Caring for your hands and feet

Caring for your hands and feet

Giving our hands and feet that special attention, is a wonderful way of treating ourselves. These hardworking parts of our body are so often neglected which can then result in painful problems such cracked skin, blisters and corns.

People who garden or work in professions where they use their hands extensively and wash them a lot will not need to be reminded how sore a crack on the skin around the top of the thumb can be. And people who rely on their hands for their work, i.e. massage therapists or musicians, will know how difficult it is when you strain muscles in the hands and can't use them in the normal way!  Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) for those who work on computers all day are all too common, but can be eased and even prevented if you know what to do.

So, this feature is all about giving your hands and feet some proper 'TLC'. We will cover aromatherapy skin care especially for the hands and feet, as well as foot baths and exercise techniques to warm up the muscles in the hands before you use them – just as you would stretch out and warm up your leg muscles before going for a run!  We will also touch on reflexology and how the hands and feet can be particularly useful in boosting your overall health and wellbeing.

Caring for your hands

Firstly, don't get dehydrated! Yes, I know I go on about water intake – but you are more likely to get dry cracked skin, joint paint, inflammation and damage if you don't drink enough water!

Keep that Essential Fatty Acids intake UP. If you use your hands for your work (as well as for everything else of course) then keeping your renewal and repair mechanisms strong is SO important. So ensure your diet is rich in oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocado and rolled linseeds!

If you work with your hands – you need to take extra care! Remember to warm up your hands before you work at your computer, play your instrument or massage your client! Shake out your hands first, to bring the blood up to the surface. Then wiggle your fingers, as if playing an invisible piano, and then circle the wrists in one direction and then the other. Lastly, open and close then a few times before you start. For therapists this will also have the added bonus of warming your hands up for your client before starting your treatment! Muscles that are warm and stretched out are less likely to strain.

Pre-work Hand Lotion: To help warm up muscles and keep skin smooth and supple massage in the following lotion. I also highly recommend using this before gardening too, as I find moisturised hands get less ingrained with dirt! Blend together 100ml Moisturising Lotion, 5ml Hemp Seed Oil, 5ml Vitamin E Oil, 20 drops Lavender essential oil, 10 Geranium, 10 Bergamot, 5 Myrrh and 2 Ginger. Shake well before use and massage vigorously into hands and wrists before work.

Ensure you care for the skin condition of your hands. They work so hard that they may get dry and dehydrated more quickly than the rest of your body. This could lead to soreness and irritation and skin that looks prematurely aged and feels like sandpaper (which is not nice)! Very dry hands are also prone to cracks around the finger/thumb tips. This is very painful and can result in dermatitis or infection, and fungal nail bed infections which are very hard to get rid of. As always – prevention is better than cure – so try this fabulously rich hand cream recipe with antibacterial properties – to help nurture and protect your hard working hands:

Post-work Hand Cream For Hard Working Hands: Combine 100ml Moisturising Cream, 10ml Hemp Seed Oil, 10ml warmed Extra Virgin Coconut Butter, 20 drops Lavender, 10 drops Sandalwood, 10 Geranium, 10 Tea Tree, 5 Lemon and 5 Benzoin. Stir really well and apply liberally after you've washed your hands, working through into finger tips and cuticles.

Caring for your feet

Our feet are probably the most unloved and neglected parts of our body. We squash them into tight shoes or pressurise parts of our feet by wearing high heels. If we don't wear heels we might wear wellies or trainers for hours or even days on end. Our feet are then encased in a hot, fetid breeding ground – unable to breathe!

The abuse and neglect of our feet is crazy when you think how painful a corn, blister or cracked heel can be! Athletes foot can also be so difficult to get rid of once you've got it, and tired, hot, swollen feet are so uncomfortable. With a few of our top aromatherapy tips however painful tootsies can be a thing of the past – and you can learn to love and care for your lovely pinkies once again. After all – they're the only ones you'll have!

Wear wellies all day every day? Do yourself the best favour possible and buy a pair of breathable leather ones! They don't have to be silly money (See “Welligogs”) and they allow your skin to breathe, cushion your foot better and last for ages if you look after them (rather like your feet!).

If you insist on wearing rubber wellies or trainers for hours on end you'll need to be very careful not to get Athlete’s foot. Try massaging your feet with a natural talc (from a health food shop – free of chemicals).

Aromatherapy Talc for Athlete's Foot: Place the talc in a tub/jar and add 5 drops of Tea Tree essential oil and 5 of Myrrh. Put lid on and shake well. Then massage your feet with the naturally medicated talc which will help prevent fungal infection. 

Healing Foot Bath: If you do end up getting Athlete’s Foot, regular aromatherapy foot baths with 1 cup of Fine Dead Sea Salt, 6 drops Lavender essential oil and 3 drops Tea Tree can help speed up the healing process. Remember to dry in between the toes carefully.

Athlete's Foot Cream: You could also make up the following antiseptic cream to use morning and night. Mix 80ml Moisturising Cream, 5ml Argan Oil, 5ml Castor Oil (has anti-fungal properties), 15 drops Tea Tree essential oil, 10 Bergamot, 10 Sandalwood and 3 Peppermint.

Do not let hard skin build up! There are some fantastic new gadgets on the market that are essentially battery operated “electronic foot files” – which gently but persistently help you remove any hard skin building up on the soles of your feet really easily and safely. If a lot of hard skin builds up, particularly on your heels, you are much more likely to suffer from cracks, as the layers of dry skin get even dryer and begin to open up. This can lead to deep fissures that not only look unsightly but are also very painful and susceptible to infection. So, on a regular basis, carefully file the dry skin away, and nourish your feet by massaging them regularly with an oil or cream, and cracked heels could soon be a thing of the past.

Foot Feed Oil For Dry Skin: Take 50ml Grapeseed Oil, 5ml Hemp Seed Oil, 5ml warmed Extra Virgin Coconut Butter and 5ml Jojoba. To this add 10 drops Tea Tree , 5 Benzoin, 4 Lemon and 2 Peppermint. Shake bottle well. Massage into feet every other evening and put cotton socks on before going to bed. Use on alternate nights until the dry skin has much improved – thereafter use once a week.

Cracked Heel Oil: Blend 50ml warmed Extra Virgin Coconut Butter, 10ml Castor Oil, 10ml Jojoba, 20 drops Tea Tree essential oil, 10 Sandalwood, 5 Bergamot and 5 Myrtle. Massage into any cracked areas to help ease inflammation, prevent infection and stimulate healing.

Foot Soak For Sore Feet: After a long day when your feet are sore, tired or a little swollen, get out your foot bath, fill with tepid water and add 3 tablespoons of Bicarbonate of Soda, 1 drop of Peppermint essential oil, 4 Juniper and 10 Lavender. Soak feet for 10 minutes and then dry and elevate them for a minimum of 15 minutes. The Bicarb helps to soothe, refresh, cleanse and deodorise your feet whilst softening the skin.

Regular foot massage after your foot bath and elevation can also be helpful if you suffer with puffy feet and ankles. In the mornings massage in the lotion (below), which acts as a gentle vein tonic and diuretic. Always direct the massage pressure up towards the heart, encouraging venous return. Then in the evening after a cool foot bath, use the night-time massage lotion to help further ease the problem. Never stand all day, have regular breaks and if possible, lie on the floor with your legs up against a wall to aid venous and lymphatic circulation. NB: Go to your GP and have your blood pressure and general health checked if water retention is a consistent problem.

Morning Lotion for Hot Feet & Puffy Ankles: Blend 100ml Moisturising Lotion, 10ml Vitamin E Oil, 20 drops Lavender, 10 Geranium, 8 Juniper, 6 Lemon and 2 Peppermint.

Evening Lotion: Blend 100ml Moisturising Lotion, 5ml Avocado Oil, 5ml Hemp Seed Oil, 25 drops Lavender, 8 Cypress, 5 Roman Chamomile and 5 German Chamomile.

Try a really simple trick if your feet and legs are sore after a long day on your feet - after you've elevated your feet for a while have a shower and alternate the temperature between hot and cold, even if you can only stand to direct the shower head towards your feet and legs. This will encourage your general and lymphatic circulation and quickly help ease aches and pains.

Finally, reflexology is really useful if you get pain or discomfort in any specific part of the foot that can't be explained by your footwear or any injuries! Often, persistent niggles in your feet, and even areas of hard skin building up can be an indication of a weakness in the corresponding area of the body. For instance, discomfort in the inside arch of the foot can be indicative of back issues, hard patches of dry skin on the ball of the foot, related to the lung reflex, can indicate respiratory congestion (smokers often have hard skin on the balls of their feet!). Use a reflexology chart (there are lots available online) to locate the basic reflex points. Gentle, regular palpation of the most useful points can be a really effective way of improving your overall health and wellbeing.

Joannah Metcalfe 
Consultant Aromatherapist

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