If you've ever suffered from hangnails, craggy cuticles or dry hands, you've probably also known the feeling of nail envy. Ever wonder how some women always have beautiful hands and nails? The keys, say the experts, are moisturizer and maintenance. These tips will help you put those two essentials into practice to get the gorgeous hands you've always wanted:
Moisturize your cuticles.
"Use Vaseline, or a hand cream that contains shea butter or cocoa butter," recommends aesthetician Jamie Ahn, founder of Acqua Beauty Bar day spa. "Keep some everywhere: in your home, at work, in your car. Apply it several times a day." And at night, cover your moisturized hands with cotton gloves, she advises; you'll love the results in the morning. "It sounds like a timeworn remedy, but it really works," she says.
Never cut your cuticles.
"Never cut the living tissue around the nail plate," warns Jan Arnold, cofounder of Creative Nail Design. "Continual cutting causes cuticles to grow out ragged, leading to hangnails, and may open up the nail bed to germs that can lead to infection." Over time, she adds, cutting cuticles leads to calluses and scarlike tissue around the nail. Arnold says you can break the vicious cycle by giving cuticles a vacation from cutting, and conditioning them daily with two of her line's products, a.h.a. Cuticle Eraser and SolarOil. The a.h.a. Cuticle Eraser is an 8 percent blend of glycolic and lactic acids in a botanical base, which micro-exfoliates nonliving cuticle tissue. The SolarOil moisturizes and softens the area
Use natural soaps.
Many soaps are drying, notes Ahn. So when you wash your hands, use something that doesn't contain alcohol or detergents. "The worst soap is the kind you find in public rest rooms '- including the ones at your office," she says. "I carry my favorite soap with me. "If the idea of carrying soap sounds strange, take heart. Apt.5 makes Soaps-On-the-Go; 10 scented soap sheets in a purse-sized pouch. Just peel one away, place in the palm of your hand, add water and lather. Available at Duane Reade stores or Apt5.com for $1.99.
Get a weekly maintenance manicure.
Not only will your nails stay healthier with regular manicures, says Ahn, but pretty nails beget pretty nails. "If your hands already look good, you'll take more pains to keep them that way," she says. To keep your hands in optimal condition, she recommends getting a monthly paraffin wax hand treatment to moisturize them deeply.
Carry hand cream with you.
Apply hand cream throughout the day '- and make sure it's thick, advises spa owner and skin expert. "In the winter, my rule is 'If you can pour it, don't put it.' You don't want a lotion. Use a cream," she says, and adds, "A number of great creams come in small packages. Look for hyaluronic acid on the package; it holds 400 times its weight in water." Barielle Intensive Hand Treatment Cream is a richly emollient moisture treatment that helps heal rough, dried and chapped hands. It contains oat beta glucan, which is reputed to act as a natural anti-irritant, safe for even the most sensitive skin. The product also promises to prevent redness and drying. For the best results, microwave the cotton gloves (included in the box) for 10 to 15 seconds. After applying the cream, put on the gloves and allow the cream to penetrate overnight. It's the best time for nourishing treatments.
Exfoliate your skin.
Skin that looks old or sallow can often easily be rejuvenated by removing patches of dead skin cells from the skin's surface. Alpha-hydroxy acids, or AHAs, work by dissolving the "glue" that holds dead skin cells to your skin. Unless otherwise stated, it may be best to use these products at night because they can actually make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. Look for glycolic acid on the label in products from lines like Murad and Aqua Glycolic.