- Drink lots of water. This is a good policy anyway, but your hands and fingernails are all made of skin, and you will want them as pliable as possible. Make sure to drink at least a couple glasses of water well before and up to the time you start working on your hands.
- Wash your hands. Dirt, smudges, penmarks, whatever, it's better to avoid having gunk on your hands anyway, but if you're going to take the time to clean up your hands the best starting point is with cleanliness. You can clean your hands with soap and water, but for this exercise it's even better if you put a teensy - seriously, TINY TINY TINY - amount of olive oil on your hands and massage it in. Olive oil is a miracle product - it cleans and softens your skin and you probably have it in your pantry right this very second.
- Push back your cuticles. (Just in case: those are the little rims of skin at the base of each finger nail.) I do this with my other fingernails, but you can also do it with a nail file or an "orange stick," also sold as a "cuticle stick." I don't know why it's called an orange stick, because it's not orange, or orange scented, or any of that. If you're feeling daring, you can trim your cuticles, but you don't have to. It's really, really important to have moisturized hands for this. Push all of the cuticle down, then carefully use a pair of nail scissors or cuticle nippers (both available at CVS) to nip away the excess skin. Always cut LESS rather than more - you can always take off more, but if you cut too much, it hurts like a MOTHER. I should note here that the cuticle plays an important role in keeping bacteria and grunge out of your system, and that's why I say this step is optional. Pushing them back will go a long way, particularly when you follow it up with...
- Exfoliating your hands. Lots of ways to do this! Exfoliation takes all the old dead skin off the surface and lets new, healthy skin come through. You can always buy an exfoliant like St. Ives Apricot Scrub at CVS, but since we're keeping the men in mind, let's come up with some other ideas, too. Option one: steal your female cohabitant's St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I think every woman in the United States has a tube of this. Option two: take that olive oil you used earlier and throw some sea salt into it. It should be grainy, not goopy. Option three: get the roughest washcloth you have in your stash, and throw some hand soap on it. Whichever option you choose, you want to rub it all over your hands, focusing on your cuticles, then rinse it off. (I like to give my elbows a scrub-down while I'm at it.)
- Shape your nails (yes, men too). There are two aspects of your nails to consider: length and surface. With length, take a second to think about how you usually treat your hands. If you work with your hands a lot and your nails break constantly, just cut to the chase and keep them short. For longer nails, think about the shape you want and make sure it's uniform. If you can find a glass nail file, that's the best option, but no matter what you use, make sure you file in one direction only! People tend to reflexively use a sawing motion, but this chews up your nail and makes it weaker. Just go one way - it's annoying but better in the long run.
- File your nails. I actually really like those little four part files, but you can get them in blocks too, which form to your nails a little better. Even out any ripples, then give it a smoothing once-over. This will remove any cuticle residue and give you a polished look.
- Optional: Strengthen your nails and apply polish. I have weak nails, so I use a nail strengthener. You want the Sally Hansen stuff in the gold bottle - it's at any drugstore. If you're a man and don't want shiny nails, no problem! Just put on two coats of the nail strengthener, then take a file and buff the tops of your nails so they're a matte texture. If you want to apply polish, put it on now, starting in the middle and moving out allllllmost to the edge of the nail.
- Finish with moisturizer. Finally, give your hands a once-over with a moisturizer of your choice or another round of olive oil. You could also use a different type of oil here - I like the Body Shop's Monoi Miracle Oil (which really is miraculous; you can use it for ANYTHING), and Rich seems to like Dr. Hauschka's Lemon Body Oil, which has a nice zippy scent that picks you right up.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Makeup Is Easy [For Men Too]: Make Your Hands Un-Gross
Your hands are one of the primary ways people make contact with you, whether it's a handshake or if you're a hand-talker. People notice them, so you should do what you can to keep them nice. I know it's tough for men to make peace with the idea of going to a salon - it seems to be the last bastion of belief in cooties - so if you get the value of having nice hands to recommend you to the world but aren't quite ready to go, here's a quick spiff-your-hands primer.