Give your hands the extra pampering they need this spring

Posted April 08, 2014, at 3:35 p.m.

Cold, wet weather can raise havoc on your skin causing red, rough hands with fingertips that are prone to painful splitting. For seniors, taking care of the hands is vital as the skin loses some of its integrity and becomes thin. Not to mention, hands are like calendars and can readily show the passage of time.

If your hands are red, cracked and rough enough to scrape paint off a wall, think about having regular manicures. Many salons are very reasonably priced, or you can do an at-home version yourself.

Manicures are the best way to keep your hands, nails and cuticles supple and healthy. Too often, money is spent on hair and makeup, but hands are forgotten. There is also a new technique for polishing nails, which uses gels, that prevents the color from chipping, I am told, for a couple of weeks.

If you elect the do-it-yourself route, the following steps, done weekly, will reward you with beautiful, soft hands suitable for holding. So get yourself a good hand cream and take a look at the steps below:

• File nails gently with a good emery board in one direction, being careful not to file too deeply at the corners. Never see-saw as that can cause splitting. Inspect your nails for ridges, which can be a sign of aging but can also indicate an underlying health problem. If the ridges have gotten worse, mention them to your doctor.

• If your hands are rough and dry, it is important to remove the dead skin. Make your own sloughing cream by mixing sugar — some people use salt but I find it drying — and hand lotion together to form a soft paste. Rub it all over your hands, then wash with a mild soap and rinse well in warm water — never hot, as it is harsh and drying, especially on older skin.

• To keep this newfound softness, massage a rich but non-greasy cream into your hands. There are dozens on the market. It is just a matter of finding one you like. For those of you who prefer the natural route, try coconut oil. It is a solid white until it is warmed; then turns to a soft, clear liquid. It is all natural, fragrance free, and a little goes a very long way. You can use all over your body for continued smoothness and you can even cook with it.

• Now wipe your fingertips with alcohol to remove any traces of oil left on your nails by the hand cream if you are planning to apply polish.

• It’s important to apply a clear base coat so your nails won’t become stained by the colored polish. Then apply two coats of color and finish with a top coat.

• Now sit back and relax until the nails are completely dry. You deserve the break.

A couple of tips: If you get nail polish on your fingers, use a cotton swab dipped in nail-polish remover. And when nails are just about dry but still a bit tacky, spray with a little cooking oil. It won’t damage the manicure but will prevent smears if you inadvertently touch something.

These tips will make your hands look like you wintered down south for the winter instead of braving the elements here.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of community education at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, or log on EAAA.org.

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