Old-Time Recipes for Hand Care

I take thy hand, this hand, As soft as dove’s down, and as white as it. Winters Tale. It is not difficult to have soft, pretty hands.

The great point is to keep them scrupulously clean and to pay attention to the nails, which require daily care, although they rarely receive it except by women of extreme leisure. When the hands are rough a skin-feeding ointment is required. One of the best for this purpose is camphor cream, made as follows:

Spermaceti….2 ounces. White wax….2 ounces. Sweet almond oil….2 ounces.

Melt the three ingredients together over a gentle fire and add one ounce of gum camphor in shavings. Take off fire when camphor is dissolved. Stir until the mass concretes. Put into jars. Use at night freely, anointing the hands, which should first be thoroughly scrubbed with warm water and a pure soap.

The old-fashioned almond paste which our grandmothers used for their dainty hands is excellent. Here is the formula:

White wax….1 ounce. Oil of sweet almonds….2 ounces. Attar of roses….few drops.

Melt the oil and wax together, add the perfume while the mixture is cooling, beating it meanwhile.

Honey and almond paste, to be worn at night under gloves much too large, is a remedy for red hands famous a century ago. It is easily made, but should not be compounded in large quantities, as the eggs do not keep.


Almond meal….4 ounces. Oil of sweet almonds….8 ounces. Pure honey (strained)….8 ounces. Yolk of egg….1/2 ounce.

Melt the honey separately, pour the almond meal into it and knead it together with the beaten yolk of egg. Add the oil and knead again until a paste is produced.

This is a wonderful remedy for harsh hands. Horse-chestnut meal paste is a favorite remedy for rough hands in Continental Europe.

It is prepared like the almond paste, substituting horsechestnut meal for almond meal. A good lotion for whitening the hands is made as follows :

Pulverized borax….3 drachms. Glycerine….4 ounce. Elder flower water….12 ounces.

Mix and apply several times a day if necessary.

When the hands appear to be constitutionally rough it is a good plan to wash them always in bran or oatmeal water. This water is made very easily.

Take some fresh bran or good sweet oatmeal and boil it in water enough to make it a very thin gruel. Strain and use the liquid, a little more diluted, instead of fresh water whenever the hands are washed.

These washes must be made fresh every second or third day, as they quickly turn sour.

Use a portion of fresh cut lemon to remove stains from the nails or fingers.

A bit of pumice soap will take away callous spots. Cocoa cream cerate, which is sold at some shops at a very high price, is made thus:

Take of cocoa butter, oil of sweet almonds, and white wag, equal parts ; melt them together and stir until cool.


Lanolin….100 grammes. Paraffin (liquid)….75 grammes. Extract of vanilla….10 drops. Oil of roses….1 drop.

Mix and apply when necessary.

It is well to recollect that stricture in any part of the body will frequently produce red hands.

For example, tightly-laced corsets, a bodice too tight in the armholes, sleeves that bind either above or below the elbow.

Even tight garters or tight shoes may produce red hands.

In all but very exceptional cases, say one out of perhaps ten thousand, a woman’s hands are easily kept white and pretty.

To keep thern white, frequent and thorough washing is necessary, using a scrubbing brush and a good soap, taking care to rinse the soap well out of the skin before drying the hands. To keep them soft almost any one of the formulas given above will suffice if used intelligently and persistently.


To take perfect care of the hands one requires a very few simple implements and five minutes’ time six days in the week. A nail clipper should be used in the place of the curved scissors. The clippers never create agnails, commonly called hangnails.

Never use a sharp instrument under the nails. An orange-wood stick carefully whittled to a smooth flat point should be used instead of a metal nail cleaner.

Abjure the cuticle knife. It simply bruises and hacks the selvage around the nail, which should never be cut. Use a velvet file instead of one of the rougher kind.

All liquid bleaches for whitening the nails are merely a diluted mineral acid of some powerful nature. They inevitably thicken the nail, and render it opaque instead of transparent.

Keep a bit of pumice stone on hand for removing roughness and ink spots.

After washing the hands, press the skin or selvage around the nail gently away from it, particularly at the base, so that the moon will show.

The moons are really indications of physical strength, and are never seen on the fingers of the sick.

The little white flecks on the nails indicate disturbed circulation or injury from the cuticle knife; no external application will cure them.

Once a week is often enough for manicuring, which one may easily do for one’s self. Operate upon one hand at a time as follows:

Cover the tips of the fingers with amandine; soak the hand for at least fifteen minutes in a bowl of warm water into which a little soap in powder has been cast. Dry the fingers carefully, pressing the selvage down all around. Use the clippers to cut with. A little practice and you will secure a perfect pointed oval in form, and each nail will be the same length and contour.

Remove all foreign matter from under the nail with an orange-wood stick. If there be stains or discolorations, take them off with the inside of a lemon. Apply a very little rose paste to the surface of the nail; next dust them rather thickly with the nail powder, and polish with a bit of chamois skin or a nail buffer. Rub always across, never up and down.

Rough, hard work will, of course, injure the appearance of the hands unless they are cared for. Almond meal is all that is necessary, in addition to the above advice, to keep them soft, white and pretty, Where there is undue moisture of the palms.


Hands show the ravages of time more than any other part of the body. Between the ages of seventeen and eighteen they attain the maturity and beauty of symmetry, and if subjected to the most careful treatment will remain practically unchanged until thirty. At thirty an almost imperceptible change begins and without constant attention their beauty wanes. The skin begins to wrinkle and grows dry, and the joints lose their shape. The shrinking of the flesh displays the faults which the plumpness of youth had covered up.

Neglect will hasten the aging of the hands, and care will work wonders. It behooves every woman to take special pains with them, as her hands are no small part of her personality. Young women with red hands seldom realize that the difficulty usually is caused by tight lacing. Wearing the corsets too tight has a tendency to interfere with the circulation, and red hands are the result.

If the hands be rough rub them with a little cold cream before retiring.

Don’t wear tight gloves. They spoil the shape of the hands, and give them a puffy, unpleasant appearance.

Women are very careless about drying their hands. They give them a splash and a promise and then wonder why they are rough. The hands should be very carefully dried-and a few drops of a good hand lotion rubbed in. They should not be exposed to the outside air for some time after they are washed.

When the hands that come in contact with dirt and grease in the rough work of the household get what is called grimed, the average soap will have very little effect upon them. Before attempting to get these hands clean, it is better to thoroughly rub a good spoonful of vaseline into them; then wash in warm water, using a pure soap and fairly stiff hand scrubbing brush. Rinse and dry carefully.