Are you dreading painful, cracked cuticles and patchy dry skin from November to March? It doesn’t have to be this way! Here’s how to winterize your nails for more comfort — and prettier hands.

1. Exfoliate & Moisturize Your Hands

The skin on your hands takes a serious beating during the colder months. Between overindulging on globs of hand sanitizer to prevent colds, and the sudden (and severe) drop in temperature, its inevitable that our hands become excruciatingly dry. For pretty, manicure-ready nails, you must start with a good base of healthy hands. Begin by using a body scrub to buff away any dry skin.

L’Occitane Shea Butter One Minute Hand Scrub, $24, works by exfoliating away dead skin cells while also nourishing hands with grape seed oil and Shea butter. Afterwards, smooth on a heavy-duty hand cream. A good option is The Body Shop Almond Hand and Nail Cream, $20, which conditions nails while softening rough spots. For baby-soft hands, slather on this cream before bed and put hands in thick, cotton gloves for better absorption.

To prevent future dryness, use rubber gloves when washing dishes, and warm mittens to keep the bitter weather from zapping the moisture from your hands.

2. Hydrate Your Cuticles

Nothing ruins a beautiful holiday mani than split cuticles and flaking fingers. For extra hydration in this delicate area, try Formula X Quench To-Go Cuticle Balm Stick, $14, or Lauren B. Nail and Cuticle Balm, $30. These balm sticks are perfect for on-the-go touch ups when you’re feeling extra dry.For an easy, at-home remedy, simply soak your nails in warm water for a few minutes, and gently rub olive oil on your nails and cuticles before bed. To avoid any potential additional damage, remember the word “orange”! Never cut cuticles; simply push them back with a wooden orange stick instead to avoid any ugly infections.

3. Let Your Nails Breathe

‘Tis the season to be filled with vampy red, glitter or gold polishes — giving our nails no break at all. Dark colors and abrasive top coats dry out nails, which can easily lead to breaks and cracks (and stains). This totally ruins our base for another fun mani! In order to nix nail damage, give your nails a quick break from the harsh polishes and be sure to not pick or bite them in between polish changes.

4. Avoid Non-Acetone Polish Removers

Always choose non-acetone based nail polish removers when trying to swipe the polish off. (Acetone is a harsh chemical that badly dries your poor nails!) Coat each nail with a strengthening basecoat to seal in moisture and protect from the elements. Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment, $18, gives each nail more permeability to oxygen, making them stronger, smoother, and more resistant to the harsh season.

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