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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Prepping for the Day Ahead Includes Grooming Your Fingernails

Some may ask what on earth groomed hands & nails have to do with creating a simple, organized life. Well, that's what I'm here to write about. I'm not suggesting for a second that you need to spend fifteen to twenty minutes every morning or night on your hands & fingernails- far from it. But there is nothing simple about having painful hangnails, peeling nails, torn & bleeding cuticles, rough edges on fingertips, callouses on your palms or dry, flaky skin in the webs of your hands.

Nice hands say a lot about people. I've heard from more than one job interviewer working in a human resources department that they will immediately cross a person off their list of potential hires if they have snagged, broken, bitten-down nails, chipped polish & ragged cuticles. It's symbolic, in their opinion, of the time & care one applies to details in life. If they care so little for a part of their body, what does that say about their attention to detail on the job? Now, I realize, that in doing farmwork & things of that nature, it is much harder to maintain nice nails. Even office work involving a lot of papers & cardboard boxes can be murder on the hands. Healthy self-pampering, however, shouldn't be sacrificed at the altar of efficiency or excuse-making. You owe it to yourself for sheet comfort reasons to maintain clean, smooth nails, cuticles & hands.

There are a couple of simple, quick things that you can do both once or twice a day, and then once or twice a week, to keep your hands & nails at their healthiest. Daily, the second you have a hangnail come up, trim it with a high-quality pair of cuticle scissors or fingernail clippers. It'll keep ingrown nails at bay. Never cut your cuticles, just these little ragged ends that come up. You may also get little tears on the skin around your nails, especially in winter. Trim this skin carefully, as well, ASAP. Then apply cuticle balm or hand cream to help "seal" the skin and/or cuticle. Carry these tools with you everywhere, along with a glass or other good-quality nail file. The minute you feel a snag on your nails, file them. Don't let them turn into a big tear. Get into the habit of using cuticle balm or nail oil every night before bed, then applying hand cream. I like Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Fragrance-Free Hand Cream. I know what it's like to be dead-tired after a long day & you just want to hit the hay, but I promise, you'll thank yourself for this nightly to-do. If you'll be sitting in front of a computer for uninterrupted hours during the day, use that time to let a layer of cuticle balm settle into your nails. Don't use the excuse, "It'll get washed off in a couple of hours" stop you, either! I keep a little tin of cuticle balm & some hand cream in a pump by my computer, and use them every time I sit down for a long spell of typing. Every time you wash your hands, unless you're going right on to a chore involving water, food prep or handling newspaper, apply a fast absorbing hand cream into your hands. (Again, Neutrogena makes a nice formula here, as does Sally Hansen.) If you're outdoors, make sure it has sunscreen in it.

Wear your nails trimmed short- not down to the stubs, but no more than a quarter-inch past your fingertips- to keep them as smooth & sanitary as possible. If your nails go past your fingertips, I recommend cleaning under them with a nail brush at least once a day, to make sure they're as clean as possible. Short nails make doing just about everything easier, especially food prep. I trim, file, buff & paint my nails every Sunday evening. I like to head into my week feeling prepared for whatever comes up, so Sunday is my evening for pampering. Do this early enough that your nail polish will have plenty of time to dry, if you wear it (I recommend at least two hours before bed for final drying time, after your top coat is applied). If you trim your nails into a gentle arch at the top, they'll be much less likely to tear, peel & break. Buffing them once a week will also help diminish or eliminate peeling nails, will create a glass-like finish for polish to adhere to & keep them shiny without even the need for polish. Nail polish is optional. I know, for some people, the chemicals in both nail lacquer itself & in polish remover is undesirable, and I completely understand that. If you keep your nails trimmed to a relatively short length, filed neatly & buffed every week (preferably on the same day every week, to make it a habit), nail polish should last at least four days before needing a touch-up. Ideally, it'll last seven days, especially if you use base & top coat. A sheer, milky white, pink, peach, taupe or beige without a lot of shimmer is the most professional, simple look to maintain. Revlon makes nice shades, as does Lippmann and a few other retailers. However, I know some women love color, or have a signature shade (such as red) that they adore- do whatever works for you, and whatever makes you love to look at your hands. Using a simple white nail pencil or the plastic tip of a Tweezerman Shape-and-Shine tool makes the ends of your nails look neat & pretty, too.

Lest you think that hand care only applies externally, it doesn't. The diet that you eat & supplements that you take can have a drastic effect on your beauty. Only in recent years has the study of what good fats do for your body really taken off. For those on a low-fat diet, listen up. Cheating your body out of extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil & avocado oil also cheats your beauty. Cooking with these oils are not that much more expensive than cooking with traditional, unhealthy fats, and is certainly less expensive than the heart medicines, surgeries & other medical issues that could wait for you down the road if you cheat your body nutritionally along the way. They can be taken in softgel form, as well. Vitacost is a good online & catalog source for high-quality, fairly inexpensive supplements of all kinds. Coconut oil taken internally can stop peeling nails, give your extra energy, strengthen your hair & give it shine, will moisturize your scalp & skin from the inside out (in a good way), and will not cause weight gain. The extremely occasional use of shortening, corn oil or peanut oil isn't my issue- but people often use these, or worse oils, in their daily cooking & baking. Even eating butter is better for you than anything with trans fats. If you want to truly give your body the fuel it needs to be energetic & beautiful, cottonseed oil & other trans fats aren't what you want to feed yourself. Study the issue for yourself, especially the medical studies done on these various oils. Look at the ingredients on many so-called health bars. Real food, without sugar alcohol, bad fats & lots of chemicals, is the way to healthy beauty every time.

The other advantage of good hand & nail care is that, if you choose to wear rings or bracelets, you'll have the pretty set of hands to match them. Good hand care now ensures that your hands will age better, helping you to avoid the liver spots that come with aging & sun exposure. Use the gentlest hand soap, dishwashing liquid & cleaning products that you can to avoid drying out your nails & hands more than needed. Avalon Organics makes nice liquid hand soap that looks good in the bathroom & kitchen, but there are many, many good brands on the market today. Experiment. As you know, I love antibacterial everything, but usage of that stuff has to be balanced with moisture. A good way to combine the two is using a product like Gold Bond Hand Sanitizing Lotion. In this, you get the best of both worlds. Keep a pump or tube at every sink, every desk & every spot you spend a lot of time in (like in a caddy by your easy chair). If you make hand care easy, you'll get it done!

-Liz

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