One of my most recent endeavours has been to get my hands looking absolutely soft and smooth. I’m talking contest-winning smooth – hands that look as though they have never seen the light of day, hands that look as though they’ve been preserved in some kind of time-defying plasma. Luckily, I don’t have a job that requires a hefty amount of physical labour; I can imagine that this little challenge would be nigh on impossible were I a car mechanic or a horse trainer or a cage fighter. (Some random examples of physical labour, there!) But no, my hands only have to endure an average amount of ‘wear and tear’ – just domestic duties when the butler has his half-day off.
Now for my Ultimate Hand Treatment. The key to the treatment, I believe, is the gloves. You will see in the photograph above a pretty pair of blue cotton gloves – these are from Liz Earle and cost £4.50. There are other gloves available, but these are the ones that I chose to wear, and they do a very nice job indeed. They don’t make your hands feel too hot (the usual function of gloves!) but they’re nice and snug to the skin which enables you to carry out simple, menial tasks whilst wearing them.
Now obviously the gloves alone do not smooth hands make (that was an interestingly structured phrase. I’m turning into Yoda!), there has to be some kind of treatment cream or lotion on the hands that will sink into the skin. I have been using a ridiculously expensive anti-aging treatment from M Lab, of which more in a moment, but before you all scream blue murder about budgets, let me just say that any good quality, creamy hand lotion will benefit from being trapped inside the gloves. So feel free to use your favourite – or, if you would like some guidance, try one of the following: Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream, £17; l’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream, £16.50; Boots Expert Concentrated Hand and Nail Cream, £2.69. Avoid cheaply fragranced or watery lotions – if you’re on a very tight budget, Boots Expert is excellent.
Back to the M lab, and its £55 – yes £55 – price tag. Here’s the thing about M Lab: all of the products are packed full of clinically active ingredients, which means that…well, they actually make a real difference. By this, I don’t mean that all other, cheaper products are pointless, I just mean that products that are very high in active ingredients will have a very fast and visible effect on the skin. This is one ‘level’ of skincare where we’re not talking about luxury, we’re talking about sheer quality. Obviously the pricing of the product is in the luxury region, but I suppose what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a ‘frivolous’ product – it doesn’t look pretty, it doesn’t have the same thrill-factor as buying Chanel or Guerlain or Givenchy; it’s just functional.
Does it work? Yes it does. My hands, quite literally, were transformed after just one week of application. Dry skin around the nails disappeared and the backs of my hands were absolutely smooth and plumped out. A week’s worth of treatment didn’t really use up a lot of product at all (thank God for small mercies!) because a pea-sized amount is just enough to treat both hands front and back. One important element of the M Lab treatment is that it contains sunscreens to both absorb UVB and protect against UVA – sunscreen for the hands is a splendid idea, in my opinion. The backs of hands can’t be hidden, and they show aging just as fast (if not faster) than faces and necks, so it makes perfect sense to protect them in the same way that we care for the rest of our skin.
If you have seriously damaged hands – age spots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and dryness – and they bother you, then this would make a very good investment. I’ve heard a lot of murmuring about hand surgery lately – dermal fillers and chemical peels and so on – but I think that anyone even considering surgery should give this treatment cream a shot first. I know that it costs the earth, but – as I’ve already pointed out – this isn’t a flippant, ‘pampering’ product; pretty much every penny that you’re paying is for something that works. Not for advertising costs or packaging or flagship counters, just for powerful active ingredients.
Now back to reality, and the land of things that we can more easily afford; Liz Earle’s Superbalm. When I first got this, I thought that it was a lip balm – but it tasted quite rank, if I’m absolutely honest, and I started using it on my cuticles instead. It was only recently, when I was reading the back of the jar, that I realised it was intended for cuticles! If you haven’t got into the habit of rubbing oils into your cuticles then do so now. Especially if you wear nail polish, and ultra-especially if you change your nail polish frequently. It really makes a vast difference to the appearance of your fingers and nails, especially over the cold winter months. I like Liz Earle’s Superbalm because it’s not overly greasy and you only need a tiny little slick on each nail to do the trick. It contains pure oils – soothing lavender and chamomile, rosehip, avocado – and you can really smell them when you open the pot! I like the travel-sized pot (£4.50 for 5g) because I can pop it into my handbag, but the 30ml jar is far better value at £15.
Here’s the Ultimate Hand Treatment, then: Massage in your chosen cream. Boots Expert if you’re broke, M Lab if you’re in serious need of repair (or you’re married to an Arabian Prince), Clarins or L’Occitane if you’re somewhere in the middle. Apply a little rub of Superbalm into cuticles and don your gloves. If you haven’t got gloves, then get some – they’re the most important part! Climb into bed and go to sleep. (Only if it’s bedtime, obviously! Don’t do this at work after lunch!) The gloves – and I can only vouch for the Liz Earle cotton ones – will allow your skin to breath and stay relatively cool, but will trap the moisture next to your skin for a truly intensive treat. I would say, from my advanced and highly technical guess-timations, that the gloves increase effectiveness of the cream by about 500%. They are an inexpensive way to super-charge your hand cream, and you don’t even need to wear them every night – once a week will show good results, and even used occasionally the gloves have an instant softening effect.
Cotton gloves and Superbalm (both £4.50) from Liz Earle, M Lab Anti-Aging Hand Treatment Cream, £55 from Harrods.