Q: The skin around my nails often peels and cracks. Is there any vitamin or supplement I can take to strengthen the skin around my nails?

A. Our daily activities can take a toll on our hands. This can sometimes result in cracking and bleeding fingertips.

Actions that can irritate hands include:

  • putting hands in soap suds when washing dishes
  • changing diapers
  • washing hands with scented soap
  • using harsh cleaning solutions without wearing rubber gloves
  • washing hands frequently
  • not drying hands carefully after washing

A good balanced diet is essential to good skin in general. But the daily care of your hands is most important in avoiding peeling and cracking.

Try these steps:

  • wear rubber gloves when washing dishes or cleaning house
  • use unscented soap when washing your hands
  • keep a bottle of unscented moisturizer by the sink and apply after washing and drying your hands
  • if cracks occur around your nails, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or white Vaseline to the cracks
  • wear white cotton gloves at night after applying Vaseline if cracks are numerous

See your doctor if the cracking and peeling does not go away. If your hands are very irritated, your doctor may prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic. Your doctor can determine whether you need to be tested for any diet deficiencies or other problems. In the meantime, try to treat your hands as gently as possible.