensitive to most soaps and detergents. I only can use PH neutral with no hard chemicals… there are two soaps basis and…? ( I can’t remember the name now) that are ok for sensitive skin. NORMAL SOAPS ARE A NO NO’s
    my skin got so bad that I had to wrap the hands with cotton gloves and tape to absorbed the antibiotics (I got a bad infection) it took me 6 months to clear it up. Try to see if you are also sensitive to strong soaps and detergents at home.

  10. Tango

    Liberally applied virgin coconut oil to my fingers, hands as well as my extremities, before bed last night. I suffer from severe hyperthyroidism (Graves’ Disease) and have bouts of cracks and fissures in my fingertips. It doesn’t help that I work in a hospital setting and am required to use antibacterial gel many, many times each shift. I rubbed in the oil, and noticed that the palms of my hands were less like sandpaper. I applied a bit more. Today my hands, legs (rough and thickened due to the disease state) are exponentially improved. I am grateful for the anecdotal entries above. I’m hopeful. I also applied it to my big dog’s elbow where he has a chronic patch of psoriasis. I’ve used all the OTC and Rx offerings of my medical experts. Nothing gave enough relief to warrant the challenges of side effects.

  11. Judi

    Folks, eight applications of Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20% cream over two days’ time has done what eight WEEKS of cortisone cream couldn’t. I’m flabbergasted by the improvement. I was hoping for a little relief–this is close to miraculous!
    I’m buying stock in this stuff. Please don’t ever change it!

  12. Judi

    Udderly Smooth people? HOW COME this EXTRA CARE 20% stuff isn’t on the drug store shelf???
    It’s amazing! I have a type of psoriasis that causes scaling and cracking of my fingertips, and one application softened the scaling at my fingertips so that I can feel sensation again. It toned down the redness and made the scaling layers almost imperceptible. I put it on cracked, raw skin and it tingled a bit, but then the hypersensitive pain calmed right down.
    One application! I can hardly WAIT to see what my hands look like in a week!

  13. Lise

    I am trying the Udderly smooth cream after I read that a reader’s spider veins were reduced. After I put on the cream I noticed a white residue on top of my skin. Might that reader think that this residue in fact made the spider veins look less noticeable?


    I like that — very basic sometimes is the best!

  15. Wendy O.

    An article on hand cream containing urea on eHow states, “Urea cream shouldn’t be used on broken skin, open wounds, infected areas or by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.”
    I just got some because of cracked fingertips, but wonder why I shouldn’t use it on “broken skin”?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It may sting, but we don’t know of other reasons. We’ve found it helpful for that.

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.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.