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Readers’ tips to heal cracked fingertips

Tue., Feb. 16, 2010

This is the cruelest time of year for your delicate dermis. If you have been following public health recommendations to wash your hands every time you touch something like a doorknob, an elevator button or an ATM touch pad, your hands are suffering.

Winter weather with its low humidity dries skin out, and frequent hand washing makes that worse. We recently had a question from a preschool teacher with painful cracks near her fingernails. These make it hard for her to fasten buttons or type.

We received a generous outpouring of advice from our readers. They, too, have suffered pain from cracked fingertips and want to share what has worked for them.

Lucille recalls: “As a young girl, I slathered Vaseline on my hands and slid on my cotton Communion gloves before bed at night. It worked like a miracle to ease severe chapping!”

SWB says: “I use Bag Balm, with a similar consistency to Vaseline. It is what farmers use on cows’ udders for healing. This is better than any hand cream or lotion and can be purchased in a farm store.”

Barbara suggests: “Substitute a hand sanitizer for soap and water. Try Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. It is great for skin and doesn’t leave an oily residue on the hands.”

GL advises: “I had this problem for years. Finally I discovered Working Hands Creme, and it has been the answer to the problem of painful cracked fingertips. I use it every night right before bed.”

Patricia remembers: “As a nurse, I had dry skin for years, especially on my hands. Another nurse recommended Lac-Hydrin Five about 10 years ago. I never had a problem again. I use it faithfully, winter or summer.”

Joanne reports: “My daughter and son-in-law mentioned using Gold Bond hand cream. I had tried many different hand creams in the past, to no avail, but I decided to give it a try. I got marvelous results for my cracked, painful fingertips. The aloe in the healing lotion was wonderful, and the shea butter keeps the hands smooth. I watch my 6-year-old granddaughter and my 10-month-old grandson, so hand washing is top priority this winter.”

Amy offers: “I just discovered Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme, and it has worked wonders. My nails seem stronger as well. I rub it onto my cuticles, nails, nail beds and fingertips every night before bed.”

Sheryl says: “I have the same problem. The best solution I have found is a thick hand cream, Palmer’s Shea Butter Formula.”

Jerry finds: “At night I put tea tree oil on any cracks and cover them with a smear of Aquaphor, Vaseline or ChapStick, with a bandage over that. By morning, those sore cracks are very much improved.”

Candice suggests: “Always wear gloves when washing dishes or working with any kind of detergent. Use a humidifier in your home and the classroom. Ointments are the most moisturizing, more than creams or lotions. I prefer Aquaphor Healing Ointment. My dad says Burt’s Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme and Hand Salve are excellent.”

There may not be a single moisturizer that suits everyone, but there are plenty of good suggestions here. Even the roughest, reddest hands should benefit from a little extra care this winter.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Their syndicated radio show can be heard on public radio. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Contact them via their Web site:


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