By popular request I have an updated hand and nail care routine roundup! My last one was a few years ago (time flies!) and while many of the things have stayed the same, I have stopped using a few things. I’ve been doing my own nails on my own for several years now – pretty much since we moved to Florida. I still haven’t tried gel nails, dip powders, acrylics or press ons. I usually keep things simple and use regular nail polish formulas.
I feel like a lot of the Deborah Lippmann formulas changed! I bought several replacements of the Cuticle Remover and Nail Polish Remover and they didn’t work the same. Recent reviews still seem positive but the bottles I bought had chunks of white product floating in the bottle. I decided to look for an alternative. My tools remain the same tried and true go-to’s! I did replace the cuticle trimmer recently, over time the tools become dull with a lot of use and just need to be replaced.
Tweezerman Pushy and Nail Cleaner is my favorite tool to push back cuticles so they can be trimmed. The size is perfect for my nail size and I prefer the flat tip versus the curved ones of other styles.
For nail polish removers and tools, my all around favorites are from Olive and June. You can buy their items from their website and they have also expanded their line at Target! I love the nail files, nail buffer, clean up brush and their nail polish remover! I recommend shopping their website for the best selection and customizable Manicure Systems and box sets. (I use their boxes to store a lot of my essentials to keep them all in one place!)
My next favorite polish remover is Zoya. It’s one that doesn’t make my nails peel or fingers dry out. It’s effective on regular polish and doesn’t feel harsh on the skin.
My favorite clippers and on-the-go tools are also from Tweezerman. I love this Mini Nail Rescue Kit for everyday use and love that it also travel friendly.
above, clear stackable box in the last photo from amazon
I’m the biggest hand cream fanatic and always love trying new formulas. My current top 5 include:
L’Occitane Solidarity Hand Cream – is one of their new limited-edition formulas, it has a soft hibiscus sent which is really pleasant! I bought 2 but am going to order a few more backups since it’s limited-edition and I really like the scent and cause it supports. Every year they make a product where 100% of the profits help fund projects for women in Burkina Faso for education and professional development
Molton Brown Flora Luminare Hand Cream – I love a lot of the Molton Brown hand creams but this one smells like sunshine to me, it has a bright happy kind of sent with orange blossom, mandarin, ylang-ylang, frangipani, jasmin, rose, vanilla, cedarwood and musk. The formula is nice and not too heavy, I also adore this scent in the Shower Gel and Glowing Body Oil.
Guerlain Repairing and Youth Hand Balm is one of the best new discoveries I’ve had, the balm is pretty spendy, especially for the size, but I’ve found it to be the best for ultra dry skin, it has a balm-feel with honey concentrate and really does work to smooth and hydrate super dry hands, it’s lightly scented (not overpowering).
Base and Top Coat
For base and top coat, I stopped using Essie’s Quick Dry Speed Setter. It worked so well to dry the nails fast and create a long lasting manicure but the formula was harsh on my nails and hands. If any product came in contact with my skin (even if I removed it with remover) it caused cracking and hardening wherever it touched.
OPI Natural Base Coat is the best product I’ve tried that doesn’t hurt my sensitive nails and prevents yellowing from the polish. I also use the OPI Top Coat to extend wear.
Chanel Le Gel Coat is another favorite I use on Chanel polishes. Gives the nails the glossy gel effect without the gel formula.
That wraps up my hand and nail care routine favorites! I hope you found this helpful! A number of you have also asked for my favorites for feet care. I still haven’t found my favorites to replicate a salon pedicure, although I really like the Spongables Pedi-Scrub and Tweezerman Sole Smoother Stone.
Let me know your favorites in the comments!
Press samples include: OPI Cuticle Oil, Guerlain Hand Balm, Olive and June tools.
The dry season is officially here in South Florida and although our winters are mild compared to everywhere else we’ve had some fairly cold days and nights. My skin has been going nuts with the weather change and everything is dry! I’ve rounded up my favorite hydration heroes for body, hands and lips. If you have any favorites you swear by, please let me know in the comments!
Chanel Huile Douce Gentle Oil Hair and Body* has been one of my favorite body oils – it looks like it has been discontinued but they still have the Scented Options in L’Huile Orient, L’Huile Jasmin, L’Huile Vanille and L’Huile Rose – I may splurge on one for myself for the holiday
Augustinus Bader Body Lotion ($35 for 30 ml or $95 for 100 ml) is something I bought over the summer, back then it was a little too rich for my taste, but now that the dry season is here I find it perfect, it is hydrating and there’s no fragrance – it has a semi-matte finish in the drydown
Necessaire Body Lotion ($25 for 200 ml/6.8 oz) is my favorite day-time unscented body cream, it’s gentle, effective and doesn’t interfere with perfume
La Mer Hand Treatment ($90 for 3.4 oz the full size option, note that mine is a mini) is one of my latest loves for hand treatments, I bought mine as part of the limited-edition holiday Rejuvenating Hydration Set ($95) which seems to be selling out nearly everywhere (as of now still available at Net-A-Porter and Blue Mercury). It’s silky, emollient and super luxurious!
L’Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm ($19 for 1.7 oz or $36 for 5.3 oz) was something one of my sweet readers sent to me a year ago (the only fan mail I’ve received!) – she was so sweet to send me one she bought while traveling and the large tube lasted quite a long time! They’ve since launched a smaller tube which is purse friendly, it’s a thicker version of their Classic Shea Butter Hand Cream which I also love
Kiehl’s also makes great hand creams, so many of you have said you swear by the Ultimate Strength Hand Salve as the best unscented option (I agree it’s great! available in multiple sizes), I also really like their scented options in the Lavender and Grapefruit – they have a nice Healthy Hands Trio ($35) I highly recommend getting (and fast because it’s selling out quickly)
Molton Brown also makes great scented hand creams, I love the Fiery Pink Pepper* ($15) the best although their new Flora Luminaire* ($15) is also really lovely!
Cuticle care favorites:
CND Essentials Solar Oil Care Pen ($12.99 for 2.5 ml) is one that always makes the best-of lists for so many magazines, I bought the click brush pen version recently and really like it – it seems a little pricey for the amount you get, but it works well (also available in the Bottle with Brush Applicator)
Dior Huile Daily Nutritive Serum ($28) has been one of my holy grail cuticle oils but is so hard to find as it’s always selling out, you can still find this at Dior.com – if you see it at your local counter I highly recommend you pick it up!
OPI Pro Spa Nail and Cuticle Oil* was something I received recently in a PR package and it seems to come in a few formats, the one I have is a 0.29 fl oz dropper style ($9.95 available on Amazon). It helps with dry cuticles and a little goes a very long way. It also comes in a Bottle (.5 fl oz for $15.95) or a To Go Brush Applicator (.25 oz for $9.50)
Olive and June Cuticle Serum* ($15.99 for 1 at Target, or $30 for 2 at Olive and June, .13 fl oz) comes in a pen applicator with a sponge tip, if you’re one who doesn’t like the super emollient feel of oils, you will love this because it’s a serum that is more like a sponge-on cream vs a drippy liquid oil. It softens cuticles, it’s easy to use and works!
small round marble tray from Goop, makeup bag is Cuyana
Lip care favorites right now:
Tatcha Kissu Lip Mask ($28) – best cushiony clear gel like lip mask you can wear during the day or leave on over night
By Terry Baume de Rose* ($60) – best soothing thick lip cream (also available in a tube form with a slightly sheerer feel and finish, it’s not as thick but just as hydrating)
La Mer Lip Volumizer ($80) – not really a lip balm, but more of a smoothing lip volumizer with a serum feel, it leaves my lips feeling super soft and smooth
I get so many questions about my hand and nail care routine I thought it was time for an updated post. Readers ask me on a weekly basis whether or not my nail polish is done at the salon or at home on my own. I do most of my nail polish and hand care on my own and I have for a couple years now. Most as in practically all – the last time I was at a salon was at least a couple years ago! When I lived in San Diego I had my go-to salons that I went to almost weekly. It was the best way for me to relax, unwind and unplug! However since moving to Florida I’ve never really found anything that comes close and with the frequency that I change my polish it is just easier, more affordable and saves time for me to care for them them on my own.
I did a complete roundup and tutorial a couple years ago. Most of my go-to staples are still the same although there have been a few changes as formulas become discontinued and brands change. I used to never be able to wear Essie polish without getting horrendous tip wear within 1 hour, but I finally found a way to make it work. This goes for most brands of polish, some take different steps and combinations of base/top to make it last.
I have a full list of what I use, some good runner ups and tips on how I maintain my hands and nails. I will say that it will all get better with practice. I used to not be able to paint my right hand well because my left hand was clumsy and shaky. It’s still not perfect but it does get better with time!
Cuticles can be a pain to keep healthy, especially if they’re dry or peeling. I think keeping hands well moisturized is key. If you’re cuticles aren’t in the best shape and you don’t know how to trim them I would suggest going to the salon to have them trimmed professionally. Observe their methods and steps until you’re comfortable doing it yourself at home. Key products I use:
The Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover is my holy grail cuticle softener/remover of all time. I’ve tried a number of highly raved about brands but this is the best. This loosens and softens dead skin around the cuticle making it easier to push back to trim. For me this is essential.
Tweezerman Pushy and Nail Cleaner is also my holy grail (flat sided tip) for pushing back cuticles. Some prefer a rounded version but for me the flat tip gives more control. Often times the rounded end ones are too big for my fingers too. There’s a nail cleaner tip on the other end which is rounded (versus sharp) so it’s super gentle.
Revlon Cuticle Clippers have been a go-to for years, they have sharp tips to precisely cut away dead cuticles once they’re pushed back. They will cut well all the way so there’s no pulling the skin from partial trimming. These were actually my second choice because I needed a pair but couldn’t find my favorite Tweezerman Cuticle Nippers. The drugstore I went to only had ones from Revlon so I decided to give the a try. Both brands are really good.
You can see a full step by step tutorial in this post here but I’ve reposted some of the steps below. Depending on how dry your hands are or how long it’s been since your last manicure you may want to soak, clean and moisturize your hands first.
Nail Polish Remover and Filing Tools
Finding a good gentle remover is essential, especially if you have sensitive nails or fingers. You don’t want to dry out the hands or use something too harsh. Unfortunately the best ones aren’t always easily accessible for me so I’m always ordering online.
Zoya 3-in-1 Formula Remove Nail Polish Remover is one of my top two holy grails. It comes in a few different sizes and this one has a pump dispenser which is super handy. It’s gentle and effective and works on all polish brands that I use. It removes polish, preps and conditions the nails.
Deborah Lippmann The Stripper (not shown) is the other in my top two. She often has bundles available which makes it more affordable. This is also an excellent non-drying version (if I had to pick one this would be my top pick). She also has these in packet forms called Stripper To Go. They’re packaged in a very small packet but the pads are well soaked and the are really convenient for travel or if you need to change polish on-the-go, there’s no need to worry about a bottle leaking or exploding. One individual packet has enough to remove polish for all my fingers.
With these 2 removers I find I don’t need to use a nail cleaner to clean the residue/oils off.
For filing, buffing and cleaning excess paint I’ve always used what I could find at the grocery or drug store. Olive and June launched a line of polish and nail care products that are super convenient and well made. They sent some of their products to try and I am completely obsessed with The Tool Box. I use it to store most of my nail care tools and basics in one place. I think you can find alternatives for less at Ulta or Target, but for me I really like the Buffer Cube and Clean Up Brush. You can buy the Clean Up Brush individually and for me it’s perfect to clean the edges where polish may have transferred or look a little messy.
My Favorite Base and Top Coats
My favorite base and top coats often rotate as I use things up or formulas become discontinued. What I have in rotation right now is listed below (for regular nail polish, I don’t use gel):
OPI Natural Nail Base Coat is a good gentle but effective base coat that works with all of my polish formulas. It works well to prevent nails from yellowing from polish.
Chanel Le Gel Coat is not really a gel coat, but it is a long-wear top coat that will give the nails an ultra glossy gel-like shine and effect. This works best with Chanel polishes and I’ve gone through many bottles.
With the Chanel, Essie or Smith and Cult Top Coats I usually get at least a week of wear without chipping or tip wear. At the day 2 or 3 mark I recommend reapplying a layer of top coat to help protect the color and extend wear.
Hand Creams and Moisturizers
I’m the biggest hand cream junkie! I’ve tried so many and have a lot in rotation at any given moment. I did a massive purge right before our move in June and gifted a lot of my products away. These are the ones I have in rotation right now. I apply hand cream daily, I use a scrub once a week, cuticle oils are used as needed.
Chanel La Creme Main is the best lightweight hand cream with a velvety soft dry down. I like this because it doesn’t leave any sticky residue. If you have ultra dry hands this is not the one for you though in which case I’d recommend you try La Creme Main Texture Riche or Le Lift (new). Both are better for dry skin and I love the packaging! I keep at least one of these in my purse. The new Le Lift does the best job at smoothing the skin. I’ve only used it for about a week now but I’m completely in love.
Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the best unscented option for ultra dry hands. I like this in the winter or when my hands are super dry. The fact that it’s unscented is a huge plus, especially if you work in an environment that needs to be fragrance or perfume free. Or if you’re just sensitive to added fragrance. (Comes in different sizes.)
La Mer Rejuvenating Hand Serum is one of the most expensive hand splurges I’ve tried. It’s also one of the most luxurious treatments I’ve owned. It is heavily fragranced with the signature La Mer scent but is really soothing and does indeed work to smooth and soften the hands. I’m still not over the sticker shock but I think it is quite amazing.
L’Occitane Shea Butter One-Minute Hand Scrub is amazing. This is my second tube and it makes such a huge difference in the texture and smoothness of your hands. I often neglect exfoliation on the hands but getting rid of the dead skin cells with a gentle scrub makes a world of difference. This is hydrating without having any residue and it’s very very gentle.
Other loves include Molton Brown, the Kiehl’s Scented Hand Creams, Aesop, L’Occitane Hand Creams (for winter). For one with SPF the Supergoop! Hand Cream is amazing (I’m all out, I often run out of this one). Moroccanoil is also great.
For application I will say practice makes perfect. I think the biggest mistake people make with application is getting the brush too close to the cuticles. Wet lacquer will move a little when it’s wet, so to prevent bleeding leave a tiny little gap between the brush and cuticle. For me I start a little farther from the cuticle than I think I should and it prevents the polish from moving/bleeding into the nail beds. Sometimes it is impossible to not get excess polish on the skin so I clean it up with a brush or my thumb nail in which case sometimes it’s best to paint the thumbs the last. Different formulas have different textures, some are ultra fluid, while others are thicker so your mileage may vary with application.
I recommend applying thin coats. Sometimes I’ll have to apply 3 depending on how sheer the formula is. As long as your coats are thin and even it should still dry relatively fast. I let mine air dry and try to do them before I think I’ll be typing for a long time or hands free while watching TV.
Applying on a flat surface is the best way to apply polish. The Olive and June Tool Box comes with a handy coated thick sheet to protect your surface. I also just use paper towels at home. Anytime I think I can just do my polish on my desk, on the couch or on the floor I end up spilling product. I dropped a bottle on a concrete floor once and it was SUCH a mess to clean up as the entire bottle shattered.
My own nail care selects, I use the box to store my tools:
I hope this updated roundup gives you some tips and ideas on how to do a DIY manicure at home! With things like cotton pads, nail files or buffer, I pretty much use what I can find at my local CVS or drugstore. I wish there was a complete one brand kit that I could find that has everything in a convenient box or pouch but I’ve found no single brand has everything I need. My top essentials for my routine include the Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover, Tweezerman Pushy Stick and the Revlon or Tweezerman Cuticle Trimmers.
So many of you ask what my favorite polish brand is and I don’t have one. I love trying all kinds of brands! High and low. The three I wear the most these days are Chanel, OPI and Essie. I still really like Louboutin polishes but the packaging isn’t convenient so I find myself reaching for other brands more.
On storage, I used to have a lot of nail polish wall racks I found on Amazon where I stored my polishes. I got rid of them when we moved from San Diego to Tampa – we had to edit what we kept/tossed. These days I just keep them in drawers.
For the toes I also do them on my own, although I prefer salon treatments to get rid of callouses etc. I haven’t been to the salon in a while though – I broke a toe a year and a half ago and was so hesitant to let anyone touch my feet even after it healed. Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any hand/nail care holy grails! I’d love to hear about your favorites.
Olive and June Kit provided for review. All other products purchased and repurchased by me.
The most frequently asked questions I receive from readers relate to hand and nail care. For my nail polish posts I feature a mix of DIY and salon manicures. Finding a good salon and a reliable manicurist can take some time, then maintaining the nails with professional care can take up to 1 hour for a regular manicure so that requires additional time. Because I did so many polish reviews and swatches over the past years I could not afford to get regular manicures with the frequency of reviewing polish – both with the cost and time. I had to learn how to do it on my own so I observed the techniques of my favorite manicurists and practiced on my own. I will say that regular salon manicures and pedicures are 100% worth the splurge. Often times during high-stress periods in my life I found it impossible to shut off my mind and de-stress, even after work hours. Manicures kind of helped me stay sane because when someone is working on your hands you’re pretty much stuck doing nothing except for fun brainless tasks like reading magazines or listening to music or watching YouTube videos on your phone. It helped my brain go into hibernate mode so to speak. Also there’s something refreshing about having freshly groomed fingers or toes that makes you feel instantly alive and more put together.
For hand and nail care I typically stick to a few tried and true items and it has been the case for several years. I did my Nail and Hand Care Essentials back in 2014 (wow time flies!) but many of you have asked for an updated post with a tutorial. I finally have one to share with you today and if you compare the posts you’ll see that not much has changed. A few notes for newbies. If your nails are not in the best state I would highly recommend getting them cleaned, cuticles trimmed and polished professionally. Doing something like a manicure once a month or every other week for a little while can help improve the look and health of your nails. I think they can work miracles! If you have any cracks, chipped nails, or problem areas, a manicurist can help smooth everything out nicely. Once they’re in a better state you can do touch ups or manicures at home in between professional manis.
Up first are the tools then a DIY manicure tutorial of how I maintain and paint my fingers. Note that even after all this time of practice I can’t give myself a pedicure without it looking like I gooped a bunch of finger paint on my toes.
Tools of the Trade
I wish there was one brand or store where I could find all the best tools, unfortunately there is not. If you’re going to use my list as a shopping list for yourself, you will have to do a bit of shopping around. Most of the items I’ve bought can be found at Sephora, Ulta and Nordstrom (my 3 favorite beauty stores). Many of the items can also be found online at Amazon. If you’re shopping in store – check the online store locators to check inventory first. Often times I’ve gone to Ulta and found they were sold out of all the items on my list. They do restock frequently but to save time it’s best to research online and make a list first if you’re going to go out to multiple stores. As usual I’ve linked all the products to where I’ve bought the items in the past.
Revlon Nail Clippers – these are an older style, I can’t remember how long ago I bought these, the current versions have an embossed pattern on the surface, to clip nails I recommend clipping about 1/2 to 1/4 of what you think you need to trim. It’s better to do it in stages and then clip more. My biggest challenge was over-clipping.
Nail files – I usually accumulate cheap ones here and there, I’m not brand loyal to any particular type.
Ulta Beauty Crystal Nail File is no longer available online but you can find one from the Sephora Collection that is only $10. These are great for those with sensitive nails, there’s no grit texture like with traditional files so it’s more gentle on the nails.
Deborah Lippman Cuticle Remover is what I call my secret weapon for nails. It softens the cuticle area so you can push back any excess skin to trim them. This is an essential in my routine. I don’t know if she changed the packaging – I’ve seen a few in stores with a brush applicator instead of the dropper.
Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper is what I use to trim cuticles, it fits well in the hands and does the job well, mine has lasted since 2014, I do need to replace it soon though.
Face It Pro Salon Nail Pusher is something I bought at a local Korean Supermarket (Zion Marketplace in San Diego), I have super tiny fingers so this one is a bit large for my hands but still works, I like the shape of the tools and quality.
Not shown above, but there was a limited-edition Zwilling Manicure Set my husband uses and loves, this has been discontinued but he likes the quality of their tools if you’re looking for items for your man.
Base and Top Coats
My absolute favorite base and top coats have now been discontinued (Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat, Formula X Base Coat, Chanel Brilliance Top Coat and all the items from Rescue Beauty Lounge). I have still found some others that I really like.
Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar is a great top coat that doesn’t have any shrinkage with polishes like Chanel, Dior or Tom Ford. Mine lasted about 2.5 years before it got thick and I had to throw it out. It lasted me so long because I rotate top coat brands. This one does dry within 45 seconds – just make sure your polish coats have properly dried first before applying. This gives the nails a super glossy cushiony look.
Nails Inc. base coats I’ve tired include the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat and the Base Coat with Kensington Caviar. I prefer the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat because it’s nourishing and doesn’t tint the nails. It has kale to strengthen the nails and keratin to help harden and stimulate growth. This is what I attribute to having healthy looking nails. With base coats I think it’s important to not apply too much – if it’s too thick it doesn’t dry properly and then polish on top just sits there. The Base Coat with Kensington Caviar has been a long-time go-to as well, but it can get a bit thick with age and it also can tint the nails pink.
Formula X Base Coat has been my favorite for a long time. Unfortunately it looks like the line has been pulled from Sephora. If you visit your store you may see a bunch of items on clearance. So stock up if you see any favorites there.
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat has never really been a favorite because it has major shrinkage with brands like Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, YSL and pretty much all the brands I use. It does work well with OPI, Essie and Louboutin though and since it dries quickly I like the way it works and looks. Your mileage may vary depending on what polish you use. If you find that Chanel or Dior gets really quick tip wear on you, check what top coat you’re using. Some formulas are not compatible with 5 free formulas and cause shrinkage which pulls back the polish from the ends like tips or cuticles.
Chanel Le Gel Coat is a newer top coat that Chanel launched. It wears really well and gives the nails a cushiony shine. I love this with Chanel polishes and it also works well with Dior.
Louboutin Loubi Primer and Loubi Gloss is one of the best nail care duos I’ve used. The price point is high and this comes as a duo. The primer keeps nails from yellowing and helps to hydrate them well. The top coat gives one of the best high-gloss shines I’ve ever seen and keeps polish lasting long for up to 7 days for me. It’s not the fastest drying duo but well worth the extra time it takes.
The extras that make a huge difference in hand care rounded up below:
L’Occitane makes some of my favorite hand creams, they’re great for dry skin and I love the fun packaging. For those with sensitive noses the Shea Butter is the best and most gentle. It has a very natural smelling scent that is soothing.
Molton Brown makes my favorite scented hand creams, they have a lightweight texture so they’re not greasy and I love their scents. Pink Pepperpod and Coco Sandalwood are my favorites but really all the options are great.
Kiehl’s introduced scented hand creams in a Limited-Edition Trio this year, you can buy them separately in a larger size, but the minis are exclusive to Neiman Marcus (while supplies last). The Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the unscented version and I also really like it. I don’t have one at the moment because my husband uses it as well and we go through them frequently.
Molton Brown Alba White Truffle Hand Treatment and Scrub are amazing for a hand cream and scrub. I’ve written about this duo before and absolutely love it. I’ve never done a hand scrub before trying this. Over the holidays a year ago many of you mentioned you do regular hand scrubs and that it works wonders on your hands.
Dior Huile Abricot was interesting to me because it seemed to be less messy and easier to apply compared to most oils. It’s a great touch up for the cuticles and is super hydrating without getting messy. I really like it.
Two polish removers I swear by are Deborah Lippmann The Stripper and Zoya Remove +. If you find your nails peel it may be because you’re using harsh polish removers. Both of these are super gentle and good for sensitive nails. Amy from Cafe Makeup recommended the Zoya remover to me years ago and as her nails always look pristine I took her advice and am forever grateful for this discovery.
Chanel Le Coton is one of my favorite facial cottons, it’s bit spendy to use for polish remover but it soaks up a lot so you can use one square for one hand for lighter polishes. Facial Cotton review and comparison here.
Sephora Collection Cotton Rounds are great because they’re cheap and don’t leave fibers behind which can be super annoying when you need to get the nail surface completely clean. Love these and have have lost count of how many times I’ve ordered these.
The DIY Manicure
Step 2 is optional, let the fingers soak with warm water and bit of hand soap to soften the cuticles. I absolutely love the Molton Brown Hand Washes – they smell amazing, don’t dry out the skin and I love the packaging.
A few personal notes on nail care. I’m not a manicurist or nail professional but based on my experience I think the only way to avoid breakage is to keep nails on the shorter side. I do believe there are a lot of nail strengtheners and sometimes nail hardness depends on diet and health, but no matter what I do I can’t avoid breakage when they get long. For me playing frisbee always breaks my nails. On tip wear your mileage will vary depending on hand activity and nail length. The longer the nails the easier it is for the tips to come in contact with things like a keyboard or anything else you touch and therefore they get more wear than shorter nails. If you have broken chips, hang nails, cuts or any issue I highly recommend that you try to get them fixed by a professional manicurist – the few visits to get them to a healthy state is well worth the splurge. Also depending on hand or foot activities a salon can work wonders. I did ballet from the time I was 7 years old until 18 and my feet were badly calloused for years. I didn’t think there was anything I could do to get them fixed to a normal state. I did not get my first mani or pedi until I was 21 and was amazed at how much it improved my feet. It took about a year of regular pedicures every other week or so to get them into a presentable state.
Also a note on gel nails, I’ve never had my nails with gels so I can’t give any advice or input on those.
An extra step that I just started doing is masking my hands. I used on a few occasions the Glamglow Thirsty Mud Mask and SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on hands and afterwards it was like years had been lifted. I don’t know that I have the patience to do this on a regular basis but on super dry skin days with the dry weather this helped a lot.
I hope you found this roundup helpful! With nail care there are so many options to try – the fancy packaging and pretty bottles are always so tempting at the store. I get overwhelmed at Ulta and whip out my phone to look for online reviews, realize it’s going to take too much time to research and end up sticking with what I’ve tried and loved.
If you have any favorites, tips or tricks please share in the comments! My advice is practice makes perfect! It does take time and there were many times in the beginning I just gave up and ended up going to my salon because it would be faster and more efficient for them to take 40 minutes to an hour to do them rather than try to finish myself. I gave up many many times. Eventually I got better and can do both hands easily at home on my own. I still get professional manicures when time allows. I would say over the past year for reference that the vast majority of the nail polish reviews I did were done on my own. Ballpark figure is over 80% of the nail swatches were done on my own.
Press samples include the Molton Brown Alba White Truffle duo and Louboutin Loubi Nail Kit.
Hands and nails get their own favorites category this year. There were a lot of really good colors launched this year – unfortunately quite a few were limited-edition. My top picks for hand creams, treatments, polishes and other basics. Previous reviews linked for reference:
Tom Ford Sugar Dune – this was a limited-edition color from spring 2014 but made a comeback this year and was added to the permanent lineup, it’s the closest one to Dior Lady and such a polished beauty
Louboutin Scarabée Nail Polish Collection – the three had to be the prettiest nail colors launched this past year, I was happy to get them before they sold out, looking forward to what they will release this upcoming year
Rescue Beauty Lounge everything, in particular the R29 Collection – RIP RBL, you were one of my favorite nail polish lines, I was very sad to see the line go, but their polishes will always have a very special place in my heart
L’Occitane x Pierre Hermé Hand Creams – L’Occitane launched such an amazing with their holiday collection this year, I fell in love with everything in the Pierre Hermé line and am embarrassed to admit how many shower gels and hand creams I stocked up on because they are limited-edition, right now you can still find Miel Mandarine and Pamplemousse Rhubarbe online but I don’t suspect they will be available for long
Formula X Nail Cleaner and Base Coat – I’ve found the Nail Cleaner to be a game changer, having a completely clean nail surface makes all the difference in helping polish adhere to the nails, the Base Coat has been a staple all year long, it’s what I’ve used the most and I can’t recommend it enough
Nail polish and hand cream fanatics – what were your favorites this year?
This holiday L’Occitane and Pierre Hermé teamed up to launch an exquisite collection of the most delicious smelling products for lips, hands and body. Both brands have a special place in my heart. I’ve been a long-time L’Occitane fan and this past summer I was able to try Pierre Hermé macarons for the first time when I visited Paris (they are truly out of this world). A partnership between the two brands is heaven sent and I have fallen head over heels in love with both fragrances launched for holiday in Jasmin-Immortelle Neroli and Pamplemousse Rhubarbe. Today I have a review on both fragrances along with a few of the gift set options. Do note some of the online sets are online exclusives, also different countries have slight variations in the options and packaging.
Out of the two it’s hard to pick a favorite. I initially thought I would
favor the Pamplemousse Rhubarbe because I love grapefruit scents. The
Pamplemousse Rhubarbe is a sweet grapefruit but there’s some cedar mixed
in to balance it and round it out so it’s not quite as sharp as a
regular citrus. The rhubarb adds more warmth to it. Everything is so beautifully packaged and colorful.
According to L’Occitane: “When Pierre Hermé places Grapefruit at the heart of a creation, he means to celebrate all its facets. And that includes the slightly bitter, white inner skin – its character underlined by the green and crisp aromas of Rhubarb. This beautifully balanced note is soon ruffled at its heart by sensual, piquant spices. In this original composition, woody notes of Cedar conjure up the sensation of mischievous Grapefruit cutting through the tartness of Rhubarb stalks.”
The items in the Pamplemousse Rhubarbe collection include:
Voyage Trio Set ($25) includes a hand cream, lip balm (clear) and perfumed soap
The perfume is really pretty. It’s sweet but not too sweet. Lasting power is pretty good on me. With three spritzes I find it lasts from early morning until around 3:00 pm before it’s completely faded. Layering the lotion helps extend the scent. The lotions are lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin and hydrate the skin nicely. The shower gel lathers up well in the bath or shower although I find the shower gels aren’t quite as strong in scent as the lotion/perfume. All the body and hand items are identical in scent. The Pamplemousse Rhubarbe Lip Balm is clear and lightweight. It hydrates the lips nicely. Online it’s only available in a couple of sets. I haven’t checked to see if it’s available alone in stores (if you’ve spotted it please share in the comments). The hand creams of course are incredible and not to be missed.
The Jasmin-Immortelle Neroli is actually my favorite of the two options which surprised me because Jasmin is one of those scents I like for the home but don’t usually like to wear. The mix of jasmin, immortelle flower, citrus of neroli make for me the most interesting combination. The scent is very soothing and feminine. According to L’occitane this one is described as “luminous, angelic, sensual…” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s so beautiful I am doing something I have only done once before, I am backing up the perfume.
Per L’Occitane, “Floral and absolutely feminine, the jasmine scented fragrance of pastry chef Pierre Hermé balances the white notes of gardens at dawn with the gold of a flower that still flourishes throughout the Corsican maquis. Sparkling head notes bring an unexpected sensation. In one deep breath, Lemon and Petit grain tantalize the palate as they come into contact with Pink Pepper and offer up a breeze of fresh air. The exhilarating heart of this bouquet blends the floral note of Jasmine and the softness of Orange Blossom with the wild, honeyed and aromatic scents of an armful of Immortelle from Corsica. This is a floral fragrance that captures the scent of the Island of Beauty, swept up in woody and musky notes.”
Options in the Jasmin-Immortelle Neroli are the same as for the other fragrance with one slight variation for the lips:
The lip product for this collection is a tinted lip gloss. It is scented just like the other items in the line and goes on a sheer glossy pink (almost clear). It tastes surprisingly good – surprising to me because the scent doesn’t seem like something that would taste good, but it does. At the same time it should be expected that Pierre Hermé and L’Occitane would take extra care to make sure the lip products taste just as good as they look and smell.
Swatches of the lip balm and lip gloss that we received in the US:
A quick look at a few of the other sets that launched this holiday. There was a Pierre Hermé hand cream trio available online but appears to be sold out right now. I didn’t see it in stores a month ago but you may want to check to see if it popped up. It has the Mandarin Miel (warm citrus honey) as well which is still available for purchase separately online and in stores. The set offered a slight price break compared to purchasing the hand creams separately. Since everything is limited-edition I don’t think this one will be coming back online.
Also available are these cute Hugs and Kisses Duos that have a lip product with a hand cream packaged together. The sets are $20 each ($24 value) and come in a variety of options. I didn’t see these in store either – but if you’ve spotted them please share in the comments. I ordered the Pierre Hermé ones online.
There are lots of different gift sets at L’Occitane. My favorites are the Pierre Hermé ones. One more item I wanted to highlight because it’s so cute are the Holiday Baubles. These are only $14 each and make the perfect stocking stuffer. The Shea Butter Holiday Bauble comes with minis of the Shea Butter Hand Cream, Extra Gentle Milk Soap, Ultra Rich Body Lotion, Ultra Rich Shower Cream all packed into a cute ornament. There’s also a Shea Verbena Holiday Bauble option (also $14), or both in a Duo Pack Set for $28.
Bottom line: so much to love. The only downside is that a lot of the holiday items are limited-edition and some sets have already sold out online, my hope is that they restock, but I don’t suspect the popular items like the sets. If you have anything on your wishlist I suggest you visit your store sooner than later.
Out of all the items in the Pierre Hermé collection, I think the stand outs are the Eau de Toilettes and Hand Creams. The Jasmin-Immortelle Neroli Lip Gloss is special because it’s a surprisingly pretty pink shimmer even though it goes on pretty clear on my lips, it smells amazing and makes the lips feel smooth and glossy without any tacky feel.
This is perhaps my favorite holiday launch this year (or at least in my top three). You can find the collection online at L’Occitane and most items in stores as well. Some sets are online exclusives.
Did you check out anything from L’Occitane this holiday? My husband has some of the men’s skincare sets on his wishlist for Christmas and I just ordered a few today.
Some items featured include press samples indicated with a *. Press samples include the Body Lotions, Shower Gels, Eau de Toilettes, Shea and Rose Hugs and Kisses. All other items and sets featured purchased by me.
I’m a bit of a hand cream addict. There’s not a week that I don’t have at least 2 hand creams in my purse not to mention all the drawers in my home that I have little hand cream tubes stashed. The weather has turned in the past few weeks, the air is extremely dry and my skin has really felt it. Extra help with moisture has been essential for me on all fronts. Last year I put together a list of my favorite hand creams that I had in rotation. Today I have a roundup of some new ones that I’ve been putting to the test including three designed more for men (thanks to my husband for testing some too).
When it comes to hand creams, there are three things I look for: good packaging, quick absorption, noticeable hydration. While I don’t mind feeling the moisture, I like treatments don’t have a greasy feel or silicone-like slip in the finish. On scented hand creams, I’m all for a good one with fragrance because it lifts the mood but sometimes I want something fragrance-free so it doesn’t interfere with my perfume. For my husband, he doesn’t like any of the ones I have that have girly scents. He has used and likes the one from Kiehl’s, but it’s pretty emollient and he’s been asking me to find him something that has a quick dry time.
Up first is my favorite hand cream formula ever, L’Occitane. I’ve been hooked on L’Occitane since a family friend gifted me a tube of the regular Shea Butter version to help me with my peeling cuticles and dry hands. The regular Shea Butter is extra gentle and perfect for those with sensitive skin and noses. It’s also thick and ultra hydrating. This one is L’Occitane’s best-seller and comes in a few different size options. There are some value sets which give you a price break, so before you buy, definitely check out the sets like this Hugs & Kisses Duo or this Hand Cream Trio (there are larger value sets too).
I’m super picky when it comes to scented body products so it’s somewhat of a miracle that I’ve loved every single L’Occitane scented hand cream. The options vary in thickness and texture depending on formula, but all are pretty much the same in terms of hydration. There are two whipped formulas in the Shea Butter Whipped* and Melting Honey Whipped* (review here) both have 25% shea butter and have a lighter texture but are very moisturizing.
Amande (Almond) is one of the few that doesn’t have shea butter. It’s made with almond oil and has an emollient and thinner texture. It’s a favorite of mine but the scent is pretty strong. The Collection de Grasse scents (reviewed here) are also stronger in fragrance, many of which are very floral.
By far, my favorite is the Pierre Hermé x L’Occitane collaboration. I’ve stocked up on the Pierre Hermé Hand Cream Trios because you save $7 by purchasing the set, and it also comes packaged in a cute limited-edition tin which makes it perfect for gifting. Pamplemousse Rhubarbe is a warm well rounded grapefruit. You can smell the citrus but the rhubarb makes it softer, warmer and not as sharp as a true grapefruit. Jamine-Immortelle Neroli is a very soft gentle jasmin and citrus mix. I normally don’t like wearing jasmin scents, but this one is very soothing and I adore it. Miel Mandarine is soft orange scented hand cream. It’s got a creamy roundness to the scent because of the honey in it. All three are hydrating but have a quick drydown and leave the hands feeling silky smooth. There’s no greasy feel and it absorbs super quick (quick as in less than 30 seconds).
L’Occitane wins for most fun packaging designs, best formula for sensitive but dry skin, and widest variety of scents and ingredients to suit your preferences and needs.
Next up are the Molton Brown Hand Creams*. I’ve been a fan of the line for a long time (long before most everything was reformulated or scents renamed). Their current line up of their hand creams are just as good as L’Occitane but the Molton Brown has different scents and packaging. There are currently seven scented options, some are called Replenishing Hand Creams and others simply Hand Creams. I tested all the scents and formulas and they perform the same. They have a fast absorbing texture that is not too thin but not too thick. Hands feel moisturized and smooth. With scented body products there’s often a hit or miss, but in this case there’s not a bad one in the entire lineup. Scents are noticeable and last a decent amount of time. My top three favorites are Gingerlily, Pink Pepperpod (also available in this cute holiday cracker) and Ylang-Ylang.
The latest launch is the Alba White Truffle line which consists of a Hand Treatment and Hand Exfoliator. You can buy them individually or in a boxed duo gift set (prices are the same whether you buy separate or together). These are scented with nutmeg, olibanum and vanilla and they smell absolutely delicious without being overpowering or too sweet. The formula of the hand cream is a lot richer than the other ones in the Molton Brown line. It’s very very moisturizing and you can definitely feel the strength of it. It does absorb fast and doesn’t leave a greasy feel although you can feel the moisture. It’s a pampering kind of treatment that I really like. The best part of this line is the Hand Exfoliator. I’ve had scrubs with pedicures before but never on the hands. This is new to me but I’m hooked. The scrub gets rid of all the dead skin and build up and leaves the hands feeling refreshed, moisturized, ultra smooth and just so much better. I would love to use it everyday but that would be overdoing it. I’ve used this 1x per week and my hands feel like dead weight has been lifted off that I didn’t know was there. If you’re looking for a hand duo for someone who already has almost everything this is a good option as it just launched in mid-October and is relatively new.
Next up are some other brands that have one formula or scent of hand cream. Many are either skincare or fragrance lines.
Eve Lom Hand Cream with SPF 10 is one of the most gentle hand creams I’ve tried that’s unscented. If you’re super sensitive to any fragrance or simply don’t like it, this is a good option. The formula is on the thick side so a little goes a long way. It absorbs quickly.
Nuxe Rêve de Miel is the most lightweight in texture that I’ve tried. I’m a fan of all things Nuxe, I bought mine in a duo set from Paris, but you can buy the individual tubes online (currently there’s a sale online at Nuxe). It has a soothing but very soft and gentle honey scent.
Ole Henriksen Empower Hydrating Hand Cream* is a new formula from Ole Henriksen. It’s a lightweight super absorbent hand cream that strengthens and protects the skin. It also has Willowbark which is a natural exfoliant (salicylic acid) to sheds dead skin cells and stimulate new cell formation. I like that it absorbs fast and the moisture lasts a long time. Even though it has a natural exfoliant I was relieved to find it didn’t make the skin peel or pill. It has a super lightweight clean scent. It makes the hands look smoother instantly. (Also available at Sephora.)
Leif Kakadu Plum and Macadamia Nut Hand Balm* is a super hydrating emollient hand treatment. It smells really good like macadamia and it’s so good I almost want to eat it. This one is larger than most of the tubes I have but still works to fit inside my purse. I would say it’s as moisturizing as the Kiehl’s but has a thinner texture. I really like the Leif as a cuticle treatment too.
Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream* is hands down my favorite treatment hand cream. The Indigo line is really good for sensitive, dry or itchy skin. It has a lightweight refreshing sakura-like scent to it. I would recommend it to anyone for any skin type. If you don’t want to buy the full size without trying it, Tatcha has it in a smaller Travel Size. It’s also available in a mini in the Soothing Indigo Mini Set. If you want the full size there’s a Aiiro Soothing Duo set that has the hand and body cream.
For men, I’ve been on the hunt for a good basic hand cream designed more for men versus something that is unisex. When it comes to skincare, packaging is key for my husband. It has to look good and have easy to use packaging. He won’t use anything pink or girly-looking. The Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve comes in a small size in the Men’s Starter Set and my husband likes it and uses it daily. It is very hydrating and when it comes to waiting for something to absorb into the skin, my husband (Andrew) wants it to be fast (he doesn’t like waiting). With the Kiehl’s, he will apply it to his hands or feet. Any excess is rubbed off onto his arms or on a towel. I also like it because it’s very good for super dry skin is unscented and even though it’s emollient I find it dries within a few minutes. It’s available in a number of holiday sets and bundles where you can save like this trio.
Andrew’s been a fan of Baxter and Jack Black, so I ordered both for him to try. He’s a fan of the Jack Black Cool Body Moisturizer because it has a nice clean scent and feels refreshing. He says it applies well and absorbs into the skin quickly without feeling greasy. The Jack Black Industrial Strength Hand Healer comes with a lot of high ratings on online reviews. It’s also been recommended by many of my female readers. I had high hopes that my husband would like this one because he’s a fan of the line. After trying this – he felt it too emollient, too thick and he kept wanting to wipe off the excess from his hands. I thought he was in one of his impatient moods and tried it myself. He was right. I also found it very thick in texture and a bit sticky. The benefits of the Jack Black are that it’s very very hydrating. It soothes dry spots instantly. There is a slight menthol scent to it but it fades. I let it sit for as long as I could to see if it would dry down. It never did but I found I could tolerate the texture as an overnight treatment. It makes the hands look visibly smoother and in the morning they look and feel a lot better.
Baxter of California is a men’s grooming line my husband discovered at the Birchbox Roadtrip event earlier this year. He’s been a fan of everything he’s tried so far and has some of the value sets on his holiday wishlist. A couple reviewed in this monthly favorites post here. I ordered the Hydro Salve Hand Cream which is a white cream in a squeeze tube. This one is his favorite because it adds noticeable hydration but dries quickly. It leaves the hands feeling moisturized, fixes dry cracks and soothes the skin without any greasy residue. I tried it as well. On one of the days I had some issues with cuticle dryness (some were starting to crack). Within minutes my hands felt instant relief and by the afternoon, my cuticles were almost healed. The description of this one is “Packed with aloe, shea butter and avocado oil, this unscented moisturizing cream hydrates and helps repair very dry skin. Infused with vitamins E, C and B5, the extra thick cream delivers nutrients to rough and chapped areas.” It’s exactly as described.
There are several I did test in store that had very high ratings online in customer reviews but that I didn’t like enough to purchase. I’ll mention three briefly. Ahava Mineral Hand Cream came highly recommended to me by several readers. I bought this during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and had very high hopes. I couldn’t tolerate the smell and the while formula dried quickly it had an almost silicone-slip to my hands that I couldn’t wait to wash off. Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Hand Cream also came highly recommended to me. I liked the formula but found the scent overpoweringly sweet. La Mer The Hand Treatment is a cult classic. I actually splurged on a tube many years ago and used it up. I considered repurchasing recently but found the formula overpowering in fragrance. I also found it felt very emollient, almost greasy. I do think it will be good for super dry hands or an overnight treatment.
That wraps up my roundup of hand cream testing for fall to winter. If you’re in the market for a new hand treatment especially in this dry weather, my top picks include:
Most variety and best formula:
L’Occitane and Molton Brown
Best unscented options:
L’Occitane Shea Butter, Eve Lom and Baxter of California
Most intense for super dry skin:
Kiehl’s, Jack Black, Molton Brown Alba White Truffle and Leif
Most lightweight texture:
Nuxe Rêve de Miel
Best for sensitive skin/instant relief:
Personal favorites for scented hand creams:
L’Occitane x Pierre Hermé (all three)
Molton Brown Gingerlily
Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black
Husband’s favorite for men:
Baxter of California
There are a number of really good gift sets this holiday. I can’t get over how good they are this year. You can find the brands above at a number of different retailers but some products and sets are exclusive to the brands own retail website. All the products are linked above in the reviews to where you can buy them so you don’t have to click around to find things. Many times it’s easier to shop at larger retailers but if you’re looking for good deals or savings, I’d recommend researching ones that sound interesting to you, make a list and bookmark websites. A lot of the individual brands will have savings and gift with purchase offers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – so while it might be a bit of extra work to shop, I do believe it will be worth the effort. I’ll have a roundup of promotions, codes and deals on Friday and Monday so stay tuned.
I think skincare or scented products are often
tricky to gift to people, especially if you don’t know them extremely
well. I think hand creams fall into the more neutral category. I’ve
gifted L’Occitane for years and it’s always well received. There’s been
confirmation in this conclusion since those I’ve gifted the hand creams
have always repurchased what I’ve bought them, they often buy as gifts
for their friends as well.
As usual, I’ve love for you to share what your favorites are. Please let
me know in the comments!
Press samples included in the feature indicated by a *. All others purchased by me.