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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?

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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.