You probably go to great lengths to take care of your body – you eat right, exercise regularly, and invest in products that keep you healthy. If you are like many people, though, you may not be giving your hands and feet the care they need.
Your hands and feet endure quite a bit of abuse throughout a busy day. The average American takes 3,000 to 4,000 steps each day, for example, and you use your hands for countless different activities throughout the day. Hard work, exposure to the elements, and neglect can leave your hands and feet looking terrible and feeling even worse.
Fortunately, it is easy to improve the care you give your hands and feet so they always look and feel their best.
Top Ten Tips for Caring for Your Hands and Feet
1. Wash wisely
Washing your hands is important to prevent the spread of disease, of course, but anti-bacterial soaps can strip out the natural oils in your skin to leave your hands dry, raw, and cracked. Added ingredients, such as fragrances, can also dry out your hands. Instead, wash your hands with fragrance-free moisturizing soap; look for soaps containing hydrating ingredients, such as shea butter, aloe vera, or olive oil. Hot water can also dry out your skin, so always use warm water to wash your hands.
2. Treat your feet nicely
Wear proper fitting shoes that are appropriate for whatever activities you are doing. Prop your feet up whenever possible to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
3. Inspect your nails regularly
Small white spots, known as leukonychia, are usually harmless and develop as the result of minor injuries, such as from nail biting or picking at nails. Black, brown, or purple spots may be cause for concern – these spots may be bruising as the result of a more severe injury or a sign of melanoma, which is the most serious form of skin cancer. If you wear nail polish on your fingernails or toenails, inspect your nails in between manicures and pedicures.
4. Soak your feet
Soaking your feet in lukewarm water can work wonders for your feet and the rest of your body. A good soak can soothe sore feet, hydrate your skin, promote blood circulation, reduce swelling, and rinse away bacteria before they can settle into minute sores or cracks in your skin. Pouring some Epsom salts into your footbath exfoliates skin, alleviates pain, removes splinters, can treat fungal infections, and relaxes your entire body.
5. Clean under your nails
Even if you wash your hands and feet well, dirt and grime can hide under your nails. Use a high quality nail brush to scrub fingernails and toenails to gently any dirt or debris stuck there. Hold the brush in a downward direction so that it is perpendicular to your nail. Move the brush gently along the entire nail and scrub back and forth. Rinse thoroughly.
6. Apply lotion to your hands and feet
Lotion helps lock in moisture to prevent your hands and feet from drying out. Mayo Clinic suggests applying moisturizer during the “three-minute window” after washing your skin.
7. Trim your nails
Trimming and filing keeps your nails in good condition, which makes your hands and feet look and feel their best. Use nail clippers to trim your nails to the desired length then file them with an emery board or crystal nail file. Use a cuticle remover and pusher tool to maintain healthy cuticles, which are the skin tissues around your nails. Never cut your cuticles, as it could lead to skin infections.
8. Treat hangnails
A hangnail is different from an ingrown or infected nail – a hangnail is a jagged or torn piece of skin near the root of the nail. Hangnails are common and often develop as the result of dry skin. Left untreated, hangnails can lead to skin infections, which cause redness, swelling, tenderness or soreness, warmth, or even a pus-filled blister in the affected area.
Treat hangnails by soaking the hand or foot in warm water for 15 minutes up to four times a day. When the hangnail is soft from soaking, trim its edges so that it does not catch on anything. Apply moisturizer immediately after soaking. Dab a little antibiotic or anti-fungal cream on the hangnail to speed healing. A doctor can recommend topical steroids.
9. Use sunscreen
Apply sunscreen to your hands – and to your feet when you go barefoot. Choose an SPF of 15 for short exposures to the sun of an hour or less, but opt for a higher SPF when you are out in the sun for longer periods. The sun’s rays can dry out your skin and even cause sunburn to your hands or feed, which is uncomfortable and very inconvenient.
10. Consult with a healthcare professional
If you have a stubborn hand or foot problem, consult with a doctor or specialist. Your doctor can prescribe medications to treat stubborn problems, a dermatologist can diagnose and treat skin disorders, and a podiatrist can help your feet feel better.