It's that time of year when cold winter winds and weather team up with indoor heating to take a toll on your skin and hair. But they can be equally drying to your nails, making them brittle and prone to breaking, splitting and peeling.

Lower temperatures and less exercise reduce circulation. You can also expect your nails to grow more slowly. That means your nails will demand extra attention.

To protect your nails from excessive dryness, apply lotion several times a day, particularly after they've been immersed in water.

Massage more lotion or cuticle cream onto your nails and into the cuticles every night before bed. And, once in a while, apply extra cream or petroleum jelly and wear a pair of soft gloves to bed. Husbands may scowl, but it works wonders.

To prevent nail breakage, file nails somewhat shorter and slightly rounded — not pointed — and not too close at the corners. Make time for a weekly manicure. A half-hour will generally be enough time. Keep an emery board and clippers in your handbag, kitchen or desk drawer to take care of rough spots and hangnails before the nail splits.

To encourage nail growth, stimulate your circulation by shaking your hands and wrists, squeezing a tennis ball 10 times and finger — not nail — tapping. Typing or keyboarding is excellent exercise for fingers, but type with the pad of your fingers. Nails may be easily bruised or catch on the keys. Nail buffing will also boost circulation.

Beautiful nails can add to that polished, well-groomed look you want, so don't expose them to chemicals that dry or use them as tools.

Wear lined rubber gloves when working with strong detergents, cleaners, polish, waxes, paint, paint thinner, dyes and glues. Gloves should fit comfortably.

Before you head out to work in the garden, rake the lawn, clean the car or polish the silver and copper, apply hand lotion and put on cloth gloves. You may be surprised to find that your hands and nails will look better after than before.

If you can't wear gloves, apply extra lotion, preferably a product containing a silicone derivative such as dimethicone. Such products stay on longer, especially in water. Then rake your nails across a soap bar. The soap caught under your nails will protect them and ensure a quicker cleanup.

Continuous use of cosmetic products such as cuticle remover, nail hardeners and strengtheners, nail polish, polish remover and artificial nails can also damage your nails. Even the strongest of nails need to be free of such products for a period of time.

You may also find that you're your own worst nail enemy. I know I am. I get moving too fast and jam my fingers in drawers, run them into the wall or snap the steering wheel back and break a whole handful of nails in one fell swoop. Slow down.

Some bite and pick. Estimates indicate 95 percent of all nail damage is due to nail biting. Flicking or tapping nails can also cause damage.

Fingernails may be sturdy but not so sturdy that they can be used in place of tools to pick, pry, scrape or cut. They should not be used as substitutes for scissors or knives to open envelopes and boxes or undo knots. Buy yourself a staple remover! Keep a screwdriver and a pair of small pliers in the kitchen, car or office. Use the pads of your fingers to open bobby pins, fasten jewelry, pull open car doors and pry open pop-top cans.

Rubber gloves will prevent paper cuts if you have to sort, stack or wrap paper products. If you don't like rubber gloves, wear plastic surgical-type disposable gloves.

It may take some precautions, but in the long run a program of pampering will protect your hands and nails.

Judith Rasband is director of the Conselle Institute of Image Management and author of numerous publications on dress and image. Contact her at 801-224-1207 or [email protected]. For related image information, visit and