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How Can You Heal Painful Cracked Fingertips Quickly?

A warm paraffin hand bath to soothe arthritic finger joints also solved the problem of painful cracked fingertips. Instant glue also helps.

Winter can be hard on the hands. Every year we hear from people with painful cracked fingertips triggered by cold weather. Washing the hands multiple times a day to try to fend off viruses that can cause colds or flu during this season can also add to the problem.

How Can You Help Painful Cracked Fingertips Heal Quickly?

Such cracked fingertips can make it hard to do everyday chores, such as type, button clothes or use a pen or pencil. It is no wonder so many folks have found ways to manage this problem, ranging from applying petroleum jelly under cotton gloves at night, to using instant glue to seal the splits in the skin, to smearing on lip balm throughout the day. One reader found an ingenious approach through serendipity.

Q. Long ago, I would go through several boxes of bandages every winter to help me deal with painful cracked fingertips. A few years ago, my doctor recommended a hot wax spa for arthritis in my fingers. I try to use it twice a day, since the relief is great but not long-lasting. Because of the oil in the wax, I no longer have to deal with cracked fingertips.

A. That is an unusual solution for cracked fingertips. However, it makes sense. The hot wax spa uses liquid paraffin to soften skin on the hands. Soothing sore joints is another use.

Hot Wax Spa:

Not everyone will want a hot wax spa, which heats paraffin to liquefy it and bring it to a comfortably warm temperature. A hand that has been immersed in the paraffin is coated with the wax like a glove when it is removed. This continues to warm and soothe the joints for several minutes.

After peeling off the cooled paraffin, the skin that was coated is moisturized. Since you are getting the benefit of the warmth for your sore finger joints, having it solve the problem of painful cracked fingertips sounds like a wonderful bonus.

Finding the Cause of Painful Cracked Fingertips:

Q. I am curious about the thyroid status of the readers who have written to you about their bleeding fingertips.

I was diagnosed as hypothyroid at age 10. I’m 75 now, so I have over 60 years of observation, experience and research.

My prescribed dosages of thyroid meds over the years have varied. Without enough thyroid medicine, my fingertips split and bleed in the winter months. When I have enough thyroid med, that doesn’t happen.

A. Others have reported similar experiences. According to scientists, oil glands are quite sensitive to thyroid hormone (Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, June 2020). Consequently, dry cracking skin is a red flag for hypothyroidism. You can learn more about this in our eGuide to Thyroid Hormones. If cracking fingertips are a persistent problem, ask to have thyroid levels checked with a blood test.

Other Ways to Soothe Painful Cracked Fingertips:

Winter is especially hard on the skin of the hands because we wash our hands so often. Without heavy-duty moisturizer, skin on the fingertips can dry out and split. Some readers have found that barnyard beauty aids such as Udder Cream or Bag Balm are effective. A & D Ointment or Vaseline also work well, although they are quite greasy. In addition, our readers often praise O’Keeffe’s Working Hands.

Many people get relief from painful cracked fingertips by rubbing lip balm into the cracks. Others recommend manuka honey applied under a bandage. Instant glue or liquid bandage can also be used to seal the split quickly. Others have used lip balm, petroleum jelly or strong moisturizers to keep fingertips from splitting.

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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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  • Clayton RW et al, "Neuroendocrinology and neurobiology of sebaceous glands." Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, June 2020. DOI: 10.1111/brv.12579
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