Our hands do a lot of work. They chop veggies, write notes, sort change, punch numbers, and hit the keyboard—not to mention care for loved ones. Unfortunately, they usually don't get the pampering they deserve. The truth is, treating them well can be surprisingly simple. Here natural beauty experts show how daily diet and lifestyle habits (along with a few sumptuous hand care products) can transform even the most neglected hands into works of beauty.
Seek vitamin C–rich foods
In addition to drinking plenty of water, Santa Cruz, California-based dietitian Jocelyn Dubin, MS, RD, also recommends nourishing hands from the inside with foods high in vitamin C. "The body uses vitamin C to make collagen," says Dubin. "Collagen is the fabric of skin, and when there is enough vitamin C to make sufficient collagen, the result is smooth skin." Otherwise you end up with rough and blotchy skin, explains Dubin. To more than satisfy the 60 mg Daily Value recommendation of vitamin C for adults, eat two oranges, 1/2 cup chopped raw red bell pepper, two kiwi fruits, or 1 cup steamed fresh broccoli.
Eat plenty of healthy fats
Foods high in essential fatty acids help provide moisture to skin from the inside out, resulting in a healthy sheen instead of dry, flaky skin. Aim for the recommended Daily Value of 65 grams of fat per day. One medium avocado contains 30 grams of fat, a tablespoon of olive oil supplies 14 grams, and each tablespoon of flaxseed contains 4 grams.
Laura DuPriest, aesthetician and author of Natural Beauty (Prima Lifestyles, 2002), recommends gently exfoliating any dry skin with ingredients from your kitchen. "Make a quick exfoliating scrub by mashing 1 tablespoon sugar with 1/4 cup butter; rub it into the hands for a few minutes, and then wipe it away," says DuPriest. "This scrub can be used once a week to soften hands, ease dry skin, and help better absorb moisturizers."
Moisturize with healing ingredients
Harsh weather, soaps and cleansers, and even plain old hot water can strip your hands of their natural protective oils, leaving them rough, dry, and scaly. Fortunately, drinking plenty of water, eating nourishing foods, and using topical moisturizers can replenish them (see "5 Everyday Hand Savers," below). "It's especially beneficial after bathing to apply healing olive oil, canola oil, almond oil, or lavender essential oil to lock in moisture," says DuPriest.
Santa Cruz, California-based freelance writer and food scientist Adina Licht did not abuse her hands during the making of this article.