How To: Sort Stressed Out Winter Hands & Nails

hand sos

A couple of days ago, something bloody awful happened. I'd been on the Tube, reading the paper with my gloves in my lap, and completely forgot about them as I stood up. I never noticed them falling to the ground, probably in slow motion and surely to the strains of Shirley Bassey singing 'This Is My Life' accompanied by swelling, soaring, heartrending strings.

Unlike the Heineken ad, though, there was no-one to reach out a hand and catch my gloves (which, incidentally, were green) before they plummeted to their fate.

I realised they were missing only a split second after I stepped off the train but it was too late: the doors had closed and the train was pulling away from the station.

I spent the rest of that bitingly cold day with my hands jammed in my coat pockets, but it was no good: exposure to the elements meant that within no time my cuticles looked ragged and my fingers looked like they belonged to a desiccated 100-year-old.

If yours are in a similar state and giving you a bit of a fright every time you catch sight of them, here's what to do.

1. Prep
Remove any nail polish and shape nails with a file.

2. Scrub
Polishing the hands with an exfoliating product removes old and dry skin cells, reveals fresher looking skin and improves its overall texture, and enables other products to perform more effectively. You can actually buy exfoliants intended for use specifically on hands in salon supply stores, but  most facial or body scrubs, whether shop-bought or homemade, will do the job as long as they're not too harsh.


Anything designed to slough away hard skin accumulations on feet, for example, should not be going next or near your handies.

Using the pads of your fingers, gently massage a small amount of exfoliant onto the back of the opposite hand (including wrist and fingers) before doing the same on the palm. If you tend to get a build up of hard skin on your palms at the base of your fingers (or anywhere else, for that matter) now is the time to give it the heave ho.

Repeat on your other hand before rinsing clean and patting them dry.

3. Mask
No, masks are not just for your face. If your hands are in a really bad way, applying a rehydrating mask will give them a much-needed moisture boost. Again, you can buy specialist masks for the hands but a bog standard moisturising face mask that you don't mind spreading on your paws is grand.

You won't be able to do very much while it's on, of course, but them's the breaks.

3a. Nail & cuticle treatment
While you're letting the mask do its thing, soak your fingertips in a small bowl warm olive oil to help sort out dry skin and treat dry or brittle nails.

4. Cuticle work
To deal with overgrown cuticles, apply a cuticle softener (try Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover) and allow it to sit for a few minutes before gently pushing cuticles back with the flat end of an orange stick wrapped in a little cotton wool.


5. Moisturise
Massage a rich hand cream into the hands, nails, and cuticles.

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