Pay attention to Hands and Nails in Winter

An example of a French Manicure, acrylic nails...
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If your nails keep catching in your clothes, and you find it is painful to get dressed, shake hands, etc. you are not alone. And winter winds just leach moisture out of your hands.

After Chemo or radiotherapy, or when you start on hormonal drugs, you might suddenly find your hands and feet develop horrid horny nails, and / or splitting skin, and you can almost see your fingernails disintegrating as you use them.

You may even develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a side effect of the Anastrazole drug, Aramidex.

When I developed CTS doctors told me this was caused by RSI (repetitive strain injury) and to stop using my computer.  I couldn’t work for three months, but it was still as bad.  So I had a procedure which sounds horrible – they inject you in your wrist with a long needle – but was actually genuinely painless for me.

This cleared it up, but it wasn’t until a year later I discovered that CTS was a side effect of Aramidex, and got the makers to include this information in the information sheet.  I was also very annoyed that I missed out on three month’s work, all because the doctors hadn’t know that the drug they had put me on could cause CTS.

We can feel stupid asking for help;  we see nail problems as minor, and believe doctors will think we are vain if we ask for assistance.   Well don’t.  Nails are an  important part of our body, are there to protect our hands, and wouldn’t be there if they were just for decoration.

Of course you WILL use rubber glovers – won’t you? !!! That is probably the single most important facet of hand care.  Having said that, you will find that drugs make your hands incredibly rough – but products that are really helpful are:

Clarins Hand Cream – There is a lovely story about their hand cream.  After her last visit to Australia, H. M. The Queen insisted she had to get off the plane at Singapore as one of her Ladies in Waiting had told her to buy this wonderful hand cream made by Clarins.

At the Duty Free Shop, Her Majesty, unlike a certain ex-Prime Minister’s wife, believes it is sensible to save money where you can, and bought her own.  The shop assistant was very happy to give it to her, but she insisted that it was paid for – by her Lady in Waiting (The Queen never carries money).  So even The Queen agrees that Clarins hand cream is one of the best on the market!

After radiotherapy I noticed that age spots on my hands were much more noticeable, so recently I have been using Clinique’s Dark Spot Corrector.  It hasn’t got rid of them, but they are much less noticeable – on one hand they have almost disappeared, and on the other hand some of the bigger spots have faded away.

Nails You may find your nails have split down to the bed, and you are having to file them three times a day; this is because the hormonal drugs have removed the top layer of your nail. Cancer drugs often cause the top layer of nails to flake off, which can be painful as nails catch in clothes.

The Royal Marsden Hospital used to have a manicurist, Francesca Manning, who was very helpful and supportive, and made me realise that many others suffer – usually in silence. One thing Francesca recommended was NailTek products, made in the States for cancer patients. They have Crystal Glass Files, soft and gentle and so good I have one by the bed, in my handbag and on my desk – all places where the horrid little hangnails catch. They are also coming into shops, so look out for them at chemists.

NailTek make special base coats; best one for splitting and hang nails is Hydration Therapy II (a nail varnish). If you have horrid thick, horny nails (rather like horses) then their Hydration Therapy III is the right product. They also make a cuticle cream and an oil:  products which feed the nails, and really help them grow again.  Use the oil or cream every day on the nail bed and around the edge, then every day re-apply another coat of the Hydration Therapy, taking it off once a week.

Use their Hydration Therapy clear nail varnish every day, and their cuticle creams at night, and this will help nails develop a white edge – before they become like a serrated saw.

In France they take nail care seriously, and at a recent conference for Oncologists I heard a brilliant dermatologist discuss how effective Evonail was at treating cancer patients’ nail problems.  If you go to article on How the French treat nail problems, this gives more details.  You can order in UK from

You may find that due to a low immune system, you develop a fungal infection under your nails. SkinSure Plus is recommended for this; put a large drop into the palm of your hand, rub palms together then scrape nails across the palms so the lotion gets under the nails. 0800 107 1053. However, my fungal infection was so gross that the only thing that finally worked was Loceryl. This costs around £40 a tiny bottle, but thanks to Dr. Nerys Roberts at my local hospital, I managed to get this on the NHS.

And you are not alone.  In the USA they take these nail problems seriously, and an article in Supportive Oncology March/April 2009 issue on Dermatotoxicity linked to targeted Biological Agents tells you lots more – and proves you are not making a fuss.  See rest of article

Now I am on Omeprazole (don’t ask – it is to treat after effects from one of the drugs).  However, side effects – split nails, blood blisters, chalky surface, etc. are so painful I am off to see Prof. Johnston to get it changed.  I had almost given up, and was resigned to having split, flaking nails for ever – but had Wahanda MobDeal at Saasha Hair and Beauty Clinic, 59b Crawford Street, London W1.   020 7723 1985.  I bought this for the massage, which was brilliant, but included in the deal was a manicure – so thought I might as well take advantage.

At Saasha, Nishta took my hands in hers, filed the nails right down, and pampered them and painted the nails carefuly so that they looked really glam.

Then she sat me down under a special table lamp, and made me sit there for 15 minutes drying the nails.  I don’t know what was in the lamp’s rays, but my nails stayed ‘put’ for seven days – no flaking – no bits coming off – no nail polish peeling.  They were really brilliant.  I shall definitely be back when I need glam nails for a special occasion.

Now, I feel confident enough to actually give myself a weekly manicure, and a kind friend has given me a box of gorgeous nail colours.  Looking round in waiting rooms, blue, black and dark burgundy colours seem a no-no.  They look gloomy, and when it’s cold make your hands look really ‘grey’.  This friends said what I needed was Flame, coral and bright pink and red colours – and up came a box filled with gorgeous colours such as Orange Squash (a zingy coral), Hot Pink (does what is says on label), etc., made by GLEE and Famous Nails.                                                                                      ..
I like  their colours because they are bright and happy – just the boost we need.  And don’t forget to paint your toe-nails to match – it is a tremendous morale booster! Even the nurses have commented, and although my nails are still short, having such lovely colours with a bright gloss top coat makes me feel so much more glam!

Famous by Sue Moxley Nail Varnishes, £4.50 at superdrugs nationwide

Glee Diva’s Free Your Glee Nail Set is £4.99 at Sainsbury’s

More Tips

QVC, the shopping TVchannel, invited me along one day to view their winter promotions, and incidentally, “would I like a manicure?”  Lovely people!  And Sue gave me a lovely manicure, using OPI products.  Five days, later, even with my horrible flaking nails, only one nail has a tiny chip.

Sue gave me a tip – WAIT and let your nails dry.  At the QVC day they had a clever set-up;  Sue gave one a superb manicure, then passed you over immediately to Louise from Elemis, who sat me down in an Elemis massage chair, and gave me a lovely long facial.  So I lay there with my nails drying harder and harder – and made a vow that I would really make sure I let my nails dry next time I gave myself a manicure – no ‘fiddling’ around!

OPI produces gorgeous cheerful colours that make your hands look so much better, and it has been lovely having bright coral fingertips to cheer me up!  Incidentally, I know many people can’t face going out shopping when having treatment, or when fatigue rears its ugly head, so I will ask QVC to let us know when they have special promotions of suitable things.

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2 thoughts on “Pay attention to Hands and Nails in Winter

  1. Adeline Reid September 13, 2010 at 2:06 pm Reply

    Very interesting re the side effects of Arimadex can be carpal tunnel syndrome. After one year on Arimadex I had to stop because of painful joints and difficulty in walking . Now I have carpal tunnel syndrome of my left hand . I apply massage with arnica every opportuntiy
    Many thanks for the information
    Adeline Reid

    • Verite Reily Collins September 23, 2010 at 10:23 am Reply

      If the pain persists, do go and see the doctor. They may recommend you to have a special injection with X-ray; the procedure sounds horrific, but I can assure you as they were injecting someing into my wrist I didn’t flinch or feel a thing – but the relief after!

      Good luck.

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