Unless you have experienced cracked fingertips, you have no idea how painful and aggravating this problem can be. For one thing, it can be incredibly challenging to button a blouse or a pair of pants. Opening bottles or lids hurts like heck. Just typing on a keyboard can be harrowing. As far as we know, there are no FDA-approved medications for cracked fingertips. As a result, people have searched for all sorts of home remedies with varied success. Here is one reader’s quest for help.
Winter Is Hard on 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?
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.”
Instant Glue to the Rescue:
We have heard from a great many visitors that different kinds of instant glue can seal cracked fingertips. Here are just a few stories:
Jeremy in Ohio loves instant glue:
Super Glue works wonders for me. While others say it’s probably not good to do so, I have never experienced anything harmful as a result.”
Frank in Tampa, Florida thinks Crazy Glue is great…or does he mean Krazy Glue?
“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 not penetrate into the cut and will not hold skin edges together. I never leave home without it during my snowbird migration.”
Joe in Rhode Island disagrees with Frank in Florida about Gel:
“After reading a lot of these remedies for cracked fingertips, 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 a discount store for about $3. Much much better and thanks for the tip!”
Hondo in New Orleans says the cheaper the better:
“I used to have problems with cracked fingertips only during the cold months. 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. Use Super Glue as soon as you notice or feel the crack coming back, but continue using moisturizers as often as possible. Don’t buy the expensive Super Glue, look for the original product that comes in small tubes. I hope this help those suffering with this painful condition.”
Cindi likes the Locktite brand of instant glue:
“I have used about every brand out there and have found Locktite brand (blue bottle) gel to be the best for me. I have used all the other skin adhesives: New Skin, Bandaid Liquid, etc.,with little satisfaction; they just don’t stay on for long and require multiple applications throughout the day. I hope this is helpful and informative.
“It may sting for a few secs when first applied, but it not only stops the pain, it protects the opening from germs, and heals them, usually within 3 days.
“I have 13 doctors now, one being a dermatologist. She approves this method since I’ve been seeing her. There are articles in the offices supporting this method.”
One of the most surprising reports we found in the medical literature comes from Antarctica. Thirteen individuals suffering with “polar hands,” characterized by splits in the fingertips, healed when they put cyanoacrylate glue on the cracks (Arctic Medical Research, July 1993). They used the Histoacryl Blue brand, but probably any similar liquid bandage would work about as well.
Vicks VapoRub and Vaseline to the Rescue:
Glue is not the only option. Although some readers have not been satisfied with any ointments or lotions, others have found brands that help:
Vicks VapoRub is greasy, but it helped this artist:
“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.”
Petrolatum is often recommended by dermatologists:
“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.”
Aquaphor also contains petrolatum. Here is a novel way to apply it.
“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.”
Tracey is in Washington State. Her work requires dexterity, which is almost impossible with cracked fingertips. She came up with a variation on the rubber glove trick:
“FINGER COTS! For several years I’ve been experiencing splits on fingers and thumbs. My business is making custom jewelry. That’s almost impossible with split fingers.
“My doctor recommended Aquaphor which does help, sometimes. Lately they are so bad I’ve been using Neosporin ointment or some other antibiotic ointment (I’ll try ANYTHING!).
“Neither one really does any better than the other. What I want to share with everyone suffering these horrible, incredibly painful splits is “finger cots.” I ordered several boxes of them on line. I put a lot of my goop of choice on the split and put the cot over the goop and unroll it down the finger.
“My splits are healing much faster with this method. They also stay on while I’m sleeping, making my mornings much nicer. Just do an online search for “Grafco latex finger cots” and order them as fast as you can (as long as you have no latex allergies). I ordered 3 boxes of 144 and glad I did. Good Luck!”
Other Strategies for Cracked Fingertips:
We recently shared a story from a reader who has type 2 diabetes. She complained of thin fingernails. Her podiatrist recommended a dietary supplement called biotin. To her surprise it also worked for cracked fingertips. You can read her story at this link and read about the pros and cons of biotin.
This honey comes from New Zealand and is purported to have antioxidant and antibacterial activity. Another reader reports that Manuka honey helps heal deep cracks and crevices on his fingers. Learn about this special honey and fingernail cracks at this link.
Many readers tell us that lip balm is the answer to cracked fingertips. One reader shared this tip:
“As a dairy farmer, I have to wash my hands many times daily. The cracked fingertips that result are very painful.
“To counter that, I keep a tube of lip balm (any kind) handy in my pocket and apply it often. It is very thick and stays in the crack to help it heal.”
Speaking of Lip Balm:
What about chapped lips? If your lips are dry, why not try our Natural Lip Care products:
One reader from Suffolk, VA says:
“This is the best lip balm I have ever used. It feels great and tastes good. It stays on for a long time. I even wear it over lipstick.”
A Texas reader offers this:
“For many many years I’ve used Lypsyl Sensitive lip balm. But they stopped selling it here in the U.S. Very difficult to order from Canada. I’ve found it on Amazon at ridiculous/outrageous prices! THEN I saw People’s Pharmacy was selling lip balm. Yay! It’s the best lip balm I’ve come across in a VERY LONG time and, believe me, I’ve tried them all. It’s very comparable to Lypsyl and may have better staying power.”
Here are your options:
Share your own success story:
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.