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GUITARISTS' HAND CARE

One of the most plaguing complaints I hear from students, is the condition of their hands and nails.

It could be dry, cracked skin in the winter, or weak, breaking or fragile nails, or water logged calluses in the summer, or nails that break too easily or that their hands are sore. Actually, I wish more students' hands were sore from playing :-) On this page, I'm going to suggest some hand and nail care procedures and products that I hope will help them and you.

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Before implementing any of the suggestions on this page, consult your physician or physical therapist. I am not medically trained. That which follows is drawn from my personal experience or that of my students. I make no claims and take no responsibility for any adverse outcome resulting from the information that follows.

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The following is a list of conditions and the products I have found most helpful for me and my students, followed by brief comments. Look into them and do your research before using any of them.

DRY SKIN

If your hands are always dry, have peeling skin, your calluses tear or are jagged or your skin just feels tight, you need to use some kind of moisture. There are a lot of considerations like whether you're willing to moisturize your hands during the day, whether you can use a milder soap or if you will only moisturize before you go to sleep.

Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser
extremely mild, fragrance-free, non-drying, non-irritating instead of traditional soap
fine for hands, face, body

Corn Huskers Lotion
pure glycerine, strange, mild, non-greasy, fragrance-free
looks and feels strange

Zimm's Crack Cream
helps heal cracks (even bleeding ones), soothing, fragranced

Sweet Almond Oil
almond fragrance, oil is greasy, very effective for dry nails and ragged cuticles

Neutrogena AgeShield Hand Cream
extremely moisturizing, spf 30

Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy PLUS
Intensive Repair Hand Creme

mild, fragrance-free, non-greasy

Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy Cream
rich cream that works wonders overnight

DRY BITTLE, CRACK-PRONE OR BREAK-PRONE NAILS

If you play on nylon (or even steel) strings your nails take a beating. Then, there's the day to day abuse - especially if you tend, like many people, to use your fingernails as tools, for removing staples, peeling labels off, scraping things you're cleaning, etc. As a guitarist, your left nails and right nails have different functions and need different care.

If you play righty, begin to learn to open doors, press ATM buttons, punch the numbers on phones, use the remote control and other heretofore right hand tasks, with your LEFT hand. Why? Well, partly for the coordination but primarily to spare your right hand nails some trauma. That single change will deliver your nails from countless fractures and tears.

 

Biotin
take orally as directed on package to improve growth and strength

Nightly, use a crystal file to file down any growth of your left hand fingernails.

Frequently (daily or a few times a week) check for nicks or cracks on right hand fingernails, smooth them with a crystal or ceramic file.

 

Sweet Almond Oil
rub into the surfaces of your nails, massage into cuticle, it goes on oily, almond fragrance, excellent for too-brittle nails

Perfect Formula Gel Coat or Pink Gel Coat (with optical brightener)
apply 2 coats or more weekly, remove once a week and repeat the process, the "pink" optically whitens yellowish nails.

This is my personal testimonial about this product:
I HAD A VERTICAL SPLIT FOR THE FULL LENGTH OF ONE OF MY NAILS, FOR OVER 10 YEARS. I TRIED SILK PATCHES, ACRYLIC PATCHES, RESIN, CRAZY GLUE, EVERY KIND OF NAIL GLUE ETC. TO NO AVAIL. EACH TIME THE NAIL WAS ALMOST GROWN OUT, THE NAIL CRACKED AGAIN. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE SPLIT FOREVER. AFTER 7 MONTHS OF PERFECT FORMULA PINK GEL COAT, THE NAIL IS WHOLE AND HEALTHY.

 

JAGGED CALLOUSES


The calluses on your left hand could become jagged for a variety of reasons. Your skin may be very dry, waterlogged, or they may just be rough from playing. Ideally, you want your calluses intact and not uneven, or they may snag your clothing or catch and becomemore jagged and tear.

Blow-dry water-logged calluses, low, low. LOW setting :-)

Use a crystal or ceramic nail file to smooth the top and rough sides of calluses.

Corn Huskers' Lotion
non-greasy, fragrance-free to moisturize extremely dry calluses but check the ingredients to be sure you are not sensitive to any of them.

Udder Cream
non-greasy, fragrance free to moisturize dry calluses and hands.

 

OVER PLAYED, FATIGUED HANDS


If you're diligent about practicing, or aren't so diligent, but love to play guitar, it's likely there are days when you pay for the hours you play your guitar. Sore fingertips, strained muscles and weak fingers and wrists.

Alternate moderately hot and moderately cold soaks in a sink - if your hands feel played out but you need to practice more, repeat the alternation 3 or 4 times, soak 1 - 2 minutes in each temperature.

Allow your hands to hang limply at your sides for a few minutes while you get up, stretch and re-focus your eyes on something in the distance. The extra blood flow will benefit them.

Handeze Therapy Gloves
for extended playing or if your wrists need support, peculiar but EXTREMELY useful.

In extreme cases you should seekthe advice of an occupational therapist who can give you exercises that will compensate for the unnatural stress guitar playing causes your fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and back.

 

COLD HANDS


Whether you have cold hands because your circulation is a little lacking, or you are exposed to colder-than-comfortable air, it's a real problem. You don't play accurately when your hands are extremely cold, and strained muscles may cramp in extreme cold. Neither of those scenarios are desirable for guitarists.

ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES OR MITTENS IN COLD WEATHER

Indoors, fingerless gloves can warm you up and leave your fingers unencumbered (not for guitar playing, but fine for doing things in a cold, indoor environment.)

Hand Warmers
great to have in a pocket or purse, follow instructions!

Move those cold fingers! Just the way you warm up by stretching etc. before working out, doing appropriate finger exercises will increase blood flow and circulation and therefore warmth.

 

Tell a guitarist friend who might also have questions

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017