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A Handful of Love — 5 Products That Will Help You Attain Healthy Nails and Soft Hands

Over the years, I’ve bemoaned my seeming inability to develop petal-soft hands and long, strong nails that don’t break or peel into weak onion-like layers. I’d chalked up my difficulties to the constant household chores that accompany motherhood, many of which involve dealing with copious amounts of waters and abrasive, chemical-laden detergents: the seemingly endless pile of dishes that need to be washed, the loads of laundry, the mopping of floors, the almost maniacal wiping of counters and spilled messes. Initially, I relied on rubber gloves to protect my nails while completing all these chores, but it didn’t make as much of a difference as I imagined and proved highly inconvenient (who wants to put on gloves every single time they’re wiping down a counter or washing out a cup?). And, throughout it all, there were a plethora of cuticle oils, gel and cream cuticle removers, nail strengtheners, hand creams and balms, and supplements that did little beyond burn a hole in my pocket. The Clinique Deep Comfort Hand Cream, the Molton Brown Rhubarb & Rose Hand Cream, and the  L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream are notable exceptions since they all left my hands feeling silky and smooth. But even with a solid hand cream, I still had to grapple with rough cuticles, fragile nails, and dead skin embedded into the sides of my nail beds. Fortunately, I recently discovered five products that have been helping my hands get into fighting form — or, rather, voguing form. Read on!

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Deborah Lippmann The Cure Ultra Nourishing Cuticle Repair Cream, $24. Available at DeborahLippmann.com and Sephora.com

Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann is a certified nail whisperer, so it should come as no surprise that the latest addition to her nail care regimen gives CPR to nearly lifeless nails. Aptly dubbed The Cure, this luxurious cream is packed with raspberry stem cells. How are stem cells different from botanical extracts? Well, in plants, stem cells can regenerate damaged parts like stems, leaves, and flowers; when applied topically to human skin, these heavily concentrated stem cells infuse dermal cells with polyphenols, monosaccharides, amino acids, and minerals that promote collagen production, increase antioxidant activity, encourage wound healing, deliver deep hydration, and so forth. Since raspberries contain a high level of biologically active compounds, their stem cells as the perfect choice for regenerative creams. In addition to these stem cells, The Cure ‘s formula incorporates red algae, rich in amino acids, polysaccharides, folic acid, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which help to enhance the skin’s barrier function, lock in moisture, and strengthen elastin. Other ingredients include shea butter, sodium hyaluronate, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Packaged in a glamorous square container with a clear base that resembles an ice sculpture, this cuticle cream is meant to be massaged onto nails and the surrounding cuticle area throughout the day. The consistency will have you swooning – it’s lighter than a dab of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and no where near as greasy —and you’ll be delighted by how much softer your nails feel only minutes after application. I’ve been using The Cure non-stop and have detected an immense difference in how my nails look and feel — especially the dry and cracked skin around the sides of my fingernails.

 

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Probelle Touch ‘N Grow Plus Nail Hardener, $14. Available at Pro-Belle.com

The second formula in Probelle’s nail strengthening collection is enhanced with lime and garlic extract, both of which have long been used in treatments to fortify nails. The magical combination does, in fact, strengthen nails while lightening their tone, eliminating the yellow tint that can build up after years of using nail polish (especially if you haven’t been applying a base coat as recommended). If your nails are in critical condition, eschew the nail polish for a few days and apply a coat of Probelle Touch ‘N Grow Plus daily to stop any cracking and peeling. Once nails look like they’re recovering nicely, you can start using this product in lieu of a base coat. Unlike other nail hardeners, this one dries extremely fast and it won’t develop a gooey or blob-like texture, so it’s easy to use as a base coat. That said, do be warned that this nail hardener contains formaldehyde resin. This could cause some concern among those who have constantly read that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (which it is), but do remember that formaldehyde is a gas and that the resin is unlikely to evaporate, plus it contains only contains tiny amounts of formaldehyde residuals (probably as little as what can naturally be found in foods like apples and carrots). In other words: don’t panic when you see the word “formaldehyde” and, instead, do your research and decide how to proceed.

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Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab, $7.49. Available at mass food and drug stores.

Everything about this cuticle oil rocks! First, it comes in a pocket-friendly, squeezable tube so you don’t have to lug around a fragile bottle that could, at any point in time, spill or crack inside your purse or makeup bag. It’s also incredibly easy to use since it has a built-in brush applicator that minimizes messiness and allows you to access the crevices along the base of the nails. Though it’s technically a cuticle oil, it has more of a gel-like consistency, akin to that of an aqueous serum, which I actually find way more appealing on a sensory level. The intense treatment is formulated with antioxidant-rich vitamin E, rose and jasmine extracts (both of which are recommended for dry skin given their hydrating and soothing properties), sesame seed oil (which softens skin thanks to its fatty acid content and fortifies the skin’s moisture barrier), sunflower seed oil (a rich source of vitamin E), safflower seed oil (a non-greasy emollient that also seals in moisture), and avocado oil (which is rife with fatty acids that soften the skin). This is one rehab everyone needs to check into!

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Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream, $16 for 1.25 oz. and $25 for 2,5 oz. Available at select Sephora stores, Sephora.com, Space NK, and Yu-Be.com

I’ve often examined these white-and-orange tubes with a great degree of curiosity while on the checkout line at Sephora so, when approached about reviewing the skin cream, I jumped at the opportunity. As it turns out, my instincts were spot-on! This skin cream works miracles! Though it’s still flying under the radar in the United States, Yu-Be has been embraced by Japanese consumers for over 57 years. Developed by pharmacist Yoshikiyo Nowatari in 1957, Yu-Be’s formula remains as top secret as Mr Krabs’ Krabby Patty recipe (hey, Plankton-like thieves lurk around in every industry!). The key ingredient here is, of course, glycerin, which functions as a natural humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and sealing it in, but this star player is accompanied by vitamin E, which protects the skin from free radicals and helps to heal wounds; vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, which helps to teat scaly, cracked, and rough skin; sodium hyaluronate, which helps skin cells retain moisture and, in the process, creates a skin-plumping effect that reduced the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; and camphor, which is often used to alleviate pain and itchiness from bug bites, minor burns, rashes, muscle pain, and so forth. The yellow-tinged cream is incredibly rich but it’s also absorbed rather quickly, leaving behind no tacky or sticky residue. It can also be used for many purposes — I rub it onto my elbows, knees, and heels when they feel a bit rough and dry, and it’s even recommended for chapped lips — which makes it all the more handy. The one caveat: the Yu-Be cream’s camphor scent is pretty intense at first, recalling the aroma of Tiger Balm, which I didn’t find particularly sexy. That said, the scent dissipates within minutes, so don’t write the cream off just because of that first aromatic impression!

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Essie Spa Many Many Mani Intensive Hand Lotion, $8.49. Available at Target.com

 I’ve had a turbulent relationship with Essie’s nail lacquers — most chipped a bit too easily for my taste — so I was slightly skeptical about this hand lotion when I first encountered it at a Target store. Luckily, I decided I wouldn’t let unsavory past experiences taint my judgment and so I picked up the lotion, determined to give it a fair shot. And, simply put, it has blown me away! Unlike heavier, more buttery lotions, this one feels light and airy, and the subtle aroma has a slight berry note that’s tempered by the coriander oil in the formula, which gives the fragrance a fresh and herbal quality. When combined with coriander oil (also known as cilantro), the glycerin-based formula does wonders to soothe and hydrate the skin. While coriander oil isn’t a buzzed-about ingredient in the skin care realm, its healing properties are remarkable. After all, it’s rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins A and C, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin),  folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. This unique constitution makes it effective as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antiseptic, while also helping it protect skin from UV rays and other free radicals and keep skin looking supple and wrinkle-free.

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