Your hands say a lot about you. Sometimes they reveal that you haven't been taking care of yourself, which isn’t exactly the message you want people to get. Making weekly nail and cuticle care part of your self-care routine is an important part of your well-being. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to the nail salon every week. You can follow these simple steps to healthy and happy hands.
1. Cuticle oil is your friend
While many of us often feel at war with our cuticles, they're actually a delicate part of the nail bed and an important part of your overall nail health. Cuticles protect the base of your nail bed as it's forming the hardened keratin that becomes your fingernail.
Not only will taking care of your cuticles help support healthy nail growth, but it can help your overall health, too. Your hands come into contact with germs all day long. If your cuticles are peeling, jagged, dried out or becoming problematic (as in creating hangnails or splintered pieces of cuticle that separate from the rest of your nail bed), you are more prone to irritation and infection.
DIY Cuticle Oil
- 2 tsp. vitamin E oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops grapefruit essential oil
Mix and keep in a glass roller ball vial or in a glass bottle with a small dropper. Apply to cuticles as often as needed.
2. Don’t pick or bite
On that same note of hangnails and infections, if you’re a cuticle picker or finer nail/cuticle biter, you better knock it off right now. Besides the petri-dish concoction of germs you're swapping between your mouth and your hands, you are, again, prolonging the irritation of skin around your nail beds and adding to the risk of infection.
Plus, it can be a slippery slope. You might be thinking, “Let me just nibble off this one little part that's bothering me.” But you know that never goes as planned, and then you have a bigger, and more painful, tear along your cuticle. It may be tricky; let’s not pretend breaking a bad habit like that doesn’t take some serious effort and determination. But for the health of your nails, your fingers and yourself, you’ve got to kick it.
3. Be gentle
Aside from picking and biting, you can skip the cuticle trimming as well. Cuticles are perfectly fine when noticeable or attached to your nail. If you're really determined to remove them their natural resting place on your nail bed, then the best and safest course of action is to use cuticle oil and massage it into your nail bed, cuticle and surrounding skin. Once the area is softened you can carefully nudge back the cuticle closer to the base of the nail bed with a soft tipped cuticle stick or a wooden orange stick.
In the instance that you have a painful and significant hangnail, then your best option is to use very fine-tipped pair of scissors or nail clippers, preferably made specifically for manicuring nails. Use them to carefully and conservatively trim the hardened skin that's pulled away from the rest of the cuticle. But don’t get carried away. Less is more, as they say, so leave as much of the healthy cuticle and surrounding the tissue as you can.
4. Wear gloves
Sure, you can wear them all the time if you’re a 1950s movie star, but we’re really talking about the kind of gloves that protect your hands when you’re doing hard work. Gardening? Grab some gloves to help prevent dirt from lodging in and under your nails and cuticles. Doing carpentry or working with power tools or heavy equipment? Wear safety gloves that will help protect your hands as well as help provide a safer grip on your equipment and your materials.
As for housework and dishes, grab a pair of reusable gloves to protect your hands from soaps, cleansers and excessive exposure to water – all of which can dry out, irritate and damage your hands (and your nails).
5. Self care
Don’t think of this as a chore or something that is to be added to the long list of things you have to do every day. Instead, consider the 10 minutes that it takes to give your hands a bit of pampering as an important part of self care. You don’t need to go to the salon every week (unless you want to then by all means have at it) or spend a bunch of money on expensive manicures. Take a little time each week to care for your cuticles, and to care for your hands in general, and you will have those happy, healthy hands and nails you've always wanted.