My fingertips and thumbs are splitting and cracking from changing nappies. What would you recommend to heal them? Normal moisturisers don't seem to work. I'm in the UK.

This is as a direct result of becoming a father of two twins (8 months old). We're using Pampers disposables, normal handsoaps, not high in alcohol. If this isn't a parenting issue, I'm not sure what is!


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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the parenting element is completely incidental. The question would be functionally identical if it was fishing that caused the splitting and cracking of your fingertips. – user420 Mar 21 '15 at 13:36
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    Normally, I'd agree @Beofett, but I think we may have an example of an XY problem. I've been changing diapers for 11 years and never known it to create this sort of problem in myself or others. Tomh, could you add some details about your process? – Karl Bielefeldt Mar 21 '15 at 14:19
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    added more to the question. Strongly feel that this is very much an issue as a result of becoming a parent! – tomh Mar 21 '15 at 18:03
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    I think this is similar to some of the others we talked about in meta a while back; like the puzzle question, this is a question that affects parents, even if it could also be a non-parent issue. – Joe Mar 22 '15 at 3:54
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    Please leave this question open. Frequent hand-washing is something that many parents, especially new parents, will do. This can cause problems so this question is a useful place to point out the harm from over-frequent handwashing. It is likely that other parents will find this question. A fisherperson has a different problem with a different solution. Parents will want to know when they should use anti-microbial soaps for hand washing or if those don't serve any purpose. – DanBeale Mar 22 '15 at 18:32

I can't imagine this is a diaper related problem, but I can see a new parent having some relevant circumstances change:

  1. You're around children you want to protect from germs
  2. You're around children that are constantly making messes
  3. You may have your hands in water more from giving baths or hand washing baby bottles, dishes or clothes

1 & 2 mean you wash your hands more often. 3 is basically the same thing, you just happen to do it while cleaning something else.

When you use soap you strip the natural oils from your skin. These oils help protect your skin from the environment, and hold in moisture. Losing that natural protection leads to drying and cracking of the skin.

It's very common for people that wash their hands a lot to develop cracked hands, especially around the fingertips (the finger tips see the most action). Mechanics and dish washers are good examples of occupations fraught with cracked hands. Maybe parents can go on the list?

The solution is to either limit the exposure of your hands to stop and water or apply something to your hands after the fact.

There are a variety of products out there to help with this. Incidentally, when my son was a new born I also had cracked hands (it was also winter). I personally used Eucerin Hand Cream. Whatever your brand, I recommend cream over lotion.

The cream helps not only to moisturize your chaffed hands, but to protect them from the elements in lieu of your stripped oils.

Petroleum jelly type ointments can also be effective, such as Aquaphor (made by the same company as Eucerin). Ointments can give you better protection than creams or lotions, but they're also much greasier and are thus more likely to leave a residue on objects they come in contact with. I prefer them for parts of the body that aren't likely to make much contact with anything else (elbows, cheeks, body). When I've had very cracked skin (right by the fingernails) I'll apply some of this thicker stuff, even though I inevitably leave residue on surfaces (and my glasses). Fingertips are constantly rubbing against objects(which you never notice until your finger is throbbing!), and the Aquaphor helps your finger to slide against surfaces instead of be abraded by them.

Instead of an ointment, you could use pure petroleum jelly, which is thicker and provides a stronger barrier against moisture. That is, it traps in your skin's moisture better, and it also repels environmental moisture that may wash away other more soluble substances. However, petroleum jelly doesn't have any medicinal properties and isn't absorbed by the skin. It's a purely protective solution. In the past, I have used petroleum jelly on top of other treatments, to help keep the medicinal creams from being washed/wiped away. Vaseline is the most famous brand of petroleum jelly, but since it's made of 100% petrolatum, it's easy to find generic substitutes.

There have also been times where my fingertips have been so cracked that I've had to apply some pain relieving antibiotic ointment with a band-aid. Sometimes the bandage is the best bet when trying to prevent further chaffing/irritation of the affected area.

Aquaphor and Eucerin are also both products recommended to us by our son's dermatologist. They're safe for baby skin, are not perfumed, and we use them on him for everything from diaper rash to eczema to dry skin. I'm sure comparable products of other brands out there exist, but I've not tried them so I can't give any personal recommendations. The downside of Eucerin/Aquaphor is that they tend to be more expensive than other moisturizers by volume. I pay the premium because lower-cost products either did not work for me us or made things worse.

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    +1 useful answer. The US CDC have a document called "When Is Clean Is Too Clean?" which talks about the problems from frequent handwashing. wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/7/2/70-0225_article – DanBeale Mar 22 '15 at 18:27
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    Ordered some Eucerin - many thanks for the suggestion! – tomh Mar 22 '15 at 18:53

I had a similar issue with my son. My right thumb would crack to to point of bleeding. Moving from soap to non-soap cleaners (like Sorbolene) helped a little. I started using disposable gloves when changing him, this also helped. Eventually, I had to start using a mild cortisone steroid cream (1%) - this helped a lot.

I saw a dermatologist who referred to the problem as contact dermatitis.

The combination of Sorbolene, gloves and cream seemed to solve the problem.

  • I would add a word of caution about the steroid cream. Our dermatologist informed us that it'd be okay for some rashes/skin problems if used very temporarily (just a few days). Topical Steroids for Eczema lists the side-effects (which apply to more than just eczema treatment. Remember, cortisone is a medication, so it needs to be handled like one. I'm not saying don't use it at all, but it's probably best used for a short period of time when the symptoms are at their worst. – user11394 Mar 23 '15 at 18:45
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    @CreationEdge - A valid concern. I asked my dermo about this since steroid creams can thin the skin. His comment was that the skin on your fingers is very thick and the condition of my thumb/fingers so bad that it did not matter too much. – dave Mar 23 '15 at 19:23
  • That's the same info that I received. Although the article I linked to suggests that thinning isn't a major concern based on new studies, there are other possible side effects. – user11394 Mar 23 '15 at 19:38
  • Just curious, why just the one thumb? – Karl Bielefeldt Mar 24 '15 at 21:42
  • @KarlBielefeldt - Thumb and adjacent 2 fingers, but the thumb was by far the worst. – dave Mar 24 '15 at 22:36

In addition to frequent hand washing, the diaper wipes may be contributing in some cases. Even if they are non-alcohol based, if they're pre-moistened they almost certainly have at least a mild detergent in them (solely water-based wipes would be unsanitary as they would grow molds).

Gloves of course can help here to create a barrier. Another solution is to use dry wipes that you moisten yourself (which is what we do, both for our hands and for our first child who had a sensitive bottom). This allows us to use water-only for diaper changes; dry sanitary wipes are available in large quantities on various internet retailers for less than you'd pay for pre-moistened.


This is a common problem with people who wash their hands a lot, especially in the wintertime. I have no doubt that twins are harder on your hands than singletons.

There are good suggestions above. Common errors people often make is using water that is too hot, a detergent hand cleanser that is too harsh, and not moisturizing immediately after washing hands (when there's actual moisture in your skin).

Petroleum jelly provides a barrier, which is helpful. What is more helpful, though, are ingredients that actually promote healing (petroleum jelly does not.)

Look for thick creams that have (especially) lanolin and allantoin in them; lecithin, glycerine, honey, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, and urea help keep moisture in your skin, and beeswax helps a moisturizer last through a hand washing or two. But the lanolin (which you should be able to buy at a drug store) and allantoin are so helpful.

One cream that has some of these ingredients is udder cream (used for cow udders).

Initially, to heal your hands more quickly, it's great to slather the stuff on at night and wear a pair of stretchy cotton gloves (cheap stretchy gardening gloves work) overnight.

Prevent and Soothe Chapped Winter Hands


I have the same problem, having spent a month on paternity leave for our second one and changing 10+ nappies a day...

Here’s my theory: have you ever wondered how the nappies fasten? It seems to work like Velcro, but without the visible or tangible scratchy hooks/loops that are typically seen on normal Velcro. I therefore assume that nappies (we use the Kit and Kin brand) have something like a micro-Velcro in order to fasten. Although this doesn’t feel rough to the touch, it does have a micro texture which is abrasive in the same way that running your fingers along ordinary Velcro would be.

(So I do see this very much as a parenting issue...)

  • I totally agree with this! It’s a really odd phenomenon. It’s more than just excessive hand washing I reckon – tomh Aug 24 '19 at 12:04
  • Revisiting this several months later as I have the same issue again! Similar circumstances to last time - working from home due to current pandemic and therefore changing a great deal more nappies than usual. And I notice it is particularly aggravated just after changing a nappy. But then again, there is also more hand washing than ever going on in the current circumstances... so I suspect it’s a perfect storm of the two, i.e. the invisible abrasive Velcro made worse by the need to constantly wash hands and remove essential oils etc and make the surface levels of skin more vulnerable. – Horatio Nelson Mar 26 '20 at 7:07

My fingers have the same problem !! It IS from constant hand washing after changing diapers. My baby is 4 weeks old and they just started doing this about a week or so ago ... unfortunately I have different soaps all around the house to there’s no way to tell which one it is that is too harsh. My wipes are supposed to be chamival and fragrance free... so I can only assume it’s the soaps. I am going to look for udder cream and try gloves! This will be annoying at 4am but ... my fingers are miserable 😖

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