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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

Women's Hand and Nail Care

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By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Washing your hands is a great way to curb the spread of germs. But some soaps can irritate your skin.

Dermatologist Amy Derick, MD, of Barrington, Ill., recommends using  a moisturizing liquid cleanser to wash hands if you have normal skin. If you prefer bar soap, look for moisturizing soap made with ingredients such as glycerin, petrolatum, sunflower oil, and soybean oil.

Moisturizers and Hand Creams

One of the best things you can do for your hands, especially as you get older, is to moisturize them throughout the day and before you go to bed. Any cream or lotion will do, but creams made for the hands have some advantages.One f the major ones is that they are usually non-greasy and quick absorbing.

Moisturizing creams can, at least temporarily, make your hands look plumper and more youthful by drawing water into the skin. For plumping, look for hand creams containing hyaluronic acid, which gives skin support and body.  To moisturize the skin of your hands, look for hand creams with petrolatum, glycerin, shea butter, or safflower seed oil.

Be sure to buy hand cream with a broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, to protect your hands from sun damage.

Antiaging Products for Hands

Brightening or lightening creams for the hands may fade age spots if used regularly, and some are gentle enough to apply twice a day. However, they don’t work nearly as well as laser treatments done by a dermatologist.  

Hand creams that fade age spots and reduce blotchiness contain hydroquinone, which helps lighten age spots, or alpha-hydroxy acids, which boost cell turnover. Hydroquinone has been linked to skin darkening and disfigurement, and oral use has been linked to cancer in animal studies, so some women avoid it. However, Jeffrey Dover, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine, says he’s convinced that the concentration used for skin lightening is safe. 

To minimize the signs of  sun damage, dermatologists suggest using a hand cream containing retinol or retinyl propionate, though the benefits are subtle compared to prescription treatments. 

To whiten age spots, look for lightening hand creams containing kojic acid or liquorice extract, combined with hydroquinone.

Nail Care for Women

Studies have shown that biotin, also known as vitamin B7, can help treat and prevent brittle nails. Good sources of biotin are foods such as brewer's yeast, green peas, oats, soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, bulgur, and brown rice. Check with your doctor first before taking biotin or any other dietary supplement. 

Proper manicure techniques are also important for healthy hands and nails. Never cut your cuticles because it could lead to an infection. You can push your cuticles back with an orange stick as long as you do it gently.

If you do your own nails, look for nail “nippers” that have a curved handle and a cutting jaw shaped to follow the natural curve of nails. You can find them at drugstores and beauty supply shops.

Ingredients in some nail polish and polish remover can dry out your nails. Elle, a celebrity manicurist who writes a blog for Barielle Cosmetics, suggests her clients use polish that is free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. She also recommends using a nail polish remover free of alcohol.

To moisturize your fingernails, Elle suggests using a cuticle cream, petroleum jelly, or vitamin E oil. Put it over the entire nail, including the cuticle, and gently rub it in.

Reviewed on December 07, 2012
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