A mani-pedi primer
Mani-pedi (hand and foot care) isn't just for metrosexuals. Men who work hard and play hard need to pamper their hardworking hands and feet to keep them healthy.
If your hands are as rough as sandpaper and you have calluses sharp enough to tear open the mail, do you really wonder why your best come-hither look sometimes falls flat? And does one glance at those feet of yours have the object of your affection running in the other direction?
Skin care can be manly
Yes, men should be men. But they should also have welcoming hands and well-cared-for feet. Have no fear, fellas. You can be well-groomed and manly at the same time. Here’s a primer.
No one likes it rough
To soften hands’ hard edges, use a body scrub in the shower to gently exfoliate dry skin. Regularly moisturising your nails and cuticles with lotions containing natural lactic, glycolic or malic acid can help keep hands supple.
Soak fingertips in warm, soapy water to soften cuticles, then use an orange stick (a wooden manicure tool) to gently push cuticles back. Dry hands thoroughly. Yes, you do need to file your nails after you trim them, otherwise your loving caress could leave a scratch. File in one direction, to the shape of the finger. For fancy occasions, use a buffer to shine the tops of the nails on your fingers.
Dehydrated cuticles cause tiny pieces of skin to break near the side of your nail and, because they’re attached to living skin, they can be painful. For prevention, keep cuticles properly moisturised by massaging them nightly with jojoba or vitamin E oil.
Avoid biting or picking hangnails, as this can lead to tearing and infection. Instead, use nail scissors to snip off dead skin, being careful not to cut too close.
If your job keeps your hands frequently immersed in water or in contact with chemicals, you’re at risk of a fungal, bacterial or yeast infection called paronychia. Aggressive nail biters are also susceptible. This infection occurs when organisms enter a gap between the nail and the surrounding skin.
A warm-water soak with tea tree oil may help if no abscess has formed. Otherwise, see your doctor. Left untreated, you could lose the nail. If your work requires wearing of rubber gloves, slip on a pair of cotton gloves first for ultimate protection. (No one needs to know.)
Feet take a lot of abuse, especially in the winter when we barely take them out of boots and socks to air out!
With more than 250,000 sweat glands in each foot, feet are thought to be a valuable route for eliminating toxins. But when the exit point is barred by a layer of dead, calloused skin (not to mention shoes and socks!), it might explain why feet can get a little pungent. A good pedicure can fix a multitude of foot problems.
Corns and calluses
Excessive pressure or friction causes skin to thicken or harden over a bony prominence on a foot. When they develop on the bottom of the foot, they’re known as calluses. When they are smaller; appear on the sides, tops and tips of the toes; and have a hard centre, they are called corns.
Common causes include footwear that’s too tight or too loose, tight socks or a deformity of the foot. First up, make sure the shoe fits. Never try to cut away the hardened corn, as this can lead to infection. Regular exfoliation can help remove corns and calluses over time.
Unlike other warts, plantar warts grow inwards through the sole, or “plantar” of the foot. Home remedies include repeated applications of salicylic acid or thuja oil.
This fungal infection, also known as tinea pedis, is common and contagious—so always wear shoes at the gym. To treat athlete’s foot, keep feet clean and dry. Wash in warm, soapy water and be sure to pat your feet dry (especially between the toes). Use the towel only once before laundering, and wash it in hot water.
Apply tea tree oil directly to affected areas, or add a few drops to a footbath. Consider supplemental probiotics to support your immune system.
To prevent malodorous feet, be sure to bathe your feet daily in lukewarm water and mild soap, and dry them thoroughly. Change your socks every day. Give shoes 24 hours to air out after wearing. Wear socks made with natural materials such as cotton instead of nylon, and wear leather or canvas shoes that allow your feet to “breathe.”
For a sweetening soak, boil two bags of black tea for 15 minutes, then add 4 cups (1 L) of cool water. Soak your feet for half an hour. The tannic acid in the tea helps to kill bacteria.
Most common in males between the ages of 15 and 40, painful ingrown nails often result from cutting toenails too short, from wearing shoes that cramp the toes, or from a poor, leaning-forwards posture (which causes a corner of the nail to curve downwards towards the skin).
To avoid getting ingrown toenails, trim your nails straight across, but with a slight curve at the tip for maximum strength. Leave toenails longer than the nail fold and wear shoes with ample toe room. Ingrown toenails can lead to infection if not properly treated, but don’t try to dig out the problem nail yourself as you could encourage infection! Seek medical care.
The manly pedicure
After a hard day at work or working out your stress at the gym, soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes. Add a few drops of tea tree oil if you have concerns about athlete’s foot. (This is a great preventive measure if you participate in barefoot sports such as martial arts!)
Use a nailbrush to clean under and around your nails and the bottoms of your feet. Gently exfoliate with a pumice stone or foot scrub. (Regular exfoliation may help remove painful corns and calluses.)
Thoroughly dry your feet, then carefully push back your cuticles with an orange stick. Don’t cut your cuticles, as this can lead to infection. Using straight-edge clippers, trim your toenails to a length near the end of your toes to prevent the nail from growing painfully into the skin around it. Do not trim toenails in bed. Consider massaging some avocado, coconut or olive oil into your feet, and pull on a pair of cotton socks.