The recent cool weather and wild winds are wreaking havoc with my hands, nails and cuticles. My manicure seems to look haggard just days after a trip to the nail salon and the constant application of hand sanitizer during this cold and flu season makes my fingers feel taut and claw-like all day.
I tapped Katie Cazorla, owner of the Painted Nail salon in Sherman Oaks and star of the TV Guide Network’s "Nail Files" show, for some expert advice on what treatments, products and precautions to abide by during this season of dry weather, excessive hand-washing (and sanitizing) and holiday traveling.
“We see a lot of people for manicures this time of year and the first thing I notice are the busted up, dry cuticles,” says Cazorla. “You can have a great manicure, but what’s the point when you have bad, dry cuticles?”
The No. 1 offense, according to Cazorla, is cutting cuticles. Cuticles act as a protective barrier for the nail against bacteria and infection and while snipping them away may leave your nails looking clean upon leaving the salon, you’re at risk for infection and the chance of the skin growing back uneven or ragged.
“A hangnail or loose skin is the only thing that should ever be cut. Never cut live skin,” she says. “Especially when it’s dry and cold out, you’ll start to see the cracks and openings. And people tend to pick at the dry skin, which is the worst thing you can do.”
Rather than cutting, picking or biting, simply ask your nail technician to push the cuticles back (or do it yourself).
Once cuticles are intact, Cazorla recommends lubing them up with a good cuticle oil. She likes The Painted Nail by Nubar sugar cookie oil ($12.50 at www.thepaintednail.com) for its delightful scent and 97% organic ingredients, but she has a super easy at-home remedy made of stuff that’s most likely already in your pantry. Mix a couple of teaspoons of olive oil with a spoonful of brown sugar, rub it onto the backs of hands and around the nail bed, then rinse off with warm water. The mixture is an exfoliant and moisturizer in one and not only works on hands, but also elbows and feet.
Use olive oil or cuticle oil on the cuticles several times a week, especially during colder weather. This will keep the area free of scraggly dry skin as well as freshen up a manicure. “In the winter hands get so dry,” says Cazorla. “Freshen up your manicure by adding a clear top coat to nails a few days after getting them done, then rub cuticle oil into the nails and cuticles.”
She also says that paraffin treatments are an effective way to give hands a serious dose of moisture, especially for anyone who’s experiencing cracks and rough spots on their hands. Paraffin treatments are done at most nail salons and entail dipping hands into hot paraffin wax, letting them sit for a few minutes so the essential oils in the wax seep into skin, peeling off the wax and rubbing lotion onto the hands. Cazorla warns that salons that have a communal vat of paraffin wax are to be avoided, because the wax is not hot enough to kill any bacteria that may form from so many people dipping their hands into the warm liquid. Look for places that have single servings of the wax. At The Painted Nail, hands are wrapped in individual bags of wax and then again in a hot towel.
When it comes to hand sanitizer, most formulas contain super drying alcohol that leave hands feeling shriveled and parched. Cazorla keeps a bottle of Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer ($1.50 each at www.bathandbodyworks.com) on her at all times because the gel contains little moisturizing beads that burst onto the skin when rubbed in. “It has Tahitian Palm milk in it," she says. "Not only does it smell great and do its job, it leaves your hands more moisturized.”
Other favorite moisturizing products include Mario Badescu hand cream ($10 at www.mariobadescu.com), which has anti-aging properties, is SPF 10 and is housed in a purse-friendly container with a top that stays put so you can comfortably stow it in your bag or take it along when traveling. She also names Eucerin as a great drugstore option.
“Anytime you wash your hands or use sanitizer, moisturize right after,” she says.
If that cuts down on my scraggly wintertime nail beds, it’s well worth a try.
-- Melissa Magsaysay
Photos, from top: Picture of nails with a French manicure. Credit: Dashing Diva
Painted Nail by Nubar cuticle oil. Credit: The Painted Nail
Bath and Body Works hand santizer. Credit: Bath and Body Works
Mario Badescu Fruit and Vitamin A&D Hand Cream. Credit: Mario Badescu