My late grandmother used to say you could always tell how old a woman was and what sort of life she lead by her hands.
Like many things she said, she was right.
After the face, the hands are probably the most noticeable part of one’s body. As a nation, we spend millions each year on nail polish, hand creams, cuticle products, and other products designed to make the hands more beautiful.
The fake nail business is a huge industry, and manicures are so popular that some have called them “a recession-proof beauty indulgence.” However, like many so-called beauty treatments many of these things come with a cost that goes well-beyond the price tag.
For instance, the chemicals that go into many nail polishes and nail polish removers, namely formaldehyde and acetone are common skin irritants that have been linked to cancer in lab animals. Even your favorite tube of hand cream may contain parabens which besides acting as preservatives may be endocrine disruptors.
Fortunately, caring for the hands and nails the natural way is pretty easy and cheap. In fact, skipping those professional manicures may not only be good for your wallet, but for your health as well. The following tips below will keep your hands and nails healthy and glowing all winter long:
1. Use a hand and nail oil.
Go to any drugstore or big box store, and there are literally hundreds of hand cream and lotions to be found. However, I have found that the best treatment is 100% jojoba oil. As I mentioned in another piece I wrote about skin care, jojoba oil is similar to the body’s natural sebum (oil).
However, what makes this a superior hand treatment is the fact that it absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue—a major plus when I am getting ready in the mornings and don’t want to worry about leaving grease marks on my clothes or have to worry about my hands being too slick to even grip the front door knob.
If that isn’t enough, jojoba oil leaves a nice sheen on the hands which is a perfect way to counteract that ashy, “alligator skin” that can often occur in the winter.
2. Avoid cutting, dissolving, or manipulating the cuticle whenever possible.
For some reason, cuticles are considered ugly by many and there is an attempt to either get rid of them completely or push them out of the way. However, do not do this. The cuticles have a function and that is to act as a barrier between the nail and dirt, bacteria, and other nasty things. Years ago, I had an infected cuticle after getting a professional manicure and I am not going to mince words: it hurt like hell. I eventually had to visit a dermatologist and get a prescription cream which ended up making that “cheap” manicure very costly indeed.
If your cuticles are extremely ragged, try rubbing either 100% pure shea butter (which is widely available at most health food shops) directly in them.
3. Treat your hands to a salt scrub.
Hands can and should be exfoliated regularly. Removing dry, dead skin allows hand oils and lotions to better penetrate the skin as well as makes them look nicer.
Rather than shell out on expensive pre-made scrubs, it’s much easier to make your own out of salt and oil. While I like jojoba oil, any oil will do. I combine 1 Tablespoon of salt with 1 Tablespoon of oil. (You may want to use less oil if you want a gritter spread.) Mix well and apply all over the hands. Rinse well with water and apply oil or cream if you wish although I often find the oil in the mixture to be moisturizing enough.
Note: Avoid this if you have any cuts or nicks on the hands or else the salt will sting. If the salt is too grainy and hard on the hands, substitute baking soda for the salt.
4. Avoid nail polish or use only on special occasions.
I personally never liked nail polish on my finger nails. First, I hate the smell of most of them, and it always seem to chip no matter how careful I am. However, I cannot deny the appeal of polished nails, and I know several women who do not feel truly dressed up unless their nails are done.
While water-based polishes exist, they tend to be expensive and in my experience, are worse for chipping than conventional brands.
If you chose a conventional brand, try to avoid those who use toulene and formaldehyde. (Even many mainstream drugstore brands are phasing these chemicals out of their polishes.)
Another alternative is to simply buff your nails until they shine. Indeed, this is what people did years before nail polish was invented and is even where the term “nail polish” comes from.
Maintaining attractive hands and nails isn’t just about aesthetics, but about health as well. Having chapped, cracked hands isn’t just uncomfortable, but can also lead to infection and other maladies as well. Treat your hands with as much care as you do your face, and they should stay healthy and lovely all winter long.
Just to be safe—don’t forget your gloves or mittens especially on those cold, snowy days where the air is drier than the Sahara.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise