Firstly, wondering where was your starting point, 25 years ago (now that would be age 19, wouldn't it)? Could you retract - properly - at that point?
If you have been coming to this site for years, you should know the rules. No soap or "soap by any other name" - no "products" other than unscented Zinc and Castor Oil, "Thrush" cream or the appropriate
OK, Eumovate®/ Clobetasone cream is not
suitable for this purpose; whilst it is a fluorinated steroid, it is apparently considered a "moderate" potency steroid (and so, available "over the counter") rather than the "ultra-high" potency variety required to effect weakening of the skin matrix to stretch.
The major point is the consideration of "Thrush", and the consideration related to this that at age 44, you should
be tested for blood sugar level to exclude diabetes. Being sexually active (even with only one partner) represents a substantial mechanism for acquiring and re-acquiring the Candida yeast, even without symptoms other
than the skin hardening and fissuring (cracking).
You do not mention treating for Candida ("Thrush") so this rather sounds like the critical factor. Initial treatment with topical cream possibly augmented by oral Fluconazole, continued
with less intensity as you continue to stretch, is likely to be the "missing link".
A dilator using PTFE (Teflon®) tape sounds not unreasonable; I note that the more rigid "flesh tunnels" of the wrong design could be a problem. The stretcher
and noting my amended suggestion
to this, or at least the material used to fashion and re-fashion it, would seem to be worth pursuing as you can craft any
form of the dilators from that material (without dangerous projecting parts!).
Given that you are using an effective
treatment with anti-Candidal and optionally, appropriate steroid, and probably, some lubricant you really should not encounter fissuring. Zinc and Castor Oil may be an alternative as it has some anti-Candidal action in itself, and stretching should
if at all possible be continued with slightly reduced pressure, even while any fissure is healing (as even a fissure represents a slight advance in dimension).