Hand modeling is something that I accidentally fell into—not many little girls dream of one day being a hand model. I never even considered it a real job until I moved to New York City. It is an incredibly odd line of work, but it certainly has its upsides: a lot of free manicures (often with insanely ornate nail art), the chance to wear incredibly expensive jewelry, and the opportunity to place your hands on the occasional celebrity’s face.
My hands have been shot for Vogue, Nylon Magazine, Brides Magazine, NY Magazine, Refinery29 editorials, Sally Hansen campaigns, Smith and Cult nail art tutorial videos, and much more. Each job could be completely different from the one prior. I enjoy getting to do something new everyday, and my job can vary from chopping food or holding a beauty product, to wearing incredible nail art by some of the industry’s best manicurists, to even being a hand double for someone.
It is an unusual job. I can walk around the city and see myself in signs or advertisements and no one else knows it's me! I'm just a segmented part of a person in a picture. And if you're going to be a successful parts model, maintenance is essential. I have a ton of tips that I’ve picked up from other hand models, along with my own little tricks that I do to keep my hands looking healthy and camera-ready.
My number one most important hand-care tip is to ditch the cuticle cutters and use a cuticle cream or oil. Cutting your cuticles can make them grow tougher and more jagged if it's not done properly. The cuticle is like the root of your nail—if you want healthy and long nails, you need to start taking care of your cuticles. All you need to do is use cuticle oil or cream and gently push back your cuticles occasionally. I personally love to use Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme ($6) and Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Oil ($20).
My next tip is a hand-model mainstay for getting your hands extra moisturized: The night before a shoot I generously slather my hands in lotions, as well as the all-important cuticle oil, and then slip my gooey hands into cotton overnight gloves. This makes them retain the moisture all night, and you wake up with incredibly soft hands. I like to mix it up with a Burt’s Bees Hand Salve ($9) or the Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream ($9)—they're both super-rich and pretty sticky, so they work best with the glove technique.
If your hands ever crack or get especially dry in the winter you might want to look into a paraffin wax treatment. My mom introduced me to them, and I actually really like doing it. You dip your hands (or your feet) several times in melted warm paraffin wax, let the wax harden around your hands, and then slip on these towel-like mittens to keep in the warmth. After about 10-15 minutes, or when the wax has completely hardened and cooled, you just crack off the wax, and your skin feels crazy soft and rehydrated.
This is a trick I picked up from manicurists on set when they were removing bright polish, a complicated nail art design, or even glitter polish. If you soak cotton balls in nail polish remover and let them rest on your painted nails for a little while it'll loosen the polish. Then, if you squeeze the cotton balls down and pull them off the nail, the majority of the polish should come off. Sometimes rubbing off dark polishes can stain your skin or even push pigment under your cuticles, so this is a better solution.
Now this tip might seem a bit obvious, but I cannot stress it enough: ALWAYS use a base coat when you're painting your nails anything colorful. Unfortunately, this is something I learned the hard way. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for weirdly stained and nasty looking nails to grow out. I like to use Sally Hansen’s Double Duty Base Coat and Top Coat because it's two-in-one and doesn’t chip. I also use this as a clear coat because it feels like it makes my nails a little stronger.
If you do accidentally stain your nails, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage. First, lightly buff the surface of your nails with a fine grit nail buff to help remove the stains—typically stains are only on the superficial layers of your nails, so buffing them can make a big difference (just remember buffing can also make your nails thinner and weaker if you do it too aggressively, so go easy!). After gently buffing, scrub your nails with a soft toothbrush and a mixture of peroxide, baking soda, and lemon juice to help clean out any residual stains.
A great way to “cheat” whiter edges on your nails is to use a whitening pencil—it's not permanent, but it is a helpful quick fix.