More than a month has passed since stay-at-home orders were issued around the U.S. to guard against the spread of Covid-19, and if you’ve been taking extra precautions, chances are it’s long since started to show on your hands. While health experts have emphasized both frequent hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizer, what’s rarely mentioned is how the combination can wreak havoc on your hands and nails.
“Soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers strip away the natural protective oils in your skin, causing them to dry out, [and] nails that get dry and brittle are prone to breakage and splits,” explains Chanel nail artist Betina Goldstein, whose editorial and campaign work has included beautifying the hands of Armie Hammer, Pierce Brosnan, Sandra Bullock and Julianne Moore.
With nail-care tutorials—including how to remove outgrown gel manicures—popping up everywhere on social media, we asked Goldstein and other celebrity nail experts to offer tips, tricks and product recommendations, for men and women alike, to get your hands and nails back into their best condition.
Consider a Soap That’s Effective But Gentle
Los Angeles-based celebrity manicurist Ashlie Johnson, who counts Patrick Dempsey and Justin Timberlake among her clients, suggests seeking out soap with ingredients that both cleanse and soften skin. “Look for a gentle hand soap with a glycerin or oil base,” she says. “Recently I discovered Frama, which I think is great for a unisex audience because the scent—with sandalwood, cedarwood and ylang-ylang – is really rich and universal. I found it in a little shop and have become obsessed.”
Copenhagen-based design brand Frama crafts its Apothecary Hand Wash using natural and organic ingredients that are sustainably sourced and packaged in custom Italian-glass bottles.
Reach for a Rich Hand Moisturizer Often
“The best way to comply with the precautions and prevent dehydration is to apply hand cream immediately after hand washing or using hand sanitizers,” says Jin Soon Choi, the rock-star nail expert with four eponymous hand and foot spas throughout New York City, as well as a client list that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Kerry Washington. Her choice? “I like lotions with shea-butter bases, like L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm.”
With an ultra-rich texture and a high concentration of shea butter, L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm is so popular, the French beauty brand estimates that the bestselling product is sold every two seconds worldwide.
Add an Oil to Your Nail Routine
A great nail treatment might be as close as your kitchen: Johnson recommends massaging coconut oil around your nails, while Choi suggests soaking nails in olive or avocado oil for two to three minutes for deep hydration. For an at-home spa treatment, Goldstein proposes using a bit of moisturizing face scrub on your hands and cuticles, followed by Chanel’s Huile de Jasmin massaged into cuticles. “What I love about Huile de Jasmin is that it absorbs quickly into your skin, leaving it hydrated without a greasy residue,” Goldstein says, adding that the oil also can be mixed with hand cream “for a richer hydration.”
Featuring camellia and jojoba oil and jasmine extract from the south of France, Chanel’s Huile de Jasmin facial oil is inspired by Coco Chanel’s original skincare collection.
Put a Spotlight on Your Cuticles
“A good cuticle cream or oil is definitely going to rehydrate the moisture that’s being sapped from your skin,” Johnson says. “Dior does a great cuticle hydrating serum—it’s a perfect travel size to throw into any bag, and the tip allows for a very good precision application.”
Dior’s Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive Serum combines oils that both protect and harden the keratin within nails, including vitamin-rich apricot oil.
Invest in a Quality Set of Tools
Whether she’s prepping her celebrity clients for red-carpet appearances, ad-campaign shoots or editorial layouts, Johnson relies on tools from both Tweezerman and Navy, a British brand that’s a favorite among professionals. “Having a really nice set of tools is helpful so you’re able to clip your nails, shape them and cut away any little hangnails,” Johnson says. “Though I don’t suggest being very aggressive with your cuticles right now. This should be a time to let everything heal.”
Katey by Navy is crafted with superfine 4mm bladed cuticle nips and features a titanium coating for optimum hygiene.
Try a Hand Mask
“I always do a hand mask on my male clients, especially before a big photoshoot,” Goldstein says. “I lather a heavy hydrating mask like Chanel Hydra Beauty Camellia Repair Mask, then insert the hands into cotton gloves, allowing the mask to sit for at least 20 minutes. I highly recommend doing this as an overnight hand mask as well. When you remove the product, massage the leftover product into hands. You will notice an immense difference if you do this regularly.”
The Hydra Beauty Camellia Repair Mask by Chanel combines white camellia wax with hyaluronic acid and glycerin to lock in moisture and create an instant plumping effect.
Make an Overnight Treatment a New Habit
“In my book, men are not exempt from using care products,” Choi says. “This is the perfect time for men to start a heavy moisturizing regimen. There is no better way to lock in moisture than to wear gloves after applying it.”
Johnson agrees. “I would definitely combine a heavier moisturizer with gloves; it’s the best way to seal everything in,” she says. “Elizabeth Arden does a terrific hand cream from their Eight Hour line. It’s almost like a petroleum jelly, but the scent isn’t heavy at all, so men like it as much as women. Slather it on, put on a pair of gloves and go to sleep.”
Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream Intensive Moisturizing Hand Treatment includes ingredients like butylene glycol and silicone-based dimethicone, humectants that attract water to the skin and promote moisture.
Malcolm’s Miracle Green Men’s Moisturizing Gloves are available in men-friendly sizes and are made in the U.S. of high-grade breathable cotton and spandex.
Trade the Polish for a Strengthening Base Coat
Now is the time to prioritize hand and nail health—a “nail detox,” Choi calls it. “I recommend keeping your nails at a short or medium length to make cleaning beneath the free edge of the nail bed easier,” she advises. To protect and strengthen nails, men and women alike should reach for a subtle base coat that doubles as a treatment: Johnson likes OPI’s Nail Envy, while Choi developed JINsoon HyperRepair, popular with her clients. “This treatment has three AHAs – glycolic acid, malic acid, and lactic acid – to restore and rejuvenate the nail surface. It also contains vitamin C, E, and B5 to nourish and protect,” Choi adds.
A double-patented, nutrient-rich formula, JINsoon HyperRepair is best used alone and begins to restore nail health within one week after two applications, nail expert Jin Soon Choi says.