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Simple Solutions for Cracked Fingertips

Readers suggest solutions for cracked fingertips, such as instant glue to seal the splits and lip balm to moisturize the fingertips.
Simple Solutions for Cracked Fingertips
Eczema on fingertips with one split covered in instant glue

Fall is nearly here, and winter won’t be too far behind. Fingertips that crack and split are a bane of cold weather. Indoor air is dry and people wash their hands frequently, stripping away moisturizing oils as well as germs. Once the skin splits on a thumb or fingertip, ordinary activities like buttoning a shirt, typing an email or signing a check can become excruciatingly painful. Luckily, though, there are some simple solutions for cracked fingertips. Readers have shared quite a few.

Dairy Farmers Have Solutions for Cracked Fingertips:

Q. A dairy farmer wrote that he uses lip balm for cracked fingertips. You recommended A&D ointment.

That advice is fine, but dairy farmers have been using Bag Balm and Udder Cream for generations. It works for humans, too. I’m sure he keeps some in his milking parlor.

My oncologist recommended Udder Cream for radiation burns during cancer treatment. My medicine cabinet also contains A&D ointment for abrasions and cuts and Udder Cream for dry, chapped skin on my hands, elbows and heels.

A. We have been writing about “barnyard beauty aids” for more than three decades. The makers of Udder Cream have a high-potency formulation with 20% urea that was created specifically for cancer patients undergoing radiation. We’re glad these inexpensive products have been so helpful for you.

Clever Solutions for Cracked Fingertips:

Readers have come up with a lot of ingenious solutions for cracked fingertips and easing the pain they cause. In helping the split skin heal quickly, many readers have found that liquid bandage or instant glue can be very helpful in reducing the tenderness and promoting healing.

It is important not to expose the hands to detergent and water more often than necessary, so rubber gloves are essential for dishwashing duties.

Moisturizers:

Regular use of a powerful moisturizer is also an important part of the regimen. Some readers praise O’Keefe’s Working Hands, while others prefer plain Vaseline. Zim’s Crack Creme or lanolin-containing lotions such as Lansinoh are popular with others. Aquaphor, Eucerin or our favorite, Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream (with 20% urea), are all good choices.

It helps to apply the moisturizer of your choice after washing hands. In the evening, in preparation for bed, apply the moisturizer and then put on a pair of inexpensive cotton gloves, the sort that photographers used to wear for handling negatives. This keeps the cream from getting on pajamas or bed sheets and also helps keep it absorbing into the delicate skin.

This reader has found a different solution for cracked fingertips that could be helpful for others:

Lip Balm:

Q. I read your column on cracked fingertips with interest, having spent years in New England. I used lip balm for my fingertips and it worked like a charm.

Just fill the cracks with lip balm. It removes the pain and softens the surrounding tissues. I liked lip balm because in addition to treating the problem its small size made it easy to pack for repeat treatments as needed.

A. Thanks for sharing this inexpensive solution. Most lip balm does contain a moisturizer that can be helpful for dry splitting fingers and thumbs, and it is certainly portable.

Supplements:

We have received reports that taking supplements could possibly offer other solutions for cracked fingertips. Some are partial to vitamin D, while other readers suggest that an omega-3 supplement such as fish oil or flaxseed oil can also be helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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