If one benefit comes out of a year’s incessant hand-washing, it’s that our hard-working yet much-neglected hands finally get the love they deserve.
Be they nail polish devotees or those more interested in skincare, savvy shoppers are propelling a new beauty category: hand and nail wellness.
With hygiene playing a crucial role in our lives going forward, sales of hand and nail health products are rising as care formulas such as nail oil find favour over colour.
Case in point: OPI Nail Envy, best-selling treatment for damaged nails, sold 330% more last year than in 2019. Not bad for a UK favourite.
Likewise, sales of anti-ageing and repairing hand creams are projected to double by 2027 as we redress rigorous rinsing and keep skin soft and youthful.
The anti-mani movement
This pivot from colour to care is affecting our attitude towards manicures too, with the trend for the ‘Japanese’ or ‘anti-manicure’.
‘We’ve been forced into a nail detox,’ says nail expert Leighton Denny. ‘During lockdown, women had no choice but to grow out acrylic extensions and couldn’t have gel polish. They went through the painful regrowth phase when nails can look unsightly and after growing them healthily are now enjoying their natural nails.’
Time is another factor as we start to go out again.
‘People are back at work and lacking the time for DIY nail art,’ says Michelle Humphrey, celebrity manicurist and UK nail ambassador for Essie.
‘Many are opting for easier, low-maintenance nails or haven’t returned to their nail professional post-lockdown so are going au naturel.’
That doesn’t mean no effort is required.
‘Like a “no makeup makeup” look, it takes skill and lots of products,’ says Leighton.
‘Increased hand-washing and use of alcohol gels often leads to dry, dehydrated skin, as well as eczema,’ says Michelle.
‘Anything anti-ageing for hands is going to be a huge hit as we try to restore our hands to how they used to be.’
Thankfully the latest crop of creams puts an emphasis on protection from aggressors as well as fighting the ageing, chafing effects of dehydration.
Pop Sanctuary Spa Antibacterial Hand Cream (£4.50) into your bag for an on-the-go way to ward off germs, while its shea butter and aloe vera soften skin.
This Works Stress Check Kind Hands (from £6) is the perfect partner to sanitising gel: plant oils form a protective shield that holds in moisture and fights environmental foes, leaving a silky finish and relaxing ylang ylang and lavender scent.
For chapped, anti-bac hands, massage in Cosmetics à la Carte Hand Rescue Treatment (£25).
The light formula is a heavy hitter, rich in softening beeswax, nourishing squalane and protective lanolin, plus antioxidant prickly pear seed oil to prevent ageing indicators such as sun spots.
Or build a restorative barrier around hands and nails with Aroma Active Universal Cream (£10).
It comes in Rich and Light versions and is packed with face-worthy ingredients including skin-renewing probiotics and ceramides to soothe and smooth.
According to online marketplace OnBuy, the hashtag ‘natural nails’ has already hit almost 5.5 million this year.
‘It’s like a facial for nails,’ says Leighton. ‘You want a great, healthy base, then the choice to add colour later. It’s about nurturing the nail bed, using lots of deep moisturising ingredients and buffing to a high shine.’
If nails are peeling or weak, apply OPI Nail Envy (£20.50) daily for six weeks.
The wheat protein and calcium-rich formula will encourage them to be stronger and harder, while the sheer sheen gives a lustrous finish.
Invest in a gentle but effective nail file and cuticle stick to shape and tidy nails without causing any damage.
Those in Ruby Hammer Nail Kit (£22) are made from sustainably sourced crystal glass.
For the perfect anti-manicure look, Leighton advises starting with nail oil, massaged into cuticles to stop them looking scruffy.
Margaret Dabbs Nourishing Nail & Cuticle Serum Pen (£12) sinks in quickly and has bacteria-fighting oils.
For a high-shine effect, you’ll need an even nail surface that allows you to buff in a cream and create a mirror-like finish. Leighton Denny Renovate & Buffer Nail Detox Treatment Duo (£12) is ideal.
Use one side of the buffer to smooth out ridges and the other to work in the cream, packed with nourishing avocado and rice bran oils. Massage in a small dot first then buff quickly from side to side. The result is a polish-less sheen.
Colour lovers need not despair: Essie Treat Love & Color (£8.99 each) is a strengthening treatment with calcium and camellia that comes in four soft shades and mimics your regular lacquer look.