How to Protect Your Hands While Working with Paper Mache?

This morning Liz left a question on a previous post, and it’s one of those questions that you may be better at answering than I am. I’m sure she isn’t the only one who has hands that get dry when working with paper mache. Here’s her question:

I have a very practical and basic papier mache question. The skin on my hands is somewhat delicate (particularly in the winter) and I try to keep it happy. I keep wondering if PM artists just sacrifice the skin on their hands for their art or just how they protect their hands from deteriorating. I can’t imagine wearing even thin gloves to do PM. What do you do?

So – what would you do? Like told Liz, I’m not into self-sacrifice, but this just isn’t a problem I’ve run into. I do use Bag Balm on my hands when they get dry and cracked from gardening, (probably shows how old this country gal is getting), but is there a way to protect your hands from getting damaged in the first place? Any products that work really well, to protect the hands without making the sculptures all greasy, and without encasing the hands in latex? Your suggestions would be much appreciated.

15 thoughts on “How to Protect Your Hands While Working with Paper Mache?”

  1. I swear by ‘Gloves in a Bottle’. It is called a ‘Shielding Lotion’, and it works great. It is a little pricey but well worth it as you only need to use a pea-sized amount at a time.
    Back in the day when I was a hairdresser we learned about this type of protecting product. Back then it was called ‘Barrier Cream’.

  2. Hi everyone, I work with everything from A- to -Xylene in my studio and my hands are just awful!! Most of the time Im so “in my Zone” creatively that I don’t take notice until there is substantial pain standing in the way of progress.
    Anyway, at that point what I do is first wash my hands (don’t laugh, it’s not easy when they hurt) gently, but with something that will exfoliate the hard dry layer that needs to get out of the way so the new healthy epidermis can breath. I use a soft nail brush.
    Sounds silly but, dry ’em really well… then moisturize. Hand lotion like Vaseline Hand and Nail works fine, then I make myself take a break!
    I remind myself that paper pulp, clay, paste, et al. are full of water (thus wrinkly fingers) and the constant contact with my beloved medium can be like soaking in mucky water all day.
    Latex gloves always seem too large to me and I cant feel what I’m doing when they’re sliding around. My favorite gloves and the only ones I have found comfortable to work in are the little blue elastic-ish ones that l have rubber on the important bits. They fit much better and stay in place but they aren’t water proof.
    Square one? yes, I visit this square several times on the eve of epiphany!

    The answer for me, was to coat my hands with a protective product containing a nice amount of Paraffin or Beeswax , I believe Avon still makes ‘Silicone Glove’ but, my fav is one called ‘Look Ma New Hands’ from Bath and Body Works.
    Then I wiggle into the floppy latex gloves (squishy) – Then into my snug work gloves. My hands are now completely protected from any and all mucky water, floating in a comfy thin squishy layer, and when I go in and take my gloves off my hands feel soft, and best of all, they dont hurt!

    I REALLY hope this helps someone! It’s awful to have something like this holding you back when there are so many un-beautified things out there waiting for us!

  3. Im just getting familiar with this wonderful paper mache site, can anybody tell me, is there a site where we all can share pictures of our recent work with each other-I also teach paper mache classes using recyclables-needless to say looking for part time work in LA area-does anyone have any suggestions or leads? Thankyou so much!

    • For those still asking about posting photos on a site- Flickr is offering 1 terabyte of photo space FREE to all members!

      You can also join various art groups on this site or start a new one of your own devoted to your craft type.

      It is hard to believe that you can have so much space for free but this offer has been going on for a while, so take advantage of it while you can .

      I use Flickr for storing images I have not worked on- creating albums of specific image types and for joining various arts and crafts groups where completed works/projects are posted for all to view.

      Hope this helps someone who may be looking to store many images or get a group going but wants to use a free site. 🙂

  4. Sometimes when gardening I use a product called ‘Glove in a Bottle’ made by Avon.

    For my last paper mache project I used a paint brush to paint the fluid on the paper pieces. Is that cheating? 🙂

  5. I wear latex gloves that doctors use for examining their patients. They fit like a second skin so you have all of the same control as if you are working with your bare hands.I purchase the gloves at a medical supply house. You can use the gloves many times if you wash them after you take them off.

      • Hi Julie. I’m glad you asked…

        My WordPress program sends me an email whenever someone comments on my blog. That way I always know that a comment or question is waiting to be answered, and I can also catch any spam comments (like those selling Viagra…) and delete them before anyone else has to see them.

        Thanks for your suggestion about the gloves, by the way. That sounds easier than finding and using an expensive product that acts like a glove, although I think a lot of people are allergic to latex.

        And thanks to everyone who helped Liz with her problems. I knew she would get some great suggestions, and you came through for her. (Aren’t paper mache people nice?)

  6. Thank you both for the tips. I’ll have to look into the hand softening agent – it makes so much sense to have a conditioned “bath” ready for my hands but I likely would not have thought of it without the suggestion. The “hand protecting lotion” idea piqued my interest so I did a little searching and found a product (Gloves in a Bottle) which, according to the website, is stocked in a store local to me. After purified water the main ingredient is dimethicone which apparently is used in everything from Silly Putty to food additives to breast implants =] Sounds pretty “All American” to me haha
    I really want to try it now just to see … it is a little expensive so I might write them for a sample. Brooke suggested that I might also use Corn Huskers Lotion to moisturize and that’s also on my list to try.
    Thanks everyone – you’re all so helpful.

  7. I dont totally submerge my hand into the bowl of wallpaper paste that I use for the bonding medium-plus I have a dish sink full of soapy water that has a hand softning agent in it where I wash my hands often-I find wall paper paste is much better than flour and water- good luck


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