The skin on your hands is subject to similar aging processes as facial skin, but hands that are cared for can remain supple, move gracefully, and look attractive. The fingernails are an important part of your hands’ appearance.
PAMPER YOUR HANDS
Wash your hands with lukewarm water and only a small amount of soap. Concentrate on the palms, which have the most contact with dirt and are less vulnerable to dehydration than the backs of hands. Apply moisturizer while hands are still slightly damp.
When using a hot-air dryer, hold hands at least six inches from the nozzle and rotate them frequently.
Rub on a moisturizer in the morning and evening, especially after bathing, and any time in between that you can. Carry a small tube or bottle of hand cream in your purse or briefcase for this purpose; don’t wait until your hands feel dry to apply it.
If you have very chapped hands, cover them with petroleum jelly and wear cotton gloves overnight.
When the weather is cold, protect your hands from dry air with gloves.
Wear rubber gloves when doing work that puts your hands in contact with water, cleaning products, or soil. Gloves should be lined with cotton to absorb perspiration. If they’re not, wear cotton gloves underneath.
The sun promotes the development of brown spots on the backs of hands. Put on sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) before spending any time outdoors.
Keep a bottle of hand lotion next to every sink in your home.
Simple hand “facial”: Use your moisturizing face mask on your hands after bathing. For deep cleaning, try a mud facial.
Supple-hands treatment: Melt paraffin wax (found in hardware stores) in a double boiler. Apply a coat of moisturizing cream to your hands. Test the now-liquid wax on your inner wrist for a comfortable temperature; then paint it on your hands with a clean, narrow paintbrush. Let the wax harden, then remove it in large pieces, lifting dirt and debris from the skin. Rinse with cool water.
Grit removers: For ground-in dirt, wet hands with warm water and lather with baby shampoo; leave on for one minute, then rinse. Use a fine pumice stone on roughened, dirt-filled skin, but don’t do this too often.
Grit preventer: If you have a dirty job in the store and can’t use gloves, first scratch your nails several times across a wet bar of soap. The dirt won’t have room to penetrate.
To remove stains, soak nails in a bowl containing one pint of warm water and one tablespoon of lemon juice.
CHOOSING A NAIL SALON
Getting your nails done professionally can be a health risk. Before sitting down to a manicure, be certain you have chosen a reputable salon.
Check to see if the salon or manicurist has a certificate from the state; some states require salons to meet specific hygienic standards and manicurists to pass state boards.
Ask about sterilization procedures. The only effective procedure is heat sterilization with an autoclave machine (used in hospitals to clean medical instruments).
Be sure that emery boards are discarded after each use. You may prefer to simply bring your own file and other implements.
Watch for one sure infection spreader-the wooden orange stick. Wood traps moisture,
permitting fungal and bacterial organisms to thrive.
Many nail products are highly flammable. Don’t smoke or leave products near the stove or any flame when giving your self a manicure.
THE HOME MANICURE
If you borrow professional techniques, a regular manicure is simple and speedy. To avoid overuse of nail polish remover, which can be drying, give yourself a manicure only every two weeks; in between, touch up your polish. For your manicure, you’ll need a good, focused work light. No time for a full manicure? At night, do the steps through the first coat of nail polish. Next morning, apply the second coat. Later in the day, put on the topcoat. This has the added benefit of giving the enamel plenty of drying time.
Saturate a cotton pad about halfway with nail polish remover. Press down on the nail, using a rocking motion of your thumb on the pad to take up all the old enamel; then whisk it off quickly. If necessary, repeat to remove every trace of polish.
File dry nails with an emery board or diamond-cut metal file. File to-ward the center of each nail in one direction only; don’t saw. Shape nails into slightly blunted ovals. For the best filing position, make a fist, uncurl your fingers slightly, and file with your fingers facing you. Do the thumb last.
Soak fingertips briefly in warm, sudsy water to soften cuticles. Rinse and dry hands. Smooth cuticle remover into the base and sides of each nail. Let it work for a minute or two. After covering your fingertips with a linen towel, push back cuticles gently; don’t use orange sticks or “cuticle pushers.”
Dip fingers into warm, sudsy water, and clean nails with a soft brush. If you have a hangnail, use a cuticle clipper to remove the torn skin, but don’t clip into the cuticle itself. Massage cuticle conditioner (or moisturizer) around the base and sides of each nail. Rinse off excess, and dry nails thoroughly.
If you choose not to use polish, buff your nails to a natural shine with a dry paste and a chamois-covered nail buffer. (Limit buffing to once a month if your nails are thin.) If you are using polish, first apply a base coat. Hold the brush so that it spreads out flat against the nail. A thin, even coat adheres best.
Apply polish in two thin coats. Use three strokes from base to tip: up the center, then each side. Let the first layer dry for three minutes and the second for five, then brush on a topcoat. If you can ‘t wait for your nails to air-dry, dip them into ice-cold water to dry the top layer, but be careful for another half hour.
Artificial nails and nail wraps can cause such serious problems as infected, swollen fingers and permanently distort ed nails. Because of these hazards, some experts advise against using them at all. If you do intend to use these products, be certain to take the following precautions:
If there is any question about sensitivity to the materials, have one nail done as a test and wait a few days to see if any reaction develops.
Never apply an artificial nail if the natural nail or tissue around it is infected or irritated; let the infection heal first.
Read instructions for do-it-yourself nails before applying them, and follow the directions carefully. Save the ingredient list for your doctor in case of an allergic reaction or other problem.
Treat your artificial nails with care so that they don’t break and separate, creating a
space vulnerable to germs. Keep the nail areas clean and protect them from harsh detergents.
If a nail does separate, dip the fingertip into rubbing alcohol to clean the space between the natural and artificial nails before reattaching the artificial one. Never use household glues for home repairs. Only use products intended for such use, and follow the instructions and heed all cautions on the labels.
Choose nail tips instead of products that cover the entire nail surface.
Give your nails a month’s rest after each three-month period of being covered.
Keep artificial-nail removers out of the reach of children. Cyanide poisoning has occurred in children who ingested the solvents.
Before opening a bottle of nail enamel, shake it well so that air bubbles won’t form.
See a dermatologist quickly if a nail becomes infected. Signs are swollen, red surrounding skin; discoloration of a nail; and a thickened, whitish nail that partially falls off. Nail loss may result in prompt treatment. Do not polish the nail-enamel can seal in the infection.
Nail problems can be clues to medical conditions. Consult the chart below, but do not attempt a diagnosis yourself; leave this to your physician.
These nail maladies are among those that may be linked with illnesses.
|Beau’s lines||Indentations running across nail||Heart attack, measles, pneumonia, or other severe illness; fever|
|Clubbing||Widened and rounded fingertips; curving nails||Lung disease, heart disease, cancer|
|Onycholysis||Nail separated from the nail bed||Injury, psoriasis, drug reactions, fungal disease, contact dermatitis|
|Pitting||Small pits or depressions||Psoriasis, alopecia areata (hair-loss condition)|
|Spoon nails||Soft nails that look scooped out||Iron-deficiency anemia|
|Terry’s nails||Opaque, white nail; nail tip has dark pink to brown band||Cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, adult-onset diabetes, cancer, aging|
|Vertical ridges||Narrow ridges running the length of nails||Aging, kidney failure|
|Yellow nail syndrome||Yellow or green nail; cuticle and “moon” disappear||Swelling of hands and feet, respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis|
Break the nail-biting habit with regular manicures. Not only will the manicures keep the area smooth, but your attractive hands will give you an incentive not to chew.
Certain medications can make nails sensitive to sunlight, possibly causing brittleness and ridges (see Sun Sense). To help prevent this damage, apply sunscreen from the first joint below each cuticle to the tip of the nail. Nail polishes that are opaque or contain sunscreen also act as shields against ultraviolet rays.
Be careful when cleaning under your nail tips. If you’re too vigorous, you may create space that allows fungi or bacteria to grow.
If a hangnail develops between manicures, soften it with cuticle cream, then cut it off with sharp scissors.
TOUGH AS NAILS
The suggestions below will help you to develop or keep strong nails.
Apply a nail-hardener, but don’t use products containing toluene-sulfonamide formaldehyde resin, which can cause rashes.
To prevent cracking, splitting, and injury, don’t let nails grow longer than a quarter-inch past the nail bed.
Avoid polish removers containing acetone, which may dry nails. If you must use acetone remover, add olive oil or unscented castor oil to it.
Repair splits or tears with nail glue or clear polish.
Unless you’re deficient in protein (rare among Americans), no change in diet will strengthen your nails. Gelatin, for example, has no effect on weak nails.
Fingernails are not nature’s screwdrivers. Don’t use them to assemble bookcases, pull out staples, or open boxes. Pick things up with your fingertips, not your nails. Push telephone buttons with the fleshy pads of fingers, and use a pencil to turn rotary dials.
If you have fragile nails, practice this regimen nightly:
Submerge your nails in lukewarm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently pat them dry and immediately apply a moisturizer directly over them. You can also try an occasional soak in warm olive oil, a horsetail infusion, or cider vinegar.
Clipping can weaken nails, so don’t trim them unless they’re very long. Cut nails while they’re wet; they’re more flexible and less are susceptible to splitting. File nails, however,
only when they’re dry.
Don’t pick at the polish, especially if nails are weak. When you peel off a layer of polish, a layer of the nail itself may come with it.
A dark streak running lengthwise under the nail may indicate melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer. Unless you’re dark-skinned and such marks are normal, have a dermatologist check it immediately.
Massage is a good way to release tension and keeps the hands limber. You may want to use lubricants: Massage cuticle cream into each nail base with the thumb and the first finger of the opposite hand. Warm hand lotion by placing it in the palm of your hand, and then spread it over the back and fingers of the opposite hand. (You can also have someone else massage your hands.)
Massage the hand and wrist with the circular movements with the tip or ball of the thumb. To relax the wrist and finger joints, use kneading movements of the thumb and fingers. Massage each finger gently from the knuckle to the tip.
Using very little pressure, pull each finger from the knuckle to relax the joint.
Make several clockwise circles in the air with each finger. Then massage the hand with circular movements from the base of the fingers down to the wrist.
Put the palms of the hands together, entwine the fingers, and make several clockwise circles with the wrist. Finish with light stroking movements over the whole hand.