I cringe at the memory of the driest hands I’ve ever had.
It was a freezing cold Saturday in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the hot water had broken at the salon for the upteenth time in the middle of a fully booked day. We busted out the industrial coffee makers we kept on hand to deal with this recurring fiasco. Trying frantically to mix enough of ice-cold faucet water with boiling hot carafe water to then rinse out beeswax-based hair color from clients’ hair was some kind of superhero movie about hair stylists. We triumphed, and our clients remained relaxed, none the wiser to the saga playing out behind them.
After that shift (and the 10 to 20 other ones where that happened) I had the most cracked, angry contact-dermatitis-riddled paws that anyone had ever seen. The worst part was the closing bar shift I had to pull in addition to the salon shift. No cream or lotion could save me.
Let’s just say when I finally healed all of that damage, I didn’t learn my lesson for a long time. Not until it occurred to me that my hands are literally my livelihood. Boy, did I switch up my game after coming to that conclusion!
Here are the ways I keep my hands safe and happy, especially when working with them.
Stash Hand Creams Everywhere
I feel like I have more hand cream than when I was a Bath & Body Works obsessed tween. These days, I have been feeling the hell out of this grownups' anti-aging option by Dermelect.
It’s such a unique formula—like no other hand cream I have ever tried. It dries down to feel like absolutely nothing on your hands. Actives include hyaluronic acid, collagen and keratin peptides, and dark-spot treatments like licorice extract and arbutin. They are aiding me in the battle to fight off a scarred hand tattoo.
June Jacobs Rapid Repair Cream is another unique formula. Originally devised to help healing skin after harsh chemo treatments, this cream can be used anywhere and on some seriously upset skin. I accidentally left it at the restaurant my boo manages, and when I came back to retrieve it the staff was very reluctant to give it back to me.
This cream deserves its miracle status; it softens and seals even very chapped or dermatitis-affected skin. It doesn't burn on broken skin, and it’s balanced but oleic-heavy formula uses shea butter and allantoin to soften while dimethicone seals, leaving a smooth and greaseless finish.
Chemicals + Hands = Gloves: NO EXCEPTIONS
Not only is it the safe thing to do for your body, it’s imperative to the health of the skin on your hands to protect them from cleaners, hair color, glues, dyes, acidic or basic substances, and just about anything irritating you can think of.
I use gloves now when crafting, painting, cooking, and doing hair. Stop throwing on glosses and semi-permanent hair colors with my bare hands, stop getting cracked skin in between my fingers,—it was really that simple for me. I thought something "gentle" wouldn't irritate my hands, but doing it six times in a day is too much exposure. Even though your sense of touch isn’t as sharp with gloves, you are secure against occupational (or hobby-related) contact dermatitis.
Water + Hands = Also Gloves (70% of the time)
All that exposure to hot water behind the cocktail bar and the shampoo bar used to do a number on not only my hands, but cuticles and fingernails, too. I paid a heavy price with shitty nails and cuticles for years to come.
Now, I do not mess around with hot water other than showers and hand washing, and I always follow those with moisturizers. Dish gloves aren’t fashionable unless you’re Lady Gaga, but nice hands are, and whether I’m hand-washing my face towels or a mountain of dishes from one of my epic dinners, gloves are crucial.
Spread the Love
One other thing I do is use all my fabulous nighttime active face products on my hands. This is such a simple way to make sure you’re treating hands, especially the backs of your hands, as good as you treat your face. I almost always have extra product on my fingers when running through the old routine—this is as simple as spreading it to the back of my hands too.
Products that treat dark spots, retinols, and AHAs are all great for repairing skin that is almost always exposed to the elements. (Of course you’ll want to follow any treatments up with SPF in the daytime.)
It’s imperative that if you aren’t treating your hands with respect to get on the train. Caring for these money-makers has really jumped up on the list of priorities for me, and it's finally showing.
Photos: Maria Penaloza