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‘Tis the season for finger splits! Be sure to read the comments following the post. You will see that fellow musicians have many different approaches to dealing with this common problem.

split fingers

The top 2 circles indicate splits in progress; bottom circle shows a split with callouses.  Source:  my cellphone camera, my right hand.

Pianists! Do your fingers split or crack?

I have dry skin.  Callouses build up from playing the piano, then split due to the hours spent playing or from cold weather.

Sometimes the split turns into a deeper cut, similar to a paper cut.  Ouch!  When that happens, blood can get onto the keys.  (It’s not pretty!)

So, after much experimentation about how to make this better in order to continue playing, I have found something that works.  Other pianists have also suggested solutions that work for them.

Measures I’ve tried (groan!)

Liquid Band-Aid ~ wears through when playing

regular Band-Aid ~ slips on keys, tape gunk comes off

paper tape ~ too thin for this purpose

heavy duty tape ~ too gunky, too thick, can’t feel keys

Other pianists’ recommendations

NuSkin

One of my teachers, and Gail Fischler, of the Piano Addict blog, both use NuSkin.  I find that it wears through, but you may want to try it.

My preferred “fix”

Johnson & Johnson First Aid Waterproof (“adhesive”) Tape

Here’s how:

  1. Tear off a piece of tape.
  2. Affix tape around end of finger, making a “U” shape along sides of fingernail
  3. Use another small piece the other way ~ this piece will cover the nail and back of finger (the ends should be even)
  4. Then use a longer piece around the finger, like a Band-Aid, overlapping the ends.  The purpose is to keep the first two pieces of tape in place.
  5. Last step ~ smoosh tape around finger.

A pianist friend trims the corners, then smooshes the tape even closer to her finger.

I remove the tape just before playing a concert or audition.  It stays on for rehearsals!

The timing of when you remove the tape is your call.  Playing with or without tape changes the way you feel the keys, and that change takes some getting used to.

A word of caution: Remove the tape when you’re not playing.  Or, if the split is painful, at least remove the tape at night.  Leaving it on too long results in raw cuticles.

Amy swears by this

The music director of a show I did recently says Krazy Glue® was recommended by her father, a carpenter.  Krazy Glue doesn’t sting, doesn’t wear out or tear, provides cushioning, and isn’t gunky.  (I have yet to try it.)

Further considerations

Using hand cream, moisturizer, etc., is also important, and can postpone splits.

Hand cream should be non-greasy, so as not to slip on the keys or gunk them up.  There are many available types that are effective.

I use Aveeno® hand cream.  It remains effective even after you wash your hands, soaks into the skin, and is non-greasy.  CVS has a generic version that works just as well, and is slightly less expensive.

Mild soap is less drying to the skin.

Do you wear gloves when it’s cold?  Mine have Thinsulate® lining ~ wool and fleece dry out the skin.

Wearing wool clothing also dries out the skin, hands included (from handling the clothing).  Fortunately, tech materials are equally as warm.

Emergency treatment

From time to time, the split just won’t go away.  That typically happens when there is an extended cold spell.

A dermatologist gave me a prescription several years ago that really works.  You might want to ask your doctor.  It’s Salicylic Acid 2% in Aquaphor, a compound made at the pharmacy.  It breaks down callouses.  The same stuff is used in callous-removal products for the feet.

I apply it to my finger callouses before bed, then wear plastic gloves.  The resulting hand moisture from the gloves is an added bonus.  The callouses soften after a night or two, and heal a day or two after that.  Yes, it takes time, but it works.  I have yet to find an instant solution.

How do you handle finger splitting?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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