3. Moisturize. continued...
"Ointments are harder to wear during the day, because they're messy," says Bruce Robinson, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "You can use them at night when you aren't touching papers in your office. Lotions can be used throughout the day, because the hands don't get as greasy, but lotions aren't as moisturizing as creams and ointments."
A hot wax treatment, which may be offered at the nail salon, is another good way to moisturize the cuticles, according to Toombs. Special oily wax is heated until it melts. People dip their hands into the warm, oily wax, then put on plastic gloves and a mitt to seal in the heat, which they wear for 10 to 15 minutes.
"After you take it off, the hands, nails, and cuticles are softer," Toombs says. "It's a wonderful treatment for nails and cuticles."
Whatever method you choose, be sure to moisten your hands regularly.
"The more frequently you lubricate the hands, including the nails and cuticles, the better they will be," Toombs says.
4. Avoid Rough Manicurists.
Many people see their dermatologist when they develop red, sore spots around their nails or cuticles caused by a skin infection called paronychia.
"Often, patients come in to me when they went to a new nail salon and had a very aggressive nail technician," Scher says. "Usually, they have an infection from over-vigorous manipulation, which usually manifests as redness and soreness. Antibiotics may be necessary."
Before getting your nails done, tell your manicurist that you only want your cuticles pushed back very gently with an orange stick, nothing more. If she pushes the cuticles too vigorously, ask her to stop right away.
5. Steer Clear of Drying Agents.
The hands, nails, and cuticles can dry out from frequent dish washing and from nail polish remover containing acetone. So, experts recommend wearing gloves for dish duty and using acetone-free nail polish remover.
"Whether washing clothes or dishes, you really need to wear vinyl gloves," Toombs says. "That's a good time to put the lubricant on. Having the gloves on keeps the oil on the cuticle and nail plate, and it protects them from the drying effects of water."
6. Keep Your Hands Out of Your Mouth.
"Your mouth is a dirty area, and saliva is an enzyme that breaks down skin," Robinson says. "You can get an infection if you violate the cuticle."
So if you have a habit of biting your nails or nibbling on your cuticles, work on kicking those habits for prettier, healthier hands.