If Your Hands Could Talk: Natural Hand Care Treatments

When did I get these old lady hands?

Now this is no beauty blog, but once and a while I gotta go there. In a radiant and natural way  of course.

I used to have little kid hands. Short stubby fingers, chubby knuckles, and nails of an uneven length that no polish would ever stick to (well that part hasn’t changed.) Those little kid hands lasted well into adulthood. I’d resigned myself to having them forever.

Until recently when I really took a look. Blue veins beginning to bulge and reach down to my wrists, those once pudgy knuckles now wrinkled and a bit bony.

What happened?

Life happened I guess. What the hell did I expect? I’m 50 for Goddess sake!

All those hours spent with my hands in the garden soil hasn’t helped either.

I know, I know – I’m supposed to wear gardening gloves. But I love the feel of the moist soil between my fingers. And it’s so much easier to get those weeds by the root when I use my bare hands. So, I reserved the gloves for when I was unwinding the insidious stems of morning glories from thorny roses.

And now my hands are paying the price of all that naked gardening. (Hand-naked I mean! Don’t think dirty!)

It’s funny because most of us obsess over caring for our faces, our hair, just about anything but our hands.

And there they dangle, seemingly in the background, quietly doing so much work for us. The ironic part is, those hands are quite visible and obvious to others. Beauty experts know this of course – and if you’ve been caring for your hands diligently all this time, you may not even need to read this. (Unless you’re interested in some DIY, natural treatments for those long-suffering digits.)

I’m finally getting it: Taking care of, even pampering, our hands goes a long way to improving overall self image.

I mean they’re always right there in right in front of us. I’m staring at my fingers on the keyboard now. We see these hands so much that we don’t see them.

It turns out that the skin on our hands thins out much quicker than that on other area of the body. By the time most people reach their 40s it has thinned by 40-50 percent. Yikes! No wonder those veins start to pop out and – if we’re not careful – the entire hand takes on a wrinkled, crepe-like appearance.

Apparently there’s all sorts of high tech treatments to bring that youthful plumpness back to your digits. Things like lasers and collagen injections. If you know me at all, you know I’m not going there. You’ll just have to look elsewhere for the skinny on plastic surgery for the hands.

If you’re like me and you prefer to stick with organic, natural hand care solutions, all is not lost. You don’t need to plunk down hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars to get hands that are at least a little softer and younger looking.

I thought I’d offer up some tips and recipes today – easy ways to restore some luster to those aging and neglected mitts.

1)   Treat the backs of your hands with the same care you give your face.

When my hands’ seemingly sudden changed appearance caught my attention, I began smoothing the same serums and creams onto the backs of my hands as I use on my face. There’s always a little residue left on my fingers so I after I’ve patted stuff onto my cheeks I rub the rest onto that thirsty skin on my hands

2)   Sunscreen is the most important of these to include – unless you plan on never going outside!

If you use a face cream with SPF, be sure to rub a little on the backs of your hands when you’re done moisturizing. Those babies see at least as much sun as your face does. Otherwise, just spread a dab of sunscreen each morning the backs of your hands.

This helps to delay or soften the appearance of those inevitable age spots. (Most of us are doomed about this anyway because of all that sun exposure way back when we were kids.)

It’s never too early to begin sunscreening the backs of our hands. It’s an area that often gets missed. Tell your daughters, and any other young woman in your life!

3)   Glove, Gloves & Gloves!

I touched on this above, but gloves aren’t only for gardening. You’ll need a few different types of gloves if you want to preserve those mitts. Gardening gloves are essential if you like to putter around with the plants.

And it’s probably a no-brainer – but rubber gloves protect your hands from the drying harshness of soaps, cleansers and even water. Use them when you’re cleaning house or even washing dishes.

And you’re not just being wimpy when you pull on those fleecy gloves when the temperatures dip. Cold weather dries the skin, and causes hands to chap and redden. Gloves protect them from the elements. So you are comfier, and your hands stay pretty.

Finally, if you’re going to get all spa-like with some of the recipes below, you might want to invest in a pair of soft cotton gloves to wear during all-night exfoliating and moisturizing treatments.

4)   Lotion up in the evening.

Get in the habit of slathering your favorite (hopefully natural) lotion or cream all over your hands before getting into bed. (If you really want to go full bore on the spa moisturizing treatment you can then cover them up with some soft gloves as mentioned above.) Just moisturizing before bed will do wonders for your skin texture.

5)   Get a Pet Slug

Okay, this is the weirdest tip I found, and I’ll admit I have no intention of trying it. But apparently chafed skin on the hands can be relieved with slug slime! This is based on a report published in 1905, which recommends putting the slug on the sore and chafed area of your hand and letting it crawl around until the whole area is fully slimed! Ewww!

(I just had to include that.)


And finally: a few recipes for those of you who are getting excited about babying those hands into baby-like softness.

Exfoliating Hand Paste

You have to be pretty devoted to soft, beautiful hands to try this. But, it’s a wonderful, natural way to exfoliate.

1 tablespoon almonds
1 tablespoon oats
1 tablespoon zinc oxide paste
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon honey

A pair of soft cotton gloves

Grind the almonds and oats in a coffee grinder or blender, till they are still coarse, put powdery. Combine this in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients (except the gloves – duh). Stir well.

Right before bedtime, rub this paste onto your hands, and get someone to help you put the gloves on (you won’t be able to because your hands will be all covered with the gooey paste). Call it a night. Rinse off in the morning and revel in your smooth, soft hands.

Note: Not a good plan to sleep on your fanciest sheets on this night – just in case the stuff drips out.

Castor Oil Soak

This one’s especially good if you have brittle, dry nails and cuticles. Use three times a week. Recipe makes enough for three treatments.

4-5 tablespoons castor oil
10 drops essential oil of sandalwood OR frankincense

Combine the oils in a small bowl. Soak clean fingertips for about 10 minutes. Then use a soft cloth to push back your cuticles and lightly buff your nails. Store mixture in a jar and refrigerate. After three treatments, discard it.

Skin Lightening Treatment

Forget those lasers. Try this to soften the appearance of age spots and to even out skin tone on the hands. Use twice a week. You’ve got to make a fresh batch each time.

2 tablespoons oats (ground in coffee grinder or blender)
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon jojoba oil or any good quality oil
2 teaspoons fresh pineapple, lemon, or strawberry juice

Mix all ingredients together to make a paste. Allow to thicken for about a minute. If it gets too thick add a little water. Apply the paste to the backs of your hands and let it dry for 15 -30 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Always follow this treatment with a good moisturizer – preferably one with SPF.

So, here’s my confession:  I’ve been sadly inattentive to my poor little hands for most of my life. The best I usually manage is slathering on some cream or salve after a big gardening session. Lately, I’ve been practicing some of my tips listed above, but I have yet to pull out the blender and whip up one of these intensive hand treatments.

I think it’s time!

How about you? How have your hands fared through the years? Do you ignore your hard-working hands as I have? Or is all this old news to you? Can you add any ideas for hand pampering? Tell us in the comments.

Till next time. May your hands be as radiant as your soul!

Image by Chiot’s Run
Recipes adapted from The Herbal Home Spa by Greta Breedlove, and The Herbal Body Book by Stephanie Tourles


23 Responses to If Your Hands Could Talk: Natural Hand Care Treatments

  1. Hand care has a special significance for me because I’ve had so many outbreaks of rashes. Mainly eczema! Right now it is under control, but I’m always vigilant to prevent it or stop rashes early. While meditating I got the inspiration to include more oil in my diet. I’ve been doing that and it seems to help a lot. Pure virgin olive oil, mainly. Also I found out that the cortisone type creams the doctors gave me for years didn’t help nearly as much as a fungus type cream, such as what’s used for athlete’s foot. There’s been a lot of trial and error, along with herbs and essential oils… I’ve tried many things. I’m so grateful that today as I type this the backs of my hands are completely clear and rash-free.

    •  @lindajm Isn’t it amazing the practical insights that can come during meditation? I can definitely believe that the simple addition of high quality oil to your diet would help with that eczema-like rash condition. It also occurs to me that you might want to try coconut oil (to eat, although maybe external would be good too)- I’m learning more and more about how awesome that stuff is. I’m so glad that the remedies you’ve tried have turned out to be successful. I know how persistent (and awful) those rashes can be!

  2. Sarah, you made me laugh out loud twice in this post – once for the pet slug and once for not mixing the gloves in the bowl in the first recipe. Ha ha ha! Still chuckling.
    Geez, I just use plain old lotion . . . pretty much any type. Do you think that’s bad? Should I look for a certain kind of lotion if I don’t want to make my own?

    •  @BobbiEmel So glad you got a good laugh out of this one Bobbi! I cracked up too at the slug – just too weird! As for your question – I think any lotion is helpful, but you might want to look for an all-natural one (from health food store) that is specific for dry or aging skin. It may penetrate and plump up the skin cells more. Some of the conventional type lotions actually contain ingredients that can be drying. (Oh, the irony!)

  3. haha  awesome! 
    Here is a pet slug for you, these were all over our campsite after a over night soaking of rain.  http://tinyurl.com/6rrdzu81 – Self Care is #1 in my books, it is never too late to start.
    2. Thankfully my hands are looking pretty good – pheww!
    3. Totally agree with the gloves, this is the first time I have used them.
    4. I used vitamin E cream and coconut cream it does a great job!love reading your stuff Sarah, you make me laugh every time and always great advice.

    • Thanks @LoriLynnSmith ! So glad you get a laugh out of these posts. And, you’re lucky that your hands are hanging in there so well. Shows that you’ve probably been pretty good at taking care of them. Sure you haven’t been playing with slugs for a while?? 🙂  Seriously though, Vitamin E oil is excellent for dryness, so sounds like you’re on exactly the right track!

  4. Ooh, I’ve been guilty too, Sarah for neglecting my hands.  I’ve started to be better at applying the lotion but looking forward to trying the castor oil recipe

    • Oh good, @ClaireKerslake  . Please do let me know how it goes when you do try it. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

  5. Oh, my hands! I’ve been trying to remember to use sunscreen when I surf, but they definitely bear the signs of aging more than any other part of me. I do use a foot scrub that’s half ground oats and half cornmeal with some olive oil mixed in – works really well on my hands, too. Looking forward to trying that exfoliating hand paste! But where do you buy zinc oxide?

    •  @JenniferSavage What a perfect idea to use your foot scrub recipe on your hands! Of course it will work beautifully – as most foot recipes are formulated to relieve cracked and dry feet. I wanna do the hand paste too! I think you can get zinc oxide at the pharmacy. (Didn’t people used to use it just by itself as sort of an ultra sunscreen? Like life guards and folks like that? On their noses?)

  6. “Treat the backs of your hands with the same care you give your face.” 
    So… ignore it?

    •  @HappierHuman Umm, well that wasn’t quite the idea I had in mind. But I pretty much ignored my face too when I was your age. You’ll see, as the years go by…:-)

  7. Hi Sarah! I like to “treat myself” every night by relaxing and putting on cuticle cream and hand lotion before I go to bed. Feels like I’m in a mini spa, and my hands sure do thank me in the morning! My skin’s been much softer, particularly my pesky cuticles. 

    •  @annedreshfield What a lovely treat for yourself each evening! I really like this idea and I think I may have to adopt it. My cuticles can get raggy too. I could even see adding in a minute or two of nail filing. I’m always trying to figure out a way to work that into my day. I tend to forget and then all of the sudden I have a long nail that breaks and turns into a hang nail. Thanks for sharing this!

        •  @annedreshfield A friend gave me a file a while back that I think is ceramic or something and I love it. Can’t seem to find a similar one anywhere around here. She got it at a Sephora shop in NYC. All I see in the drug stores are metal ones (and of course the disposable emory boards). Where do you find glass files?

  8. Hi Sarah, great tips I don’t treat my hands well at all but recently I exclaimed the same way you did, Where did I get these hands? I have started to use some nice creams but I forget more often than not. I can vouch for the slug treatment but not from putting them on my hands. At night they invade our deck and I have often stood on one in the dark without realizing, after getting over the repulsion of standing barefoot on a slug I marveled at my lovely soft feet – but I could never touch those creatures intentionally!

    •  Ha ha ha, what a hilarious slug story@CiaraConlon ! I never knew this about slugs until I wrote this article. I’ve always avoided actually touching them. They are quite invasive here on the north coast of california – and when I pick them off my garden plants I always use a large leaf so I don’t have to touch them. I might want to rethink that strategy…

  9. I made the same realization earlier this year when I looked at my hands while doing a yoga arm balance pose.  “Wow!  Where did those ‘old lady’ hands come from???” In our dry climate, I apply a natural lotion about eight times a day, applied to the backs of my hands and especially rubbed into my knuckles.  Sometimes the fingertips of my right hand get so dry they crack apart.  And I don’t even garden!
    Taking care of our hands with your yummy recipes is one of those indulgent self-care treatments that we all need to treat ourselves to much more often.  Thanks for the great ideas Sarah!  If we had slugs here, I would try that! 

    •  Wow@PaigeBurkes , it sounds like you need to do double duty on the hand care in your dry climate! Good thing you have some good lotion around. You’re so right that it’s a lovely little self-cherishing gift to do one of these indulgent hand treatments. I hope you can gift yourself with some regular indulgence!

  10. Sarah,
    I read your article a few days ago and didn’t leave a comment but today i felt compelled. Everywhere i go i am looking at peoples hands now. I saw an elderly woman on the bus and noticed that her hands were almost blueish green in color and her skin seemed paper thin. Made me paranoid and went out and bought sunscreen for my hands and pink gloves to wash my dishes.  
    I’ve been making my own exfolliating hand and body oil out of dead sea salt and olive oil. sometimes i add essential oils to it if i have it in different scents. It makes my hands super soft and my hubby loves to hold my hands.
    Do you think the exfoliating factor helps keep your skin taught or is it just good for keeping them soft?

    •  @AnnieAndreHacks Hmm, I’m not sure if the exfoliation is proven to keep the skin taut and younger looking – but I do think that makes sense. After all, a lot of those expensive facial formulations for younger looking skin have AHAs and other exfoliant ingredients. A salt scrub is a healthier way to do the same thing. A salt scrub sounds like a lovely idea for soft, smooth hands. I almost feel like adding an update to the article suggesting it!
      I think you’re on the path to avoiding early onset of ‘old lady hands’ with your strategy of salt scrubs, sunscreen, and gloved dish washing  (and how fun that the gloves are pink! Makes you want to put them on I bet.)

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