Whether you're an avid gardener or just genetically predisposed, chapped hands are nothing to applaud. To keep skin flexible and to prevent painful cracks, avoid washing with alcohol-based cleansers or chemical solvents, which will strip natural oils. Instead, use a product that relies on citrus like Permatex Fast Orange Pumice Lotion Hand Cleaner, $2.50 for 7.5 oz. In the shower, massage palms with a gentle sugar scrub to whisk away dead cells and calluses that'll keep products from penetrating, then apply a reparative cream loaded with glycerin, which helps skin retain moisture. For an even deeper treatment, coat hands in cream before bed then swaddle your paws in breathable cotton gloves.
While weak, brittle nails can be attributed to heredity and normal aging, there are a few external factors that also play a part. Dietary deficiencies like a lack of iron, wearing polish longer than two weeks, not taking a break between manicures, and routinely swabbing on harsh solvents like acetone can all precipitate not-so-tough nails. To foster strength and flexibility, stay polish-free for at least one week per month and brush on nourishing jojoba oil or a topical retinoid like Tazarotene cream 0.1% to boost bendability. You may also want to talk to your doc about taking a daily 2.5 milligram dose of biotin, which studies have found helps make nails hard.
While there's no "wrong" nail shape, there are a few rules of thumb, says Shari Gottesman, founder of Perfect Formula in New York City. If you love long nails but hate the upkeep, Gottesman suggests sticking with "oval shapes, because they're less likely to break or snag." They also tend to be universally flattering. On the other hand, square styles, when they're kept short and neat, offer a "great base for dramatic lacquers." So when you're looking to dip a toe -- or finger -- into a bold new nail trend, keep it boxy.
Rather than see-sawing back and forth, which can weaken the nail and cause it to split and peel, "File from the outer edges toward the center" in one direction, says celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. To further foil damage, sidestep the gritty, sandpapery tools and reach for a crystal nail file, which creates a smooth edge that won't catch.
You may feel compelled to clip away ragged cuticles, but it can be tough to discern between dead skin and the live skin that's protecting the edge of the nail from bacteria and infection. To play it safe, skip the nippers and turn to cuticle solvents that soften dry, hardened skin. Added bonus? These handy exfoliators also help whiten yellowish nails by lifting surface stains that result from wearing dark polish without a base coat.
The next time you're in the market for a new polish, be sure it's "three-free," meaning it isn't prepared with formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, while DBP and toluene are potential reproductive toxins. Many nail polish brands like Butter London and CND offer three-free formulas, but to make sure your favorite lacquer makes the safe list, download the "Toxic Trio" wallet card before you schedule your next mani-pedi.
To keep your lacquer from getting gluey, it's essential to safeguard the solvents from evaporating by closing the lid tightly. After each application, wipe down the neck of the bottle to stop dried gunk from accumulating and inhibiting a tight seal. Between mani-pedis, store your polish in the refrigerator and bring it back to room temp before painting it on.
To wave goodbye to warts on fingers and toes, swab on a 2% salicylic solution twice a day to dissolve roughness. For a lump that lingers, chat with your dermatologist about in-office options like liquid nitrogen therapy or prescription-only Aldara, a topical cream that "triggers the immune system to recognize the presence of a viral infection," says Houston dermatologist Paul Friedman.
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