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Healthy Nail and Hand Care

How to protect, moisturize and treat your hands with a little TLC
Written by 
Anne Fritz Linval
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 
Updated on: 
October 24, 2013

Taking care of your hands and nails is as important as taking care of the skin on your face. It is often said that your hands reveal your true age, and that’s because the skin on your hands loses its firmness over time, leaving them susceptible to wrinkles, sun spots other signs of aging. Yet your hands often don’t get the attention they deserve. By following a few simple steps every day, you can keep them looking and feeling young and supple.

Keep Hands Moisturized and Sun-Protected

You may have a dedicated routine to keep your face hydrated and protected from the sun (which is a good thing), but what about your hands? They need moisture to keep them supple, and they are also at risk for sun damage, which can cause wrinkles and dark spots. It’s important to keep them protected every day. Look for a moisturizing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and try to choose one with emollient ingredients like shea butter (which also offers some sun protection) and vitamin E (which has been shown to reduce wrinkles and skin roughness). Remember to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply as needed (every two hours is a good general rule, but reapply sooner if you’ve been swimming or sweating).

Take Care of Your Cuticles

Just like your hands need to be moisturized, so do your nails. While you have the moisturizer out, rub a little into the base and sides of your nails, including the cuticles, the protective barrier between your nails and the skin underneath. Moisturizing your nails and cuticles keeps those areas more pliable and less at risk for cracking, tearing and hangnails, which can open the door to skin infections. If your cuticles are very dry and prone to tears, you may want to consider applying nightly cuticle oil to offer an extra dose of moisture.

Wear Gloves During Chores

When it comes to taking care of your hands, gloves offer two great benefits. Water, especially hot water, can strip your skin of its own natural oils, leaving your hands and nails dry and chapped. Exposure to the chemicals found in some cleaning products can cause contact dermatitis, which is a skin reaction that results in redness, itching and dryness. Wearing a pair of the cotton-lined rubber gloves while you clean minimizes your contact with both water and chemicals, keeping hands shielded while you work.  

Remove Polish

A fresh coat of nail polish adds a pop of color to your hands, but you don’t want to leave it on for too long. In addition to unsightly chips, an old coat of polish (especially if you tend to prefer darker shades) can cause discoloration or yellowing and weakening of your nails. Aim to keep polish on for no longer than a week, and remove it with a cotton pad and non-acetone polish remover, which is gentler on nails than remover with acetone. Soak a cotton pad with remover then hold it on your nail for at least 10 seconds, then swipe upward toward the tip of your nail. This is less irritating to your nails and cuticles than rubbing vigorously in all directions. Once your nails are polish-free, check them for any irregularities, such as white spots, vertical lines or dark streaks. These changes can be caused by a variety of factors, from injury to certain diseases including melanoma, so they should not be ignored. 

File Your Nails

When it comes to the best length for your nails, think of yourself like Goldilocks with her porridge: Nails that are too long are more likely to split or tear, as well as harbor bacteria, while nails that are too short may not adequately protect your fingertips. Aim for nails that are “just right,” with tips that extend two to three millimeters beyond your fingertips. File nails in one direction only—using a sawing motion can create microscopic tears that make nails more likely to split.

Reference(s) 
American Academy of Dermatology
Mayo Clinic
University of Maryland Medical Center
About the author 
Anne Fritz Linval is a beauty writer with more than 10 years experience. She lives in New York City.