Hands-on treatments

August 2, 2005

Hands-on treatments

Your hands speak volumes about your toilette. If you can?t stretch to salon manicures, there are easy ways to titivate your nails on the cheap.

Think of your nails as the icing on a cake ? the finishing touch to your outfit, shoes, hair and makeup. A neatly manicured set says you?re well groomed and glamorous.

The first steps to gorgeous hands are to wash and dry them regularly and to always use hand cream. Keep a jar by every sink in your house plus one in your handbag. Okay, most women are meticulous about hygiene and we don?t need reminding to wash our hands after using the loo. However, the more you do it the better. Interestingly, one US study found that if you wash your hands five times a day you could dramatically slash your risk of catching germs and getting ill. It was based on a two-and-a-half year hand-washing programme conducted by the navy. Another reason why everyone loves a sailor!

Don?t underestimate the protective powers of a pair of Marigolds. Always use rubber gloves when washing up. Also, use them when cleaning as household-cleaning products can make your skin dry and your nails dry and brittle. A nightly trick to soften hands is to smother Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, into your nails, which will have a dramatic effect on taming your cuticles. For best results wear cotton gloves to bed afterwards and you?ll wake up with beautifully soft hands.

You can eat your way to better nails, too, say the experts. The best foods for nails include plenty of protein (fish, meat, soya, tofu, eggs) to help them grow and prevent those white lines from appearing across them. And B vitamins, found in eggs, seafood and root vegetables, are a good way to keep nasty ridges at bay. Eat plenty of fish, fish oils and seeds, which are all rich in essential fatty acids that help nourish nails. Foods rich in zinc, such as seafood, lean meat and wholegrains, help prevent white spots. Brittle nails? You?ll need to eat lots of calcium and vitamin-A foods such as carrots, peaches, leafy vegetables and tinned fish, which are great for strengthening dry nails.

Treat yourself to a home manicure every week or two and save the real thing for special occasions. Remove old polish and then shape each nail with an emery board (nail files are too severe). Don?t saw away at your nails or you?ll break them. Instead, use light strokes from the edges towards the centre. Massage your cuticles with cuticle cream or add a few drops of cuticle massage oil to a bowl of warm water. Soak your cuticles for five minutes, then push them back using a cuticle stick. Wash your hands, then apply a protective base coat of clear varnish to your nails, followed by a coat or two of colour. Leave your hands for twenty minutes or so to avoid smudges, then add a sealing topcoat.

More hands-on tips plus gorgeous beauty buys

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