A few weeks ago, I looked down at my hands and my feet and felt a pang of pity for them. I studied them closely; the bulbous knuckles on skinny fingers, the calloused soles, the fine lines that were starting to settle comfortably into my skin and the jagged fingernails that I tried so hard not to bite, often failing. My hands and feet work hard for me every single day. They enable me to type up my thesis, wash dishes, run for the bus and go hiking on weekends. They put up with the burns I give them when I stubbornly carry a too-hot bowl to the table with my bare hands, and they silently endure painful blisters while I break in a pair of new shoes. And yet it’s my face that I spend the most time and money maintaining and preening, while my hands and my feet go largely unnoticed.
Since that realisation, I’ve tried to put as much love and care into my hands and feet as I do my face. Insha Allah, the following tips will help you do the same, whether young or old, male or female, manual labourer or office worker.
Keep them clean…
…but avoid using scalding hot water or harsh soaps. You want to get rid of the dirt and grime, but not the natural oils that keep our hands moisturised and protect against the wind and cold. Use warm water and a gentle cleanser instead. Make sure to dry them thoroughly after washing by patting them with a soft towel – if water remains, it will dry out your skin as it evaporates.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
Just like your face, your hands need to stay moisturised throughout the day, so keep a hand cream handy in your bag and in your bathroom or bedroom. The lack of a hydrating hand cream is the primary reason for dry and chapped hands. Washing dishes is a major culprit in this regard, because the hot water and chemical detergents that are great for removing grease from your plates are also excellent at stripping your hands of natural oils. If you do not already wear latex or rubber gloves when washing up, try and make a habit of doing so. Many suggest slathering cream on your hands before slipping on the rubber gloves, as the warmth of the water facilitates the moisturising process. On cold days, warm gloves can help keep the circulation in your hands up and prevent dryness.
Anti-aging for your hands
The skin on the back of your hands is as thin and delicate as it comes, and as a result your hands are also the site of some of the earliest signs of aging. As well as moisturising regularly, you should apply sunscreen to the back of your hands when you apply it to your face – it will only take an extra ten seconds, but can dramatically reduce the aging process. Age spots from pre-existing sun damage can be toned down with anti-pigmentation creams. You may also want to look into washing the backs of your hands with an alpha-hydroxy cleanser, which encourages cell renewal. Hand creams that contain Retin-A, or other anti-aging creams, help your hands produce more collagen, keeping them looking firmer and fuller.
Smooth it out…
…by exfoliating regularly, just like you would your face. Make a natural exfoliant by mixing salt and lemon juice and keep it in the shower to exfoliate your hands once or twice a week. Once a month, warm some olive oil or coconut oil and massage it gently into the skin on your hands. Wrap your hands in clingfilm and leave for a few minutes before removing. Your hands should feel much softer and smoother!
As Muslims, we are fortunate in that we don’t have to remember to wash our feet regularly – it is already built into our daily routines. Try and use a mild cleanser at least once a day, particularly between your toes. Make sure to dry them completely afterwards. Because we do wash our feet more often than others may, we need to be particularly aware of moisturising them so that they don’t dry out. Rub foot cream on your feet before bed, and then put on a pair of socks – this will give you beautifully soft, moisturised feet in the morning. Avoid applying cream to the area between your toes, as it is a prime area for fungus to grow.
Unless you are bedridden, your feet carry the weight of your entire body all day, every day. You should exercise your feet once a day to re-energise them, improve circulation and restore balance.
1. Loosen your muscles and joints by shaking your feet in the same way you would shake your hands to get rid of a cramp. Wriggle your toes on each feet to relax them.
2. With your heels on the floor, tap your toes against the floor as though pressing down on a pedal.
3. Place one foot on top of the other, and press the top one down while trying to pull up with the bottom foot. Reverse and repeat.
4. Use your toes to write the letters of the alphabet, first with one foot, then the other.
5. Try picking up a pencil or marble from the floor with your toes to make use of muscles you normally don’t think about.
6. Sitting on the floor with your legs straight ahead of you and your back straight, rotate your feet clockwise ten times; take a break, and do the same anti-clockwise. Make sure to keep your knees still so that your ankles are doing all the work.
7. Still on the floor, flex your feet forward ten times and back ten times.
Every so often, pamper your feet – they will especially appreciate this after the above exercises or a long day of walking. Soak your feet for 5-10 minutes in warm or tepid water, or as long as you feel is needed. Infuse the water with a few drops of essential oils or sea salts. Peppermint will cool them down, chamomile will soothe any abrasions or blisters, and lavender is great for relaxing. Tea tree oil has excellent anti-viral, antiseptic and antifungal properties. Dry them properly and put them up for 15 minutes. If you have the time, follow it up with a foot massage. Using a massage oil or essential oils, massage your feet one at a time, making sure to pay attention to your ankles, arches, heels and individual toes.
Incorporate these tips into your daily routine and show those hands and feet some love!