How To Take Care Of Your Hands Like A Hand Model

Photo: Courtesy of Adele Uddo.
American women started painting their nails different colors in the '30s and '40s, when Revlon and other companies came on the scene and popularized nail polish among the masses. Who would have predicted that all these decades later, your digits would be as much of an accessory as bags or jewelry?
Now, nail art and hand-painting are gaining traction thanks to an insatiable consumer appetite for new formulations, treatments, and experts, as well as a cacophony of lust-worthy, inspirational images. 

Hand models are those creatures among us with impossibly long fingers, candle-lit perfect skin, and gleaming nails. Does it come naturally? Kinda. They may be genetically blessed, but they also put a hell of a lot of time and energy into looking after their hands and nails. We spoke to the best in the business to quiz them on the methods, products, and expert tricks they use to maintain their moneymakers. 

Read on to find out their secrets, and score some tips and product recommendations to get your own hands silky-soft and ready for their close-up.
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Photo: Courtesy of Adele Uddo.
Adele Uddo

Adele Uddo has built a career as a successful bicoastal hand model. She says she believes beauty and health are intrinsically linked, especially when it comes to nails. “With skin being the largest organ of the body, it’s important to eat fresh foods that impact overall health. Topical moisture is essential, but eating natural, whole foods will hydrate internally, providing enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants that regenerate cells and tissues,” she says. 

Uddo’s hands have doubled for several A-listers, and appeared in countless commercials and print campaigns. Her blog Hand Jobs: Tales of a Hand Model is a behind-the-scenes look at the advertising industry, with beauty tips and tricks, as well as stories of Uddo’s upbringing in a traditional Italian family (who happen to be the founders of Progresso foods).

Hand Type: “My hands are pretty versatile, but generally I'm known as a high-end hand, since the majority of jobs I book are beauty or fashion. Luxury brands look for an elegant-looking hand (long fingers/nail beds), whereas a Clorox commercial, for instance, will want a hand-next-door. For me, it often comes down to nail length and polish color — short, nude nails usually work well commercially.”

Nailing It: “The first winter I spent in New York, I was shocked to see how much moisture I needed. To remind myself to rehydrate my skin, I put little lotion bottles in easy-to-access places — my purse, next to my bed, on my desk. You don’t have to be as obsessive as me, but I swear, even once a day will make a huge difference.”

Routine Maintenance: “I moisturize my cuticles with whatever I have in my cupboard — coconut, almond, and olive oils are great — yet inexpensive — options. If you do nothing else, this step is hands-down the most important. As skin ages, it loses moisture, so keeping your skin and nails hydrated is key to healthy hands at any age.”
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Tips & Tricks: “Getting regular manicures helps keep nails looking lovely, but be careful not to cut cuticles since they can grow back thicker. Whenever I can, I use natural products; things you’d find at Whole Foods, for instance. I love Burt’s Bees and Weleda, but I also like to make my own hand lotions.”

Shoot Prep: “On days when I’m shooting, I’ll amp up the moisture and sometimes spritz a few Aura Cacia essential oils on my hands, chest, and face.”

On-Set Dish: “Every job is different. If I’m working for Essie, my nails are being worked on for hours, with many elaborate looks being shot throughout the day. Other days, especially on [sets for] commercials, I spend a lot of time waiting around… My part is usually a quick insert shot: pulling pizza, twisting lipstick, revealing the inside of a steamy crescent roll.”

Campaigns: “I’ve been really lucky to represent some wonderful companies and work with the best photographers in the world. This past summer, it was a real honor to be picked by Christian Louboutin to launch his new line of nail polish.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Antonia O’Donoghue.
Antonia O’Donoghue

“I’m a creative soul, so working with great photographers, meeting new people each day, and playing a role really makes this kind of modeling a special job,” says Antonia O’Donoghue, who is also a singer-songwriter. “I also love being sort of hidden. I get to be in fantastic magazines, and work with the most creative people, but I can continue on with my everyday life without anyone knowing what I’ve done or where to find me.” 

Hand Type: “My hands are thin, even-colored, and slender, and my fingers are long. Long fingers look elegant when photographed, so I think that the length of my fingers has really helped me. I’m also an ex-ballet dancer. Having to do different arm positions and be graceful also helps me in my work. The grace just sort of comes naturally after dancing for so long.”

Nailing It: “My nails are normal, not brittle, and very fast-growing. I guess I’m lucky.”

Routine Maintenance: “I take vitamins and supplements that contain vitamins C and E, in addition to a biotin pill daily for maintenance. I’m not faithful to any one brand because I think it’s important for the body [not to get used to one brand or dosage].”
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Tips & Tricks: “My two must-have products are Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Remover and Nailtiques Strengthener to keep everything looking flawless and healthy. Creaming up my hands and sleeping with cotton gloves keeps hands soft, glossy, and photo-ready.”

Shoot Prep: “My very own concoction! I mix one part coconut oil, one part sisal, and a dash of honey to exfoliate and polish — it’s the perfect pick-me-up before a shoot. I’m also a big proponent of resting between shooting so that my hands can settle before bursting out the next pose.”

On-Set Dish: “Recently, I worked with Joan Smalls — her doing full-body modeling, and me just using my hands. It was ironic: The whole time, I was thinking how much of a fan I am of hers — knowing that I wouldn't be sharing the set with her, but that the hands would unite us!”

Campaigns: “Essie website, catalog work, and lots of high-fashion editorial: W magazine, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Sirot.
Ellen Sirot

After graduating from Barnard College, Ellen Sirot worked as a dancer and waitress before stumbling upon the world of “parts” modeling. The New York-based model keeps her routine simple by being consistent. “My routine is really my lifestyle, because my work influences my life 24-7. I can’t forget for a second that my work is my hands, so everything I do revolves around the offensive and defensive protection of my hands. That means being super cautious around knives, stoves, and wine glasses,” she says. 

Sirot, who is also a hand-care expert and consultant, sits on the board of Polished Girlz, a nonprofit organization that helps girls with special needs feel better by visiting with them, polishing their nails, and teaching them about the importance of hand-washing and infection reduction.

Hand Type: “My hands are called ‘product hands.’ I’m the mom-next-door hands, the Best-Supporting-Actress hands, the Jennifer Aniston of hands! My hands don’t star in the commercial — instead they are the most pure, non-attention grabbing hands: perfect skin, nails, even-toned, graceful. [They] work very frequently, as I can be in 10 different competing commercials — yet I’m unrecognizable. My hand does not call attention away from the product — it frames it, supports it. I pull pizza slices, flip burgers, sprinkle blueberries, and touch phones and cameras — all in a day's work.”

Nailing It: “I keep my nails medium-short with a squoval — square-oval — shape that perfectly reflects my nail beds, so that nails look very symmetrical. I keep them naked from polish to give them the healthiest look, [even though] I’m a great lover of fun nail color.”

Routine Maintenance: “I always wear gloves when I do household chores to minimize exposure to any cleaning chemicals. I developed my own brand — Hand Perfection — because I couldn't find any products that were what I needed to fight the signs of aging on my hands. So, I use my Hand Perfection Day Cream with SPF to fight environmental issues and to offset the daily wear-and-tear. I use my Hand Perfection Night Cream to reverse the signs of aging while I sleep, and the Cuticle Oil to keep my nails hydrated and my cuticles moisturized.”
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Tips & Tricks: “Wash your hands when needed, but always use gloves for the extra times your hands are in water, like washing the dishes. Turn your hand-washing routine into a positive experience by using warm water, sulfate-free cleanser like J.R. Watkins Natural Hand Soap (rather than harsh soap), and gently blotting dry with a soft towel (rather than scratchy paper towels). While hands are still damp, apply a small dab of moisture to lock in hydration. And, drink tons of water! Your skin is the biggest organ and reflects what you put in your body.”

Shoot Prep: “[I use] a pre-shot technique I call the hand-model 'drain,' [which is] great before a mani-selfie on Instagram. Hold your hand above your heart for a minute, so that the blood flows out, to minimize veins and even skin tone before your close-up.”

On-Set Dish: “I try to stay out of the way of all the hand-model gossip and controversy. It is a hugely competitive field, so of course a lot of rumors fly around. My highest-profile jobs have often been the secretive ones — the ones where you need to sign [non-disclosure agreements] and leave your phone at the door. I often know what tech products or innovations are going to come out way before they’re announced!”

Campaigns: “Some recent big campaigns I did have been for Citibank, Verizon, Apple, Oil of Olay, and Bloomingdale's.”
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Photo: Courtesy of J'Nara Corbin.
J’Nara Corbin

It was while she was working at NYC’s Pier 59 Studios as head of client services that fate knocked on J’Nara Corbin’s door. “Manicurist after manicurist coming in for shoots would stop and stare at my hands, and tell me that I should parts model,” she says.

One of them was Deborah Lippmann. And, this year, Corbin had her full-circle moment. “I ended up shooting an astrological nail-art editorial for Deborah’s polish line, and ironically she was one of the first people I had crossed paths with all that time ago, who took the time to compliment me on my hands and tell me about the world of hand modeling.”

Hand Type: “My fingers have always been long and lean. My parents desperately wanted me to put these ‘fancy phalanges’ to use and hoped that I’d become a concert pianist.”

Nailing It: “I simply think twice before reaching blindly into my utensil drawer, avoiding any disasters with forks or knives when I am desperately on the hunt for an ice cream spoon, which is often! I refuse to leave the house without hand lotion, and as soon as I feel a rough edge or chipped nail I buff it down with an emory board — prevention is key.”

Routine Maintenance: “I’m a sucker for Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails — I wear the clear polish religiously every day, because it really strengthens and gives just the right pop of shine.”
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Tips & Tricks: “Biotin is a godsend, especially paired with a few spoonfuls of Jell-O, which is rich in nail-strengthening gelatin. I promise you this combination will make your nails grow like weeds!”

Shoot Prep: “Any extra-virgin olive oil works wonders and heals scratches seemingly overnight — I rub it fanatically into my cuticles to soften them.”

On-Set Dish: “Models who smoke get a lot of fist bumps and air kisses! Nicotine also gets trapped under the nails, resulting in stained and yellow nails — fingers that no one wants to shoot.”

Campaigns: “The Olay foaming face wash campaign was pretty amazing! We shot the commercial at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, where 30 Rock was shooting at the time. After countless takes of the perfect dollop of face wash on my finger, I walked into the hallway and bumped into a very charming Alec Baldwin.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Tifannie Smith.
Tifannie Smith

As a former fashion buyer for Lord & Taylor and Chanel, Tifannie Smith was introduced to the parts-modeling world by a fashion director at O, The Oprah Magazine. She has modeled for some of the biggest brands on the planet, including Sephora, Target, Revlon, Maybelline, and Clinique. One of her favorite on-the-job-stories involves a world-renowned jewelry company. “I recently shot Cartier’s campaign — the super expensive jewelry pieces actually came with their own bodyguard,” she says.

Hand Type: “I have very smooth hands with not many noticeable veins or creases. My fingers are thin and long, and my skin tone is considered ‘ambiguous,’ allowing me to pull off a lot of different looks.”

Nailing It: “I have very long nail beds, which helps in creating the illusion of length even when the tips of my nails aren't very long. I avoid shaping them myself, as the manicurists on set shape them according to the look of the shoot.”

Routine Maintenance: “The most important part of my regimen is moisturizing to keep my skin youthful and vibrant. Drinking lots of water is a must, and I tend to stick with products with the least amounts of artificial additives — brands like Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Isola, and Dr. Hauschka are great. Also, organic coconut oil after showering does the trick. I like using CND Essentials SolarOil on my cuticles every night, and I’m still in search of the perfect nail strengthener that doesn’t cause peeling.”
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Tips & Tricks: “I avoid anything that weakens nails, so no acetone removers, gel polishes, or nail glue for me. I rarely frequent salons and prefer to do my own nails. I also try to stay away from caffeine to prevent ‘the shakes’ when I need to stay in position for a shoot. A nice alternative to caffeine for energy is filtered water with cut slices of organic citrus fruit — your very own natural-electrolyte drink!”

Shoot Prep: “They’re still my secrets!”

On-Set Dish: “Shoots are always catered and have the best assortment of goodies. I stick with healthier choices like eggs, yogurt, or fruit for breakfast, and fish and salads for lunch. Shoots can run for hours and hours, so it’s almost impossible not to sneak a few sweets, too. Since I model the ‘parts’ besides my hands, I watch my sugar intake.”

Campaigns: “Having a multi-page spread in Vogue was definitely memorable and a hugely iconic moment for me. Revlon’s Power of Color campaign, featuring my hands on male models, was certainly the sexiest shoot yet.”
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