In case you have been in a cave or on an ocean cruise you know that we have had some pretty crazy weather in 2015. Many parts of the country have experienced record heat, which means the furnace has not been on. That will change and when it does the air will dry out. Low humidity leads to dry skin and cracked fingers, especially if you have to wash your hands frequently like this reader:

Q. I am a nurse, and the constant hand washing and antibacterial hand gel give me cracks at the corners of my thumbnails. They are painful, and I am always afraid of picking up an infection through the broken skin.

To protect myself, I clean the area first and then use two or three thin coats of instant glue. If the area is rough I smooth it with a fine nail file. This closes the cracked skin, and I think it heals faster.

A. Cracked or split fingertips can be quite uncomfortable. They make it hard to button a blouse, type on a keyboard or play an instrument. The rough edges may snag on fabric.

Many other people report that instant glue can be helpful for cracked fingertips. Such products contain cyanoacrylate.

Joe in Rhode Island offers this report:

“After reading a lot of the remedies for cracked finger tips on your website, I went with the Super Glue. What a difference! I wouldn’t even be able to type this if it wasn’t for the Glue. I used the Gel Super Glue from walmart for about 3 dollars. Much much better and thanks for the tip!”

Hondo in New Orleans says:

“I used to have problems with cracked fingertips only during the cold months, but as I get older, this became an all-year-round painful issue. I tried almost every cream and moisturizer for my cracked fingertips, but they provided little help.

“I started using Finger Care and Liquid Skin with some good results, but the cracks kept coming back. I experimented with Super Glue (original formula) and it works great and provides instant pain relief. I use Super Glue as soon as I notice or feel the crack coming back and continue using moisturizers as often as possible.”

Cautions about Instant Glue:

These products are not designed for use on skin and might be irritating for some people. That is why we generally suggest liquid bandage instead.

Other approaches to split fingertips include heavy-duty moisturizers, such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or similar products (Aquaphor) applied at night under cotton gloves to protect the sheets and keep the jelly in place. The challenge with such products is greasiness. Anyone who has to type on a keyboard knows how messy petroleum jelly can be. It can also gum up a mouse pretty quickly. If you need a moisturizer during the day you might want something less greasy.

Preparations containing urea such as our favorite Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream may sting temporarily when applied to cracked fingers, but do seem to speed recovery. The thing about urea is that it enhances healing and improves the protective barrier of the skin. We think a 20% urea moisturizer is fabulous at this time of year. Learn more about Udder Cream products (a sponsor of our radio show) at this link.

Here is the economy sized Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream and here is the handy pocket-sized tube.

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  1. Virginia

    Excipial intensive healing cream has 20 percent urea and is really fragrance free. Works for me. I’m too chemically sensitive for superglue.

  2. Len

    The produce manager at my local heath food store recommended “vegetable based glycerin.”It works great for me ,but I have a friend who is allergic to it.What surprised me is the fact that the produce guy has access to all the range of skin products where he works but sent me to CVS for the under $5.00 solution that works best!

  3. Linda

    My husband suffers terribly from this as well :( We discovered just recently Grapeseed Carrier Oil I use for my Essential Oils. The carrier oil seems to do the trick and he can get pain free in seconds :) Works good. He liked the tip on coconut oil so he will add that as well. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Dr Karen

    My husband’s cracked fingertips were a reaction to food sensitivities. His cracked fingertips of 15 years cleared in about a week avoiding gluten and dairy. After eating the gravy at a banquet after being clear for a year, his fingertips cracked again.

  5. RWM
    SE Texas

    Super glue sounds like a good idea but I have similar “almost overnight” success with clear fingernail polish – paint it in the cracks before bed.
    I’m a guy so I don’t polish my fingernails, but I’ve been using the same bottle my wife gave me for the last four years – cheaper and longer shelf life than super glue/liquid bandaids I bet.

  6. Dennis
    Bowen Island, BC

    I have found that applying tea tree oil a couple of times takes care of the painful skin cracks. It doesn’t do anything to smooth the skin, but it does make it tougher. As a guy, smooth skin is a lower priority than reducing recurring cracks.

  7. Audrey

    Fingernail glue has worked really well for me for several years. I’ve also found that if my dairy intake is severely limited the skin on my fingers doesn’t crack as badly.

  8. Joan
    St Louis Mo

    What about split nails ?? I have one fingernail that keeps splitting & to keep it from catching on things I have to wear a bandaid.

  9. Mike
    Oklahoma City

    I’ve had this problem for twenty-five years or more, and I’ve tried all the suggestions above. Super Glue never worked well for me. Liquid Bandage is more expensive but no better, and it stinks worse than Super Glue. Udder cream and lotions and oil and vitamins don’t work for me either.

    The dry skin notion never made sense as I get the splits in cold weather, not necessarily during dry weather. Dry weather can occur any time of the year here in Oklahoma, but I get the splits only when the weather is cold.

    Anyway, my dermatologist told me the root of the problem is inflammation, not the temperature or the humidity, and he prescribed Fluocinonide Cream. This cream really works, because it attacks the problem, apparently, not the symptom. It will heal up a split fingertip in a day or two; just put a little bit on the splits of an evening, before you go to bed. If you don’t like going to doctors, I understand. I don’t either, but give these guys some credit; they study this stuff for a living.

    Submitted with respect and humility, 10-25-14, Oklahoma City.

    Best wishes.

  10. SueL

    I suffered with finger tip cracks terribly the last 3 years. I’ve always had problems with my skin over the years with allergies, eczema, etc. I solved all of them one at a time. This year I started applying extra virgin coconut oil to my face instead of face cream, and I noticed that I have not had a single finger tip crack this year. The coconut oil must work! I also put a tablespoon of it in my oatmeal and it gives it a great taste!

  11. cpmt

    and omega 3 and vitam. d. also check the soup you are using, you may be allergic. also alkalinity in your body, try to get more alkaline foods and water. 7.4 to -8,8 I buy 8.8 in the store but you can use water with 1/4 tsp. in a glass of water.

    • alxzba

      was there a preliminary comment to this submission. Seems to start mid-sentence?

      • alxzba

        I’ve never noticed food with ph value included. Have I missed it?

  12. JimP

    I am pretty active, so nothing short of superglue will keep cracked skin closed up on a finger tip or side of a knuckle. Even regular formula superglue fails to last for a full day on skin areas that are stressed a lot. I use the gel formula superglue, but you have to allow up to 15 minutes for it to completely dry. This creates a really strong protective cover over the cracked skin that last for 2-4 days. Two applications usually provide enough time for the crack to heal.

    I have also added some fat back into my diet this January after reading Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s “The Cholesterol Myth”. I have had only one skin crack this January, despite the bitterly cold, dry weather in northwestern Virginia. Was this a coincidence or does more dietary fat help keep your skin supple?

  13. L.A.

    I’ve had great success healing cracks on my finger tips with Lansinoh, a product for nursing mothers. It is thick so it has the added benefit of staying on after hand washing.

    • Marty

      I’ve also used super glue but it only lasts an hour or two before the glue itself splits along with the skin underneath it. Here’s a way to make it last longer: apply the super glue but only use a tiny bit – about a fourth of what you would normally use (try using a toothpick to spread a very thin layer). Then press the finger cut with the applied glue into a little pile of baking soda. Hold it there for 30 seconds. The glue will expand by about a factor of 4 and will be hard, dry, and impermeable. It may have rough edges but those can be smoothed by gently filing with an emery board. This will often last all day for me – longer than anything else.

  14. LDH

    My Dad taught me to always carry a Chap-Stick in my pocket during cold winter months. If you get a crack on the edge of your thumb, you just dab it on & you are done! No more pain! Of course the pain come from the air coming in contact with the lower layers of skin due to that crack. Easier to carry too than anything else.

  15. marge h

    Liquid bandage (New Skin) has been wonderful for all the people I have suggested it to.

  16. EW

    I have used the Udderly Smooth cream and found it worked far better than the glue and I suspect is a lot less toxic. The cream makes the difference between being miserable and not having painful cracks around my nails.

  17. Donnie

    I can get cracks on my fingertips from metal zippers, coins and other nickel containing objects. I avoid metal zippers on jackets, and I wash my hands immediately after touching the metal zipper on my jeans. I avoid handling coins or other nickel objects as much as possible. If I get cracks on my fingers or hands, I treat with a dab of antibiotic ointment with pain reliever. It stops the pain and heals the crack quite soon.

  18. JAM

    Hi!!! Liquid bandage works well too.

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