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Our Hands

  • Paul
    Paul Wren

    Our hands are very important to us no doubt. After several little accidents with my fingers and worries about getting through some recent concerts, I was wondering what other harpist do to take care of your hands or finger tips?   Are you overly protective of your hands?

    I'm in a dry climate so I am constantly having to moisturize to keep my finger tips from cracking.  I also love to cook and work in the yard/garden, so it seems I am always in danger of cutting my fingers or getting a sticker or thorn, so that is the chance I take.

    Coming from a person with three band aids on his hands right now.

    replies to "Our Hands"
    • Kay
      Kay Lister


      Oh, I am right there with you my friend.  Right now, I have my nail on my index finger of my right hand taped on (litterally).  It was in the way of a VERY heavy door in December and INSTANTLY bruised.  The bruised part is about half grown out AND is coming off of the base of my finger with a small part still attached. OUCH - YOU BET!! I have the tape crisscrossed so the pad of my finger is exposed and can play for the most part.  When ANYTHING happens to my fingers (and that seems to be the case quite ofter), the first thing I thing about is 'OH NO, WHAT IF I CAN'T PLAY THE HARP"? 

      As far as the moisturizer - I have found the BEST solution and the surgeon that I work for does this now as well.  He ALWAYS is "Scrubbing in" and his hands split, crack, bleed . . .  Wet your hands, and while STILL very wet, apply the neutrogena (fragrance free) hand cream to them GENEROUSLY!  You will need some time here, because it takes about a GOOD 5 minutes or so to rub it all in BUT keep going!  After it FINALLY disappears, you will have the sofest hands there are, I promiss.  Now, if you do a MAJOR hand washing, you will have to do this again but it is well worth it - IT WORKS!!!

      Kay ;-)

    • Patricia
      Patricia Jaeger

      Paul, I'm a fan of aloe vera, sold in tubes in the U.S. for about $4.00. "Lily of the Desert" brand carries 99% Aloe Vera Gelly. Apparently this will go deeper under your outer skin than lotions just containing a small percentage of aloe vera. When you rub it onto hands or other parts of your body, it will be absorbed nicely in about one minute. Applied after showering, or before retiring, you will notice improved moisturization, and smoothness.

    • Sherry
      Sherry Lenox

      Until this year I always blamed my bad skin on cold weather, but it hasn't even been that cold here in the NW-USA this year. Just now I have a crack opening on my right pointer and right thumb, and a big bruise on the callous of my left ring finger.

      We've had spring-like weather here for weeks, but still my hands are a mess. They have Neutrogena handcream here in three unit packages, and I may try your technique next.

    • Paul
      Paul Wren

      OUCH Kay! I bet that hurt!

      I get this cuticle oil from my manicurist, yes I get manicures. The one thing people notice first about a harpist is their hands and that makes a huge impression.  It is called Prolana and I message it into my finger tips every night before bed. It is amazing, because as much as I wash my hands, they don't dry out before I have to play.

    • Erin
      Erin Wood

      I know a harpist who doesn't do any of the vegetable chopping in her house--she has her husband do it all. Not all of us have that option, so I try to be super careful in the kitchen. I also wear gloves when I garden or do cleaning. Did you ever see the video of the hand model? It is kind of crazy--talk about being protective of your hands:


    • Steven Todd
      Steven Todd Miller

      When I had the infamous glue gun debacle (about melted my index finger pad off right before all of my Christmas gigs) I used raw aloe vera directly from the plant. Luckily my son's teacher had just given him a small starter plant as a gift. I broke off a limb (stalk, petal, frond?) and squeezed the juice directly on the burn. It felt great and I think it sped up the healing process. And about the hand paranoia, yes I'm right up there. I feel super left out during the dads vs. sons basketball team challenge. Everyone says "Why aren't you out there?" and I have to go into this diatribe about finger-fears.

    • Jessica
      Jessica Wolff

      I'm having trouble with my nails. Whether it's aside effect of doing water aerobics or connected with diabetes, they look terrible, dry and ridgy--and I play guitar and banjo as well as harp!

    • Loretta
      Loretta O'Driscoll

      I chop and cook, work in the garden and I have two small children so I wash my hands a lot. Oh, and I'm a harpist! Here's my advice:

      Gloves in the garden and for any washing up. Shea butter at bedtime. Also mind the soap you use to wash your hands. Try to find something that actually has olive oil or shea butter in it...sometimes they say they have it but the ingredients show otherwise.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth Volpé Bligh

      I am fortunate that my hands aren't too dry, but I do get hangnails frequently. I clip them off immediately so that they don't get worse. It is terrible to have an infected finger and try to play the harp! If I do get a cut or an infected hangnail, then I use a very thin Bandaid - Plastic Comfort-flex brand. They are so thin and flexible that you can even play a concert while wearing them.

    • Patricia
      Patricia Jaeger

      Jessica, Try extra gelatin such as Jello for a few weeks; this is apparently good to strengthen nails.

    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      I consider myself extremely fortunate. In more than 30 years of professional woodworking for my harp repair business and restoring an 1860's house, both of which included using a lot of machinery, I've never had a hand injury more serious than a cut. But I am VERY careful, and I don't have certain machinery in my shop, like a planer or joiner, because they are so risky to use.

      When I do get a cut or a scrape I stop what I'm doing right away to clean it out and bandage it. Scrapes which don't bleed are much more prone to infection than cuts that bleed. If I have a cut, I let it bleed for a minute or so before bandaging it. For a scrape, I scrub it out well with soap and water, then pour hydrogen peroxide over it several times before putting a bandage on it. In this age of anti-bacteria resistant germs, infection should be your major concern. A year or two ago, a friend of mine who is a very fine harpist whose name you would recognize visited her mother in the hospital. She apparently had a scratch on her arm. It became infected and she nearly lost her arm because of it. Fortunately they found a drug that would treat the infection.

    • Sherry
      Sherry Lenox

      Tomorrow I will be looking for NexCare Skin Crack treatment. It has gotten twelve 5 star reviews for being a sting free adjunct to rapid healing. I had forgotten how awful the stinging was when I was using another skin glue that was very popular at the time.

      I was only able to practice for about an hour today because of the large opening at the corner of my thumb, but hopefully if I can find the NexCare, I'll be in better form by tomorrow afternoon. If I can find the stuff, I'll submit my review here.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth Palladino

      Remember to keep the house adequately humidified--it makes a huge difference for our hands, as well as for our instruments. For cracked ends of fingers and cuticles, go to the baby aisle in your grocery store--or perhaps a  pharmacy or Toys R Us--and get Lansinoh Brand Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers. As it says on the purple tube, "Soothes, heals & protects dry, cracked skin." Use just a little bit at night, as it is sticky.

    • Armande
      Armande Fryatt

      I'm not allowed to use knives in our house! But when I did have a cut finger once, I used liquid plaster. It helped me get through four hours of playing...

    • Jessica
      Jessica Wolff

      Patricia, thank you. I remember I had the same problem WAY back in my teens and my mother made me lemon-juice jello and V8-jello to tackle it.

      For the folks with dry-skin problems: dunno if they still make it or not, but there was some stuff called Corn Huskers Lotion, mostly glycerine, that was very effective. Takes a good while to actually work it in.

    • Lisa
      Lisa Davis

      it's a definately concern for any instrument. I'm a professional pianist who has found myself wanting to play less and less since a 3rd degree burn to one of my fingers (boiled over coffee in the microwave of all the stupid things). even 2 years later when I hit a key just right those nerves which have any sensitivity left will sent a shot of pain straight up my arm. I've been medically assured I'm not causing any further damage, but it's made playing a lot less fun..... Hence my increased harping since that time. the side and tip of the finger were not burned, so no pain when harping. I understand now why some performers get their hands insured!

    • Paul
      Paul Wren

      Anyone ever heard of putting liquid vitamin C on finger cuts?  I was talking with a friend that is also an Estetician and she says it helps the healing process.

    • Sherry
      Sherry Lenox

      I can give a glowing review to NexCare Skin Crack Care. It smells good, unlike the old skin glue, and contains Tea Tree Oil and also vitamin E AND oil soluble vitamin C.

      I understand it can be hard to find, but it is sold on Amazon. I got mine at the local Walgreen's.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I tried this out and I was amazed! Moisturizers usually leave a greasy oily feeling for an hour or so. The aloe vera felt a lot like water, and soaked in very quickly. But for a few hours my hands weren't dry at all! The best part was they never felt greasy, thanks for the tip!

      --- Natalie

    • Sarah
      Sarah Mullen

      A photographer I've gotten to know at some of my events came up to me recently to let me know he'd taken a series of close-up hdr photographs of my hands.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, hdr is high dynamic range imaging, which involves taking a single shot multiple times in extremely rapid succession using multiple exposures, and then blending the images to create a picture with extreme levels of detail and contrast.   Anyway, this photographer said he'd never realized just how scarred up my hands were until then, and he'd thrown out the images.  I looked down and realized my hands where absolutely covered in scars from assorted cuts and burns I've gotten over the years, and I'm really paranoid about my hands. 

      I stopped playing basketball and volleyball in gym class when I was in high school, I got some knife skills lessons from a couple of professional chefs I know, I try to be incredibly aware of anything that has the potential to burn, and I wear gloves if I'm doing any gardening, home repairs, or craft projects....and then I do something like fall head over heels down an entire flight of stairs and succeed in jamming a finger and hour before a live broadcast tv spot.  No matter how careful you try to be, there's always something.    Or maybe its just me.  I'm particularly klutzy.   I'm still terrified of what would happen to me if something really serious happened like a bad fall or a car accident.  Harp is my livelihood. 

      My husband broke his hand a couple of years ago.  Just a tiny hairline fracture after taking a stumble in the dark, but he couldn't play the carillon for a couple of months.  He got out of his cast one week before a four month stretch of solid bookings, not knowing if he'd really be able to play.  I still have nightmares about that incident, along with bad dreams about my harps breaking in the middle of a gig, and the ever classic dream of showing up to a booking only to be told I'm supposed to be an acrobat and I have to go on stage in five minutes.  The moral of all of this is that I don't like my head, and I don't think I want to be in it anymore ;-)  Also, if at all possible, don't be a klutz.