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.
Washing your hands is a great way to curb the spread of germs. But some soaps can irritate your skin
Dermatologist Amy Derick, MD, of Barrington, Ill., recommends using a moisturizing liquid cleanser to wash hands if you have normal skin. If you prefer bar soap, look for moisturizing soap made with ingredients such as glycerin, petrolatum, sunflower oil, and soybean oil.
Moisturizers and Hand Creams
One of the best things you can do for your hands, especially as you get older, is to moisturize them throughout the day and before you go to bed. Any cream or lotion will do, but creams made for the hands have some advantages. One of the major ones is that they are usually non-greasy and quick absorbing.
Moisturizing creams can, at least temporarily, make your hands look plumper and more youthful by drawing water into the skin. For plumping, look for hand creams containing hyaluronic acid, which gives skin support and body. To moisturize the skin of your hands, look for hand creams with petrolatum, glycerin, shea butter, or safflower seed oil.
Be sure to buy hand cream with a broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, to protect your hands from sun damage.
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.
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.