hand and nail care in winter

I've been well aware of how rough this winter has been on my skin, but looking down at my nails recently made me realize they are in dire need of TLC as well. Many states have experienced some of the snowiest winters in their histories, and below-freezing temperatures have kept many of us indoors. That's a pretty bad combination for nails, since fluctuating between frigid temperatures outside and hot, dry indoor heating will reduce the moisture level in your nails. And moisture loss causes nails to become dry, brittle and more prone to chipping and breaking.

My nails can't seem to decide whether they prefer peeling or chipping, and my cuticles are beginning to betray how much time I've spent shoveling snow. So, since wearing gloves 24/7 is not really an option, it's time for me to pull out the big guns. My winter nail rescue plan involves intense hydration for both fingernails and cuticles, deep moisture for hands, and a little "secret weapon."

Nourish Your Nails

Nature's Beauty Bee Kiwi Hand and Nail Repair Cream ($19.50) is a replenishing, long-lasting hand cream with manuka honey, shea butter and ginseng for improved suppleness. Reviewer Terri found that it keeps her hands and cuticles "hydrated and smooth."

Retrospect Hand & Nail Reconstructor ($36) is a lightweight, non-greasy hand and nail treatment cream formulated with functional keratin to repair dry hands, cracked cuticles, and brittle nails. Reviewer Lily said that her "nails also peel and break less" and her "cuticles are noticeably healthier."

Hydrate Your Hands

Stemulation Rescue Repair Hand and Body Treatment Creme ($96) is designed to restore and renew the hands, feet, knees, elbows and decolletage troubled with age spots, extreme dryness, loose skin and calluses. Marta said that this cream "has made me love my hands quite a bit more."

CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm ($26) moisturizes and helps protect from environmental aggressors. It instantly softens severely dry, rough and chapped skin including lips, cuticles, eczema, cuts, scrapes, abrasions, chaffing, new scars and any other areas needing moisturizing. Reviewer Tina found that this balm has "Quick-acting miraculous results, instant absorption and no tackiness."

Kat Burki Hand Therapy ($42) is a nourishing, vitamin-enriched and deeply therapeutic hand creme. A luxurious blend of oils provides intensive moisture, adds softness to dry skin and protects hands throughout the day while a blend of propriety herbs smooths skin's texture. Reviewer Erica has always found that winter leaves her with painful, bleeding cracks on her knuckles and fingertips, but now her "hands are super soft thanks to Kat Burki."

Red Flower Italian Blood Orange Softening Hand Lotion ($18) repairs overworked hands and prevents dryness with nourishing fruit oils. Reviewer Denise's extremely dry skin was made "softer and smoother" by this lotion, which is free of dyes, parabens, sulfates and synthetic preservatives.

Try a "Secret Weapon"

• If your nails and cuticles are in critical mode this winter, a rich oil may be the secret weapon you need. The luxurious oil blend in Osmotics Skin Rescue Nourishing Oil ($58) includes coconut, sweet almond, sunflower, red raspberry and evening primrose oils, which are rich in vitamins and fatty acids to soothe, smooth and protect skin. Massage this multi-tasking oil into your nails and cuticles and you could have results like reviewer Jennifer, who found that she "didn't have to apply a daily cuticle cream" anymore.