As you may know, one of my biggest passions is skin care as a form of self-care. One area of our bodies that deserves some extra TLC (but can often be forgotten) is our hands and nails. In fact, many say that neglected hands are one of the easiest places to spot someone’s age, as most of are relatively diligent about skincare and SPF on our faces, but often forget to do the same for their hands. Additionally, in the continuation and wake of COVID-19, “maskne” (LINK TO MASKNE BLOG) isn’t the only way our skin has been impacted by the pandemic. An increase in hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers that can be very harsh on our skin has likely resulted in drier hands, and potentially a decline in nail health.
Anyone who has read my blogs before won’t be surprised that overall health and wellness is an important factor to consider when making an approach to nail care. A healthy and balanced diet, proper hydration, and good sleep are all important facets of having great skin, which includes great nails. Keeping stress at bay with good sleep, taking time to exercise, and meditation or another self-care practice can have a positive impact as well – you’re far less likely to bite your nails or pick at them if you have strategies in place to help manage your mindset and keep your overall mental health strong.
Beyond those factors, however, it may surprise you that nail care is very similar to skin care and has a lot of the same steps and requirements, but with products that are specific to nails and hands. Just like with the skin on our faces and bodies, exfoliation, cleansing, and hydration, plus protection from the sun are all extremely beneficial to our hands, which ultimately impacts the health and growth of our fingernails.
To make sure that I steer you on the right track, I’ve consulted with an expert and celebrity and editorial nail artist and manicurist, Queenie Nguyen, who’s done my nails at her previous salon Olive and June in Beverly Hills before opening her own private studio. You can find her work at www.queenienguyen.com and her instagram, @nailartbyqueenie.
Queenie recommends (and I agree) that you should exfoliate your hands at least twice a week. This removes the buildup of any dead skin that you could have lingering on your hands, and just like on our faces, allows any oil or moisturizer to soak deeply into our skin, as opposed to soaking just into the dead skin that’s collecting on the surface. It allows any treatment products to penetrate into the skin and be significantly more effective.
If you make the time (like you hopefully do for any self-care practice), hand soaks and masques are great ways to take your nail care practice to an elevated level and really nurture such an important part of your body. They’re certainly optional, but an extra treat that is likely to pay off dividends to hands, nails, and relaxation. For an added bonus, trying products that include CBD can deliver additional benefits, as I’ve mentioned in this blog about CBD (LINK TO CBD BLOG).
Of course, moisturizing with hand creams, body oils, and cuticle oils is a critical final step in the “skin care” portion of caring for your nails. You know I love oils on my face and body, and our hands and cuticles are no exception. In fact, moisturized hands and cuticles are actually key for preventing annoying, painful, and unattractive hang nails, so this is a step that is definitely not one to skip! And again, with another parallel to our face and body, either applying a product specifically for sun protection, or using a cream that includes SPF is a great way to help our hands age gracefully.
Obviously, nail care includes more than just the skin surrounding our nails – that’s just the part that can at times be overlooked. Queenie recommends keeping nails trimmed and shaped to avoid breakage, keeping cuticles pushed back (specially to help your polish last longer), and applying a protein or strengthener between polishes.
While it may be tempting to use a file to buff your nails to a shine, Queenie actually advises against doing that too often, as it is slowly removing the surface of your nails. This causes them to lose thickness over time, which can lead to more breakage.
If you choose to polish your nails, there are a variety of brands that make “__-free” polishes, that leave out ingredients that could be harmful to breathe or have on your nails, and prefers a more natural and gentle approach that excludes chemicals like formaldehyde. To help your polish last, her recommendation is to apply a clear coat every few days to seal in the color and provide an extra layer of protection.
Hopefully, you find these selections helpful as you expand your “skin care as self-care” regimen to include your hands and nails!