9 Nail Care Rules To Live By
So you want strong, healthy nails and soft supple hands? Well, just like a daily skin care routine, you need to get into the habit of a regular nail care ritual.
As a manicurist, people always tell me their nail problems and ask me what they can do about them. Mostly it’s a simple case of ‘prevention is better than cure’.
Ideally, you should maintain your nails every week (or at least two), as well as daily application of cuticle oil and hand cream.
Let’s start with the weekly nail care...
If you need to trim, cut straight across, not around the nail, with nail scissors or clippers, (the same goes for toenails).
Once you have your desired length, then you can shape with a nail file – A 220-240 grit is ideal (the higher the number, the more gentle the grit).
File the sidewalls straight, downwards towards the tip. As well as creating a neat shape, this will give the look of length.
Naturally fanned out nails will benefit from this in particular. I like a squoval shape so I round off the corners slightly, filing inwards for a neat, soft look.
Whatever your preferred shape, always look straight on at the nail to help you.
It’s worth noting that the highest point of the nail should be down the length of the centre. Also, when you look down the end of your finger, your nail should form a slight arch, known as the C-curve.
Do not soak your nails first! This causes the nail to soften, making it vulnerable when filing. Nails also expand when soaked. The nail then contracts back as it dries, which can lead to polish chipping.
Water is actually one of the most damaging substances for nails because nails absorb much more water than the skin.
When the absorbed water evaporates, the layers of the nails break down, causing weak and peeling nails.
For this reason, I recommend having something on your nails (at least a base coat) for most of the time. Otherwise keep them well moisturised with oil and hand cream.
I recommend keeping cuticles neat and conditioned. Your manicure will look so much better.
Gently ease back cuticles with a stainless steel cuticle pusher to open up the area and clear the nail bed.
Doing this weekly or even fortnightly, will not only keep cuticles maintained, it will also gradually add length to your nail beds.
Next, use a superfine, gentle buffer to refine the surface of the nail, paying particular attention to the area where you’ve just pushed back the cuticle.
Don’t buff too much. You just want to stimulate blood flow and smooth the nail, not thin it out.
Harsh buffer blocks will scratch the surface of the nail. I recommend a 240 grit - I always use Bio Sculpture’s Grey Sponge Buffer.
Use cuticle nippers to remove any hangnails (skin around the cuticle that has become detached and catchy). If you really must, only trim excess cuticle.
Don’t go too far because you will be cutting off the eponychium, which is frequently mistaken for the cuticle.
The eponychium acts as a protective seal to stop bacteria from entering the nail and causing infection. When using cuticle nippers, just squeeze firmly. Don’t pull as you will tear the skin.
Keeping your cuticles pushed back and conditioned daily with cuticle oil, will prevent the need for trimming.
Squeak clean the nail with nail cleanser or polish remover. Preferably use a lint free wipe or a double-faced cotton pad, to prevent leaving fibres on the nail.
I highly recommend ZOYA Remove+, a gentle 3-in-1 nail polish remover, nail prep and hydrating nail conditioner, which guarantees longer polish wear. Plus, it’s available in a practical pump dispenser for one-handed use.
For most of the time I at least wear base coat. Occasionally, I massage oil directly into bare nail beds and leave overnight.
During the day, nails need protection from the elements, especially water from washing hands.
Forget ‘letting your nails breathe’ because nails don’t breathe! Your nail is made up of about 25 layers of cells. They do, however, need oxygen for healthy cells, which they obtain from tiny blood vessels, not air.
Apply a protective base coat, sealing the free edge by sweeping horizontally across the tip of each nail.
Bio Sculpture Gel Executive Base is my mani must-have. The finish is ultra smoothing and slightly whitening, like healthy, post-holiday nails.
7. Top Coat
After applying nail colour, I advise sealing and smoothing with a good top coat.
Seche Vite is an industry favourite because it’s super fast drying (hence the ‘dry fast’ translation) and leaves an ultra, glossy finish.
Unlike any other top coat, it also penetrates through the layers of colour to form a single, even coating. For that reason, it’s great for nail art.
However, Seche Vite does contain toluene, which is used in many nail polishes to dissolve other ingredients, to achieve an easy application and a flawless finish.
Toluene is a chemical that can cause harm to health, but only in extensive amounts. Rest assured, the tiny amount in nail polishes (when used normally), is relatively safe.
For a purer alternative, Kure Bazaar Dry Finish is the next best thing. The non-toxic formula is made of up to 85% of natural ingredients based on wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes and corn, making it vegan and safe to use during pregnancy.
And now for the daily work...
8. Cuticle Oil
If there’s one product you really need, in order to achieve and maintain healthy nails, it’s cuticle oil. Massage into the cuticles and the entire nail bed at least once a day.
Think of cuticle oil as if it were your face moisturiser. Would you skip applying your face moisturiser for a day or night? If you did, your skin would feel tight, dry and perhaps flaky.
Cuticle oil is your nail moisturiser. It keeps cuticles and nails conditioned and supple, and as a result, your nails will grow stronger.
You can also massage it over your colour gel or polish (once dry) to keep it flexible, which then prevents brittleness and chipping too.
After top coat, applying a drop of cuticle oil around each cuticle will also help to set your polish without drying out your nails.
Let the oil absorb for 5-10 minutes, then lightly brush the excess over each nail with your finger.
My favourite cuticle treatment is Dadi’Oil, an organic blend of 20 essential oils including citrus, vanilla, lavender, rosemary, lemon, bergamot and lemongrass.
It’s also enriched with high-purity avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil and jojoba oil. As the name suggests, it’s literally the ‘Daddy’ of all oils. Plus, the scent is divine!
9. Hand Cream
Firstly, always wear gloves when cleaning and washing up.
Water is very drying on the skin because it evaporates, zapping the natural oils in the process. Ideally, moisture needs to be replaced immediately.
Plus, as I mentioned before, nails absorb much more water than skin. Try to get into the habit of applying hand cream after EVERY time you wash your hands, even if it’s just on the backs of the hands.
To encourage this, I keep hand cream everywhere, from my bathroom to my kitchen, to my bag and my bedroom.
Again, try to think of hand cream as you would your facial moisturiser. Would you wash your face without applying skin care after?
I guarantee you’ll see and feel a huge difference in the condition of your hands and nails in no time.