Cracked hands and hangnails are an intensely irritating problem, snagging fabric and scraping your loved ones while causing itching and pain for you. Both problems spring from dry, dead skin that doesn't receive enough natural oil. In fact, exposure to water and washing dishes often exacerbates the problem. Consider home remedies to remove dead skin and seal in moisture. See your physician to rule out a more serious problem, such as eczema.
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Almond Hand Mask
In her book, “The Green Witch Herbal,” author Barbara Griggs shares a 500-year-old recipe for whitening and soothing problem hands and nails. Grind almond pieces to fine consistency, or use almond meal. If you can’t find it in the health food store or an ethnic market, use milk or almond oil to soften the ground almonds. Beat an egg yolk and add enough moistened ground almonds to the yolk to form a paste. Apply mixture to both hands, making sure to work the mixture gently into the nail area.
Warm Oil Massage
Griggs also recommends a warm oil massage before bedtime. Pour 1 ½ oz. almond or olive oil into a small bottle with 25 drops of a skin-healing essential oil. Good choices include chamomile, lavender and benzoin. Pierce a vitamin E capsule and add its contents to the bottle. At night, warm the bottle under running water to gently heat the massage oil. Massage the oil into the chapped, cracked skin of your hands, paying special attention to your nails. Towel off the excess oil, but leave the rest to soak into damaged skin overnight. Wear cotton gloves, if desired.
It may not be glamorous, but those big blue tins of vegetable shortening may be all you need to soothe cracked hands and soften hangnails. Rinse hands and massage the shortening into your hands and cuticles. According to “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies,” the solid fat moisturizes skin and keeps water sealed in. Don’t slather so much on that your hands and nails feel greasy; a thin layer is all it takes.
A dry scrub with soothing, exfoliating oatmeal takes off the rough, dead top layer of skin of the hands and around the nails. Grind 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats in a blender, then pour the powdered oats into a shallow bowl. Plunge your hands into the bowl, rubbing between your palms and along the backs of your hands and around the cuticle area. Rinse and dry hands, then work a moisturizing cream into problem areas.
For a treatment specific to hangnails, give yourself a cuticle soak. Fill a shallow bowl with 1 pint warm water. Using the cap of your favorite bottle of body oil, pour a small amount of body oil into the bowl of warm water. Soak your fingertips for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Clip the softened hangnails, and rub a moisturizing cream into the area around the cuticles.