This site is an archive of For the latest information about Susy and her adventrures, visit the Cultivate Simple site.
Thank you for all your support over the years!

Taking Care of Your Hands

July 6th, 2011

We use our hands all day every day and often without thinking about it. During the summer they can be especially neglected with all the activities that come along with warm weather. We garden, cook, mow, play and do all kinds of things never thinking twice about our hands until they’re burned, injured, or we notice they’re at the height of neglect. In addition to all the work and play, our hands also have to deal with the onslaught of chemicals from soaps and lotions. This is especially bad because we wash our hands many times a day. Here are some tips to keep your hands healthy, happy and looking their best all summer long.

Wear gloves when possible. Gloves will help keep you from getting cut or scratched and they help keep blisters away. They will also protect your hands from the harsh sun in the summer and from the cold dry air in the winter. Perhaps the best reason to wear gloves is because it keeps your hands cleaner avoiding a lot of unnecessary hand washing that can dry them out. You can choose different kinds of gloves for the tasks you’re working on. I keep a box of disposable nitrile gloves in the closet for painting, staining and other messy jobs. They also come in handy if you need to pull poison ivy. I wear regular Ethel gloves for gardening when it’s dry and the utility gloves when it’s wet. A good pair of leather gloves will come in really handy when doing heavy duty chores like stacking firewood. Wear gloves when washing dishes by hand or find a dish soap that is less harsh. I have found that a lye soap that I buy locally doesn’t bother my hands at all. Dr Bronner’s Sal-Suds also does a fantastic job of washing without being to drying on hands.

And no my gloves are not always that pristine & clean. I have a few pairs of Ethel gloves that are in pretty rough shape from months of hard work in the garden as you can see by the image below.

Include more healthy fats in your diet. I used to be plagued with dry skin, until I started switched away from a low-fat diet and processed fats like margarine and canola oil to butter, lard, tallow and coconut oil. Including a fish oil supplement in your diet will also help your skin, I highly recommend Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Now that I’m eating lots of butter, drinking whole milk and using lots of healthy fats like Tropical Traditions coconut oil, my skin does not get dry.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to keep your hands from getting dry is to: Avoid over washing! We live in an uber clean society, constantly washing our hands with soaps loaded with all kinds of weird ingredients. Only wash your hands if necessary. Personally, I think that eating nourishing food is going to do you a whole lot more good when it comes to avoiding colds and flus than washing your hands. If you haven’t already, think about switching away from anti-bacterial soaps and try to find a local soap made with goat’s milk or other natural ingredients. You’ll be amazed at all the wonderful things you can find made by local artisans in your area. If you can’t find any soap makers locally you’ll find a wealth of them on Etsy.

Use a natural moisturizer. Synthetic moisturizers often contain chemicals that can do more harm than good. Consider swapping your current moisturizer to something more natural like coconut or grapeseed oil. Keep a small bottle by the sink and add a drop or two to your hands after washing. Think about using a salt scrub every so often to soften and moisturize hands. I just discovered the joy of using salt scrub after making some with a bunch of salt I had from curing olives. My recipe for Herbal Salt Scrub is posted over on the Your Day Blog (we’ll be doing a giveaway soon that will include of some of my homemade salt scrub so check back soon, or friend Ethel on Facebook so you don’t miss it).

Every now and then the nagging pain from a cut or burn reminds me of the need to keep my hands protected. The older I get the more I appreciate what my hands do every single day and the more I want to keep them in good shape. That’s why you’ll find my hands protected by gloves most of the time I’m outside in the garden and following the tips above.

Do you have any great tips for keeping your hands in good shape? soaps, lotions, manicures?

16 Comments to “Taking Care of Your Hands”
  1. Sande on July 6, 2011 at 7:20 am

    You have a lot of good tips in this post. Got one for taking gardening stains off the hands of those who haven’t worn gloves? I’m not a fan of working in glove and consequently my hands are always stained from the weeds and soil in the summer.
    Your salt scrub recipe on the other site looked very intereting. I might have to try that.

    Reply to Sande's comment

    • Susy on July 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

      I’d recommend the salt scrub with some lemon juice added. Peroxide should also help get rid of stains on your hands. I’ve also found that lightly rubbing hands with a pumice stone does wonders for getting rid those ground in stains from working in the garden without gloves.

      That’s one reason I wear gloves, my hands need to look presentable a few days a week when I have meetings.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Melissa on July 6, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Just had one of those AHA! moments when reading your post. I’ve switched to wearing gloves most of the time when gardening as well. But I’ve also been including more of the good fats in my diet over the past 2 months– it just occurred to me that maybe that’s what’s improving my skin. I’ve seen a noticeable change in the skin on my hands. I used to get these dry patches for years and lotion would never cut it to make them heal up. My hands look the best they’ve looked in years right now!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on July 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

      I was just reading last night that coconut oil is especially good for skin. It can even work as a sunscreen – which is what I’ve been using this year with good luck. I try to eat some every day and use it as a lotion after every shower.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Donna B. on July 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Ugh, I am destined to wash my hands at least a hundred times a day… sadly my job is in banking – and I handle cash all of the time. Cash is dirty. But I try not to use too much antibacterial/sanitizers and I avoid touching my face all day! Hahaha!

    Purchasing soaps through Etsy is something I’ve always wanted to do… but I’m very torn over the fact that I really want to smell the fragrance in the bar. Most of the time they smell like patchouli or sandalwood… and those odors are offensive to me. Maybe I should stick to good ones like goats milk and honey. Mmm… Do you know any good shops?

    [I’d like to add that the first photo of you is just PERFECT.]

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

    • Susy on July 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Glad you liked the photo! I did find a few places that sell goat milk honey soap on Etsy – that sounds like a really great combo!

      We have found that we really like the soap from Orange Fuzz on Etsy. They sell a lot of different soaps made with beer. We had a bar of Lemongrass and Cardamom Beer Soap with Guinness that was really great smelling! I’m thinking the Juniper and Grapefruit Beer Soap or the Lemon Ginger Tea Soap – Vegan with Chamomile would also be really great.

      We’re lucky that we have tons of different soap makers at our farmer’s market so I usually buy from them.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Donna B. on July 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

        !!! That Lemongrass/Cardamom/Guinness combo sounds fantastic. Checking them out right a way! XD
        I keep missing the soap vendors when I visit local farmers markets… it sounds sad but I don’t think much exsist around here! I must check out some of the farmers markets farther in the county over from mine – it’s a bit more rural, so I’m sure to find a soap maker!

        to Donna B.'s comment

  4. Allison on July 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Great tips! I am going to try to grapeseed oil for hand moisturizer.

    I really need to get into a better habit of wearing gloves out in the garden and barn!

    Reply to Allison's comment

  5. Michael on July 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

    For anybody who has cracked skin but wants to do a scrub – you can use sugar, it doesn’t sting.

    Also – I got one of the home-version paraffin baths a few years ago – I have joint pain due to an autoimmune condition, and the hot wax is just the ticket. Leaves you soft and smooth, too!

    Reply to Michael's comment

  6. MAYBELLINE on July 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Olive oil.
    I’m not giving up washing my hands though. I haven’t had a cold in quite a long time.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  7. Kathryn on July 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

    For a non-greasy moisturizer: Vegetable glycerin (1 part) with distilled water or aloe vera juice (4 to 5 parts). I’ve been using this for about 3 years now. It works with dry skin and itching when nothing else does. I consider it a miracle mix! As do my friends who have tried it.

    It is very liquid, so i usually keep it in a spray bottle. I spray it all over after my shower, use it for a facial moisturizer (and it has removed a few dry spots on my face), and use it liberally after washing my hands. I do make it up in small batches and add a few drops of grapefruit seed oil as a preservative because it can get moldy. Too much glycerin will make it sticky – but just add more water or aloe juice.

    Reply to Kathryn's comment

  8. Daedre Craig on July 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    My hands and fingernails are usually in pretty bad shape. Then again, I do prefer weeding without gloves. I also recently stained all my fingernails while pitting cherries. It has taken days to wear off (despite a couple scrubs with Ajax).

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  9. Phil - Smiling Gardener on July 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Great post. My wife is a holistic nutritionist, so we’re all about the coconut oil and not using antibacterial soaps. I don’t have anything to add here, other than mentioning that using baking soda can be helpful to get out tough stains – it’s a bit tough on your skin, though, so moisturizing with coconut oil after is a good idea.

    Reply to Phil – Smiling Gardener's comment

  10. Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm on July 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I use home made olive oil soap for washing hands and have hand cream stashed in every room of the house. Should put a tube in my garden basket too…

    Reply to Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm's comment

  11. Sincerely, Emily on July 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Great post. I have been wearing gloves for several years and it helps a lot. I even switched from wearing sandals out in the garden to wearing shoes and socks and that has made a HUGE difference on the past dry cracking and bleeding I had on my feet/heels. I learned a lot from your past post on coconut oil and have been eating and using it ever since. I have had a lot of problems this summer with my index finger and thumb this summer. I finally figured out it is from shucking the southern peas I am growing. Something about them is tearing my fingers up so I am wearing rubber gloves to shuck them now and it is helping but I am still trying to repair the damage.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  12. Summer Sun Giveaway from Ethel | Chiot's Run on July 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    […] when I wrote about taking care of your hands and talked about making a salt scrub to keep your hands in tip top shape for during the gardening […]

    Reply to Summer Sun Giveaway from Ethel | Chiot’s Run's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Read previous post:
We Have a Frog

I was trying to catch a small frog at my mom's last week but we couldn't find one. This weekend...