by Susan Schell
Hand care might not be everyone’s most primary concern – but for me it has become a big part of my life. Working as a hand model here in NYC, I’m expected to have flawless hands and nails. Of course perfection is not always attainable, my nails break and my hands dry out just like everyone else.
I have however developed a routine for myself that keeps my hands more consistently prepared for photo shoots. I never know when I am going to be booked for a job so it is important for me to maintain healthy and pretty hands at all times.
It might seem intimidating or overwhelming when you think about starting a hand care “routine” but there are a variety of small things you can do improve your hands that don’t necessarily require you to carve out time from your day to devote to the effort.
For me, one of the easiest ways to remind myself to moisturize is to place bottles of lotion by the sinks in my kitchen and bathroom. This way whenever I wash my hands I grab a pump of lotion to rehydrate my skin. It is so simple but it really works!
Along the same lines, carrying around a small bottle of lotion in my purse makes it easy to moisturize on the go. I like to carry around a really rich moisturizer in my bag, this way I only need a tiny dab of it for the tops of my hands and it keeps my palms from being greasy or sticky while I’m out and about.
When it comes to taking care of my hands, I am not a fan of spending a lot of money on products. Using lanolin cream is a great and cheap product that makes your hands incredibly soft and helps protect them against cold weather. I know a lot of hand models that believe in using things found in your kitchen like olive oil or coconut oil and that they are just as good as expensive hand creams.
Efficiency is also something that is quite important to me. I like hand care steps that feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone. Anytime I exfoliate my face I use the excess product and exfoliate my hands. I do the same thing with any facial moisturizes I use; I just rub the excess/residue into my hands and cuticles.
Speaking of cuticles, I truly believe they are the most important part of any hand care routine. Hand models swear by frequent moisturizing and I do agree that it helps but I think healthy cuticles are what make hands look their absolute best.
Cuticles, or the thin and flexible skin around the bottom of your nail beds, are a key part of nail health – they protect your nails. Cutting your cuticles improperly can lead to infections as well as painful and unsightly wounds. It is really easy to cut them too deeply and hurt yourself, not to mention that cutting them makes the skin grow back rougher and more uneven.
I find that using quality cuticle creams and oils (like Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme and Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Oil) in addition to pushing back my cuticles is the best way to care for them. When using cuticle oils, I put a tiny drop of oil on the base of each nail and gently rub the oil into the skin around the nail. Next I gently push back the skin surrounding the nails with an orange stick (most beauty supply stores carry these) to really get the oil under the cuticles.
Although cutting your cuticles is not something I would advise, I do think it is necessary to carefully cut hangnails. Hangnails can be painful, the worst thing you can do is bite them or pull on the skin — it can make them inflamed and can open them up to infection.
Carefully cutting them before they get to the point of redness or irritation is ideal but never dig into your skin. Cut the base of the hangnail very superficially and just so that there is no skin hanging off. Then apply cuticle cream or oil so you can rehydrate the area.
I believe that healthy cuticles lead to healthy nails. I naturally have pretty strong nails but I do take Biotin to help them grow longer and stronger. (As with any vitamin, it is best to check with your doctor before you begin taking something.) I have no medical evidence for this but I think it works really well for me and as a bonus it promotes hair growth and better skin.
In addition to my daily routine of moisturizing and using cuticle creams, I sometimes like to do more intense hand treatments. These are especially helpful for when I know I have a big hand shoot coming up.
My go-to treatment is kind of like a hand mask; I slather myself in extremely rich lotions, hand salves, and of course cuticle oil. I then put on cotton overnight gloves and go to bed with all of that goo on my hands, by the morning my hands feel super soft and hydrated. It is a great overnight fix.
Another great trick for softer hands is a paraffin wax treatment. I love doing this! Basically you repeatedly dip your hands in to warm wax (warm, not hot wax!) and build up a coat of soft wax around your hands. You let the wax harden and then slip on these large mittens to keep in the warmth. When the wax has completely cooled around your hands you just crack it off and you are left with soft, smooth hands.
There are great at-home paraffin wax kits or you can go to a spa and have it done there. I like doing it myself. It is really fun to dip your hands in the wax and it looks really cool when the wax hardens around your hands. (But use caution when playing with warm wax – it can make a mess or possibly hurt you.)
I enjoy this a lot but I do not do it very often, it is more of a once every few months kind of thing. It is also especially great for people whose hands tend to crack or get extremely dry.
Not everything has to be extreme! Simple things can make a big difference. I think hand care is very similar to any beauty routine; you just have to find what works for you and try to be consistent.