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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

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Softer Hands, Stronger Nails

By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Being good to your hands and nails is about having good daily habits and choosing the right products to use on them. A few small changes could make a difference in how your hands and nails look and feel.

WebMD asked dermatologists Jeffrey Dover, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, for guidance in knowing what's good for your hands.

Moisturizing Your Hands

Hand creams have as much to offer as face creams. Most also come in “quick absorbing” formulations so your hands won't feel greasy.

Some key ingredients include:

  • Retinol to keep skin moist
  • Peptides along with other ingredients such as B vitamins to relax muscles and boost collagen production to keep the skin on your hands smooth
  • Vitamin C and glycolic acid to help treat age spots, wrinkling, and loss of elasticity
  • Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate your skin

You can get collagen treatments In a dermatologist's office that can reduce wrinkling. Such treatments are expensive, and there are over-the-counter hand creams that plump up the skin, helping make hands look more youthful. But the creams won't make as much difference as a dermatologist's treatment can.

Some hand creams and balms are labeled “intensive.” These products are made for extra dry or mature skin and are meant to be applied at night. Some of them have lightening agents that gradually fade age spots when used regularly.

Men’s hands have skin that tends to be thicker, hairier, and oilier than women’s. The skin may also be more callused and rougher. So there are special hand creams that are made for men. Those products -- made to prevent cracking -- are typically richer, and often come fragrance-free.

Moisturizing Your Fingernails

Just like with skin, it’s important for both men and women to protect the moisture in their nails. Dermatologists recommend rubbing petroleum jelly, vitamin E, or cuticle creams into your cuticles at night.

Applying a moisturizing cream or a hand balm to the nails on a daily basis will help keep them moist. And moisturizing products that contain urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid will help prevent cracking.

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