The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do You Soothe Cracked Fingertips With Lip Balm?

Doctors and mechanics must wash their hands frequently, resulting in dry cracked skin. Dairy farmers also need to soothe cracked fingertips.
Professional milk cow carer with digital tablet standing by group of livestock behind fence and touching one of them by hand

In the winter, when air gets dry, a lot of people have trouble with cracked fingertips. Experts also urge us to wash our hands frequently, which makes fingertips even more vulnerable. Dermatologists frequently recommend a heavy moisturizer, but some readers find that is impractical. Instead, they have found their own ways to soothe cracked fingertips.

How Do You Soothe Cracked Fingertips?

Q. 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.

A. Many people need to soothe cracked fingertips at this time of year. Low humidity and frequent hand-washing to ward off colds or the flu can contribute.

Some people close the cracks with liquid bandage or household instant glue containing cyanoacrylate. Some people don’t like that approach, though.

One reader offered the following:

“I’ve tried liquid bandage as well as white glue on my cracked fingertips, but they don’t help much. Nothing works as well as A+D Ointment for cracked thumb and fingertips as well as split skin on my knuckles and heels. I rub it in and give it five minutes to soak in. Although A+D Ointment is traditionally used on babies’ bottoms, it works great on adults, too, and it is inexpensive.”

A+D Original Ointment contains lanolin and petrolatum. An “inactive” ingredient, cod liver oil, provides the vitamin A and D. Like other products containing petrolatum (petroleum jelly), it is greasy but effective.

Although dermatologists say the greasier the better for moisturizing hands, that doesn’t work for everyone who needs to soothe cracked fingertips.

We heard this from one reader:

“I am a preschool teacher so I can’t grease up my hands. My lessons are individualized and I am handling materials for them all day.

“I am suffering! Cracks near my fingernails appear out of nowhere. I wash my hands up to 25 times a day and wear bandages at night.

“I live at 9400 feet and the lack of humidity at this altitude is extreme. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with these painful cracks?”

Many readers appreciate instant glue, and this preschool teacher might find it helpful. Another reader recommended finger cots to keep ointment like Vaseline or Vicks on the fingertips overnight and keep it off the materials you handle during the day. 

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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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