First of all I would like to state that this is my hobby and I am in no shape or form qualified to do this professionally. What I have described below is what I have learnt from my MANY mistakes and after years of biting my nails. So, for all of you biters out there, there is hope!
A little about me:
I am a vegetarian and drink at least two litres of fluids, mostly still water, a day. My nails are naturally strong and grow fairly quickly.
A couple of years ago I gave up dairy but soon noticed my nails were weak, peeling and flaking for the first time ever. I overcame this problem by having dairy again and investing in some OPI Nail Envy. It's not cheap but it's worth every penny!
I've enjoyed painting my nails since I stopped biting them at 16, but this interest was taken to the next level when my boyfriend of seven and a half years proposed last year. I felt that my nails needed to be impeccable if I wanted them to match my gorgeous ring!
A few people have asked me to post about my nail care routine, so here it is. There are a few steps I like to follow:
- Nail Varnish Removal
- Cuticle Removal
- Base Coat
- Top Coat
I am the first to admit I am not very good at this stage. I used to use metal files but after reading that glass ones are less harmful for your nails and seal the ends, I have not looked back. I have an OPI Crystal File at home but found a couple of cheaper ones in a case at Sally's Beauty which I have in my bedside table and handbag for emergencies.
I used to file my bare nails using a wet file, but it was very difficult for me to know when to stop and I ended up going all the way without fail. This is not a huge problem for me as I have big nails, but it doesn't suit everyone. If I had a special event I'd file my nails a week or two in advance to ensure they were at their optimum length by the time I had to show them.
One of my Twitter friends recommended filing them with polish on and it's been great. I can now (dry) file a little bit every couple of days to keep them looking good and it's not a chore anymore.
Nail Varnish Removal:
I have several removers, from non-acetone to pure acetone, and like to alternate.
For cremes, I can use the non-acetone without any problems, for glitters I need the strong stuff. If I have time and want to be kind to my nails after glitters, I use the tin foil method described below:
- Soak the cotton wool in nail varnish remover
- Place it on the nail
- Wrap nails in small pieces of tin foil - secure with sticky tape if needed
- Leave on for approximately five minutes - pretend to be a robot if you like!
- Remove foil caps
- If needed, use a little more cotton wool dipped in acetone to remove any stubborn bits of glitter
I notice that if I am doing swatches at the weekend and remove my nail varnish several times within a few hours, my cuticles resent it and look very tired. I am sure you can tell from my photos which ones were taken later in the day!
Once upon a time, I used to bite my cuticles. Yes, you read well, I had a pretty disgusting habit that meant my nail beds were severely damaged and my nails were full of ridges. It was so bad that one of my teachers once asked me if I had a fungal infection or something. It was highly embarrassing when I reached my early teens and with the help of chewing gum and a little will power I managed to stop.
I then started cutting them with clippers, to the point they bled a lot. So I haven't been the kindest to my poor cuticles!
In the last year or so I have improved. Better late than never, I suppose! I now use cuticle remover and push them back with orange wood sticks or a metal pusher. I find that the chemicals on the removers are so strong my orange wood stick ends up full of splinters, so sometimes metal is better for me.
I have been using Mavala and Sally Hansen cuticle removers. Always make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging to the letter, as they can be dangerous products to mess with.
Once I have removed my cuticles, or nail varnish in case I am only after a colour change, I wash my hands thoroughly and use a nail brush. I dry my hands and push my cuticles back with the towel. I love this part as I like having clean hands, especially after using nail polish and cuticle removers.
For many, many years, I didn't even know how important this step was. Base Coat ensures good adhesion of the nail varnish, an even surface and less staining.
I haven't tried many different ones. I like OPI Natural Base Coat and have been experimenting with Save The Nail Colour Enhancing Base Coat recently. I have OPI Ridge Filler, which is useful with certain finishes since my thumbs haven't fully recovered from all those years of being mistreated by me.
If your nails are slightly oily or you want to ensure your manicure lasts a little longer you can try OPI Chip Skip to prep your nails before the Base Coat.
This is the part we all know about! One, two or three coats of your favourite colour should be enough, depending on the polish. I paint my nails from my little finger on my left hand to the one on the right hand, and follow the three strokes technique (one down the middle and one either side).
Not getting nail varnish all over your cuticles is a matter of practice, I'm afraid. There is no secret I know other than being patient and doing it over and over again. I've learnt that it's better to leave a one millimetre gap between the cuticle and the nail than having coloured cuticles. For mistakes I have a couple of corrector pens (OPI and Sally Hansen) but in recent weeks I discovered that the most effective way is to dip a nail art brush in pure acetone and carefully run it over your cuticles.
A good Top Coat ensures a shiny finish (or matte, if that was your choice) and a lasting manicure. I used to use OPI Top Coat but the drying time was proving too long for me. Since discovering Save The Nail 45 Second Top Coat my life has been better. It sounds exaggerated but a while ago I used to be "incapacitated" for hours and a simple trip to the toilet could ruin all my hard work. Now I know that if I wait a couple of minutes to be safe I can have a shower and wash my hair without taking chances. It also means I can change my colour more often and spend more time with my family. I could not blog without it!
This step is KEY. Nobody likes dry hands and flaky cuticles! I use several hand creams and oils. I normally have a bottle of Skin Truth Cuticle Oil by my bed and use two pumps every night. It may be a lot but I rub it on my cuticles two or three times and then spread the rest all over my hands.
I also use Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream and Lush Lemony Flutter, which I have in my handbag. I normally apply these generously when my husband gives me a lift to work and rub them on my cuticles for a good 15 minutes or so while we chat. LF can be a bit greasy but it's still great. Sally Hansen healthy Cuticles Now and OPI Avoplex are also favourites of mine.
I have several OPI Avojuice creams all over the house, plus a Dove one at my desk in work. Moisturise whenever you remember, preferably at least twice a day.
Please bear in mind that the steps I follow can change as I discover better ways of looking after my hands and nails, but this is pretty standard. I still make mistakes and sometimes pull the skin around my nails when I am nervous or bored, but I am learning every day!
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck and don't forget to moisturise!