Cracked Fingertips: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Cracked fingers are often harmless but may be a sign of cancer or other conditions

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Painful, cracked fingertips can be caused by everyday activities or exposures, like cleaning with harsh products or time in the sun. Cracked fingers may be a sign of a more serious condition, like eczema, psoriasis, cancer, or other diseases.

A person in the bathroom with products (Potential Causes of Cracked Fingers)

Verywell / Sydney Saporito

Whether you are dealing with cracked fingertips alone or dry and cracked hands, it’s important to seek treatment and investigate any underlying medical issues.

This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of painful, cracked fingertips and when they might be a sign of a more serious condition.

Common Causes of Cracked Fingertips

In most cases, cracked and peeling skin around the fingertips is caused by dry skin.

Peeling fingertips are a sign of very dry skin, known as xerosis. Many people experience dry skin from products and exposures, such as:

  • Harsh chemicals in hand soaps and cleaning products
  • Dry climates
  • Aging
  • Winter weather
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Long, hot showers

Many people also experience dry skin from frequent handwashing because it removes the natural oils that keep your hands moisturized.

Medical Conditions That Cause Cracked Fingertips

In some cases, cracked, painful fingers can indicate an underlying medical condition that may require treatment. Possibilities range from eczema and a skin infection to diabetes and cancer.

Skin Conditions

Painfully dry skin is associated with chronic skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis.

  • Eczema: An inflammatory skin condition that causes a scaly, inflamed, itchy rash. Eczema is more likely to occur on the fingertips, but if you have flaky, scaly spots, these might indicate psoriasis
  • Psoriasis: An inflammatory autoimmune disorder that leads to lesions or inflamed scaly patches on skin

Both of these conditions are believed to be associated with an overactive autoimmune system, and both can be triggered by environmental factors including allergens and changing temperatures.

Skin Infection

Once your skin becomes dry and cracked, it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to enter your body. That leads to increased risk of infection, which can make it more difficult for your dry, cracked skin to heal.

If you notice your fingernails becoming brittle, yellow, or thickened, talk with your healthcare provider.


People with diabetes often experience changes to blood flow in their extremities, particularly the hands and feet. This can cause skin to become dry and cracked.

Dry skin as a result of diabetes usually affects the feet first. However, if you are experiencing persistent dry, peeling fingertips, speak to your healthcare provider.


In rare instances, dry, cracked skin on the fingers may be a sign of cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma can appear on the fingers in the form of small nodules or sores that can become scaly or crusty.

Contact a healthcare provider if you notice that the scaliness is accompanied by small growths or sores.

Symptoms That Accompany Cracked Fingertips

Cracked in fingertip skin can be superficial or deep. Symptoms associated with cracked fingertips may include:

  • Very dry skin, which may appear red, flaky, or inflamed
  • Pain, especially when working with your hands
  • Discoloration in the fingernails
  • Brittle or broken fingernails

In some, the discomfort associated with cracked fingertips can affect everyday activities.


If your symptoms persist or you're otherwise concerned about your peeling fingertips, it's best to visit a healthcare provider to determine what's causing the scaly skin.

A healthcare provider might be able to make a diagnosis by examining the skin and asking about your medical history and circumstances that may have contributed to your cracked fingertips. Eczema, psoriasis, and athlete's foot can be diagnosed this way.

If your healthcare provider is unsure of the cause or wants to rule out other factors, they may suggest a skin biopsy, in which a small sample of skin is taken so it can be examined under a microscope. This can help determine whether you have psoriasis, eczema, athlete's foot, or cancer.

Your healthcare provider may suggest a blood test to measure glucose levels if they suspect your cracked fingertips are a sign of diabetes.

Treatment for Peeling Fingertips

If you’re experiencing dry, painful fingertips, you can begin treatment at home. If your skin starts to heal as a result of at-home treatment, continue the routine in order to keep dry, cracked skin at bay.

 To keep your hands well moisturized at home:

  • After washing your hands, leave them slightly damp or allow them to air-dry.
  • While your hands are damp, apply hand cream, focusing on the fingertips and nails.
  • Apply moisturizer immediately after using hand sanitizer, as the alcohol it contains can make dry skin worse. 

When choosing the right moisturizer, dermatologists recommend:

  • Occlusives: These prevent moisture loss from the skin's surface. Occlusive ingredients include mineral oil and petrolatum.
  • Humectants: These hydrate the skin by pulling moisture from the air, and attracting and binding water on the skin. Humectant ingredients include hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, and glycerin.
  • Emollients: These create protective layers on the skin. Emollients can be found in palm oil, coconut oil, and wool fat.
  • Moisturizers that are fragrance-free and dye-free: These can help you avoid irritating your skin more.

At night, use your product of choice and sleep with cotton gloves on to help your hands retain the moisture.

If your peeling fingertips don't respond to moisturizing, speak with your healthcare provider about other treatment options.

A steroid cream or antifungal cream might be needed to help your fingertips heal if the dry skin is a result of an infection.

For underlying conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or diabetes, your healthcare provider will talk with you about lifestyle changes and treatments that will help reduce your symptoms. For example, a psoriasis soap may be recommended if your cracked fingertips are due to the skin condition.


In most cases, cracked fingertips are caused by dry skin resulting from environmental triggers, such as a dry climate, aging, or harsh chemicals in soaps or cleaning products. Less commonly, it may be caused by eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, or another underlying condition. Cancer is another possibility, though a rare one.

Moisturizing your hands should help your cracked fingertips. If they're still dry, it's best to speak to a healthcare provider about other treatments.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin: Who gets and causes.

  2. National Eczema Association. What is eczema?

  3. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriasis.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fungal nail infections.

  5. de Macedo, G.M.C., Nunes, S. & Barreto, T. Skin disorders in diabetes mellitus: an epidemiology and physiopathology reviewDiabetol Metab Syndr. 2016;8(1):63. doi:10.1186/s13098-016-0176-y

  6. American Cancer Society. Nail changes.

  7. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Skin cancer of the hand and upper extremity.

  8. American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis.

  9. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin relief from COVID-19 handwashing.

  10. Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The role of moisturizers in addressing various kinds of dermatitis: A reviewClin Med Res. 2017;15(3-4):75-87. doi:10.3121/cmr.2017.1363

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.