Many of our daily beauty routines focus on the face and hair, and it is easy to forget other areas of the body that need extra attention. Our hands and feet are two of the hardest-working areas of the body, and in the summer they are especially prone to wear and tear. Taking good care of them will pay dividends throughout your life and is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
Below, we outline some simple tips to nurture your hands and feet, and some suggestions for ways you can give them the pampering they deserve.
Help for your hands
Every day, you expose your hands to sun, wind, rain and cold—and in the summer, usually quite a bit of dirt! As we use them for washing and cleaning they are also more exposed to harsh chemicals than any other part of the body. The damage to skin and nails can build up very quickly and neglected hands in particular can show their age—and can sometimes make you look older than you are.
Healthy fingernails are generally smooth and uniform in colour. They should be free of spots, ridges, dents, or discoloration. If your nails do not look good, it could be because of a lack of regular car and attention, but it could also be an indication of an underlying condition—such as a fungal infection—that requires treatment.
Wash your hands regularly and apply a moisturizer each time you do.
Moisturize your nails because they need moisture, just like the rest of your skin does. Massage moisturizer into the nails and cuticles to encourage healthy circulation, helping oxygenated blood, full of nutrients, to reach the nails and hair.
Wear gloves when washing up, gardening, or cleaning—these activities bring your hands into contact with water and harsh detergents for prolonged periods of time.
Do not bite your nails or pick at cuticles as it damages the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your nail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection. As nails grow very slowly, an injured nail will retain signs of an injury for several months.
Trim your fingernails and clean under the beds regularly. Use sharp manicure scissors or clippers and an emery board to smooth the edges of your nails.
Never pull of hangnails—it almost always will result in ripping living tissue. Instead, clip hangnails off carefully.
Rethink nail polish because most polishes are made with toxic solvents and hormone-disrupting plastics, and the products we use to remove them are very drying for the nails and cuticles. Well-maintained, natural-looking nails are always the healthiest option.
Best foot forward
Most of us ignore our feet, unless they are painful. Yet taking care of your feet is a lifelong habit that can put a spring in your step.
Good foot care begins with the shoes you wear, so make sure your shoes fit properly. Keep in mind that tight, poorly fitting shoes can raise the risk of fallen arches, bunions and corns, and ingrown toenails, all of which are painful and can affect your gait. Running shoes can make feet sweaty, smelly, and prone to fungal infections. Research suggests that high heels can encourage poor posture and backache, and raise the risk of osteoarthritis in the knees.
Wash and dry your feet carefully. After washing your feet, make sure you dry thoroughly between the toes. Left damp, they are a perfect breeding ground for athlete’s foot.
Use clippers to trim toenails regularly. Trim straight across only. Cutting down the sides of the toenails encourages painful ingrown nails.
Put your feet up at the end of the day. If you are on your feet all day and you suffer from heavy or swollen legs, try to make some time daily to rest with your feet higher than your head. Slowly rotate and flex your feet from time to time to encourage circulation.
Soften up rough skin with nourishing oils like olive, coconut, shea butter, or pure cocoa butter. Apply every night and give yourself an occasional foot massage. If your skin is particularly rough, slip on thin socks after moisturizing. Leave on overnight to speed healing.
Fight infection quickly to avoid it from spreading. Natural essential oils like tea tree and thyme are great for fighting infection. Seek advice from a doctor, chiropodist, or podiatrist for chronic foot problems that do not respond to simple treatments.
Boost your diet
Your diet has an influence on the health of your skin and nails. Here are some guidelines to ensure you're making the most of your meals to benefit you skin:
- Make sure you are eating a range of healthy essential fats to nourish your skin and nails
- Take a good multivitamin and mineral tablet—minor or trace deficiencies are often at the root of nail problems
- For healthy nails, eat high-quality protein foods such as legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eat foods that are high in B vitamins or take a supplement.
- Drink plenty of water since a hydrated body encourages healthy skin and nails
These are all fairly simple ways that you can ensure you put your best foot (and hand!) forward, all summer long. What are your favourite ways to care for your hands and feet? Let us know in the comments below!