We’re about halfway through winter. Here in San Francisco that means more chilly temps and rain to come. In many places around the world that means more freezing temps, snow, ice, and freezing rain – all those things I don’t miss about living in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
All this nippy, harsh weather and a tendency to wash our hands more often to prevent catching the latest colds and flus make for super dry hands. All cooped up, feet also get dry and are more prone to fungus. Lovely. Skin gets ugly dry patches, cracks, and is more likely to get little cuts. I’ve got all sorts of lovely cuts on my hands from when I haven’t been good about applying hand cream frequently enough. Cuticles also take a beating.
Fortunately, there are many easy ways to improve the situation, from simple things we can do every day to special treatments. I spoke with skin care expert Melissa Cope, who is way pro. She was nominated as one of Daily Candy’s Sweetest Things of 2008 and has a very loyal following in San Francisco. I’ve visited her for a facial and her add-on Youthful Hands and Feet treatment and left with a luminous face and the most beautiful, transformed hands and feet. She shared some fantastic tips with me so I could share them with you.
First off, take good care of hands and feet on a regular basis. This means gentle cleansing and moisturizing every day, exfoliating a few times a week, and taking the time for some special care on occasion.
More Frequent Moisture
Hands. Keep hand cream around just about everywhere to regularly moisturize, soften, and protect. I have one in my purse, one on my nightstand, and one at each sink. We simply have to moisturize more often. I keep eco-friendly Weleda Skin Food in my purse when I’m out in the elements. Just a little is needed of this extra rich cream, which heals and soothes with chamomile and organic plant extracts. When I visited the super cold Midwest over the holidays, this quickly got rid of dry patches. Throughout the day I use the lighter, all-natural Living Nature Nourishing Hand and Body Cream, which is made with manuka honey, avocado oil, and essential oils. Before bed I apply lots of Aveda Hand Relief, which hydrates with plant emollients, exfoliates with fruit acids, and protects with antioxidants vitamins A and E.
If your skin is especially dry and cracking, Melissa recommends all-natural CosMedix Rescue Healing Balm and Mask made with cherry bark extract and shea butter to heal and reduce inflammation. She slathers this on before bed and in the morning. She’s also a big fan of all CosMedix body products.
And don’t forget to give extra attention to nails and cuticles, which easily get dry and crack. Cactus & Ivy Nail Balm moisturizes exceptionally well with olive and apricot oils. It also prevents drying and helps heal brittle nails.
Feet. After bathing and before bed, apply a thick, rich foot cream to moisturize, refresh, and prevent nasty fungus. I really like minty fresh, extra thick Boots Botanics Foot Butter made with cocoa seed and shea butters, and fungus-inhibiting peppermint oil. For cracked heels or other particularly rough spots, try super intensive Boots Mediterranean Olive, Almond, and Sage Wonderbalm. It’s exceptionally thick, made with organic extracts, and helps seal in moisture. Once you’ve applied a cream and/or balm, pop on some socks to boost the effectiveness of moisturizers.
We tend to wash our hands more often to steer clear of getting that bug that everyone else has. But that can strip away oils so use something more gentle, like all-natural Living Nature Purifying Hand Wash, which is conditioning and free of drying, synthetic detergents (like sodium laureth sulfate). To add moisture while washing, try one of Weleda’s creamy body washes, which are also free of synthetic detergents and contain moisturizing organic plant oils and extracts.
While moisturizers help protect hands, it’s also important to use a physical barrier to protect from the elements. I’m talking gloves. Don’t forget to wear them when you’re out and consider wearing them inside. Offices can get quite chilly. With the fingertip version, you can still type away and stay warm. Spring for cashmere. It’s much softer and warmer than wool or synthetic fabrics. I have a pair of White + Warren cashmere fingertip gloves and wear them all the time. They’re amazingly soft and warm. Worried about the cost? You’re in luck. Now that we’re halfway into winter, lots of cashmere gloves are on sale so they’re much more affordable.
You can also protect with a face serum with antioxidants. After applying it to the face, Melissa highly recommends rubbing in whatever’s left onto the back of your hands. This can help prevent aging and hyperpigmentation caused by environmental damage from things like sunlight, air pollution, and smoke. She swears by SkinCeuticals serums Phloretin CF and C E Ferulic. Melissa also reminds us to use sun protection. Even if it’s cloudy out, the sun can still damage skin.
A few times a week, be sure to exfoliate to get rid of dry, flaky skin. This will help moisturizers penetrate better. I keep Akhassa Pink Tea Hand Scrub at the sink. It gently exfoliates with apricot and adds moisture with coconut oil. In the shower, I use Villainess Smooch! This scrub has an unusual creamy texture, lots of scrubby grains, and doesn’t jeopardize my safety, because it emulsifies into a light, moisturizing lotion that doesn’t leave feet slippery. It also comes in a multitude of sassy, sumptuous fragrances. I love sweet, spicy Pyromania.
On extra rough spots, like heels, Gilden Tree Footscrubber works wonderfully well. This handcrafted terracotta scrubber removes dry skin and calluses with the rough side and buffs and smoothes with the polishing side. It’s been hailed as “The Best” by Oprah’s magazine “O.” These are made by a women’s cottage industry in Pakistan. A portion of each sale helps educate children there. Who’da thunk you could prettify your feet and help kids at the same time?
By the way, leave those metal, callus-removing files to manicurists. If you don’t know what you’re doing or get too aggressive, you can easily cut the skin and risk infection.
This is a good time to see a professional like Melissa to get hands and feet in shape now that winter’s taken its toll. Her hand and foot treatment goes way beyond what you typically get with a mani-pedi. She spends a full hour on hands and feet to wipe out dry skin, soften, protect, and beautify. Not in San Francisco or strapped for cash? Then take a cue from her treatment and give yourself extra care at home by trying some of things she does.
For hands, she starts by cleansing and toning skin from shoulder to fingers. Then she exfoliates with a gentle scrub and applies a skin lightening peel with glycolic or lactic acid. Next comes another round of cleansing, a massage with a nutrient rich serum, and application of SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Mask. She removes that with a hot towel and applies SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
For feet, she cleanses and tones from knees to toes. She exfoliates with a micro polish scrub and removes that with a hot towel. Then she massages with a lavender and ginger oil and follows that with SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Mask, which she removes with a hot towel. She finishes up by moisturizing with SkinCeuticals AOX Body Treatment.
Of course, you may want to opt for something simpler if you’re doing it yourself. For a quick and easy at-home treatment, she recommends soaking feet in a warm Epson salt bath, exfoliating with a salt scrub, using a pumice stone on calluses, and then moisturizing with a really rich oil like avocado or coconut. The warm water will help soften and make it easier to buff away dead skin. I also recommend the refreshing Boots Botanics Foot Soak made with sea salt and peppermint oil.