Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nails 101

I like to pass myself of as an expert on make-up and hair color, and I do know something about both. But nail care is my true area of expertise. Here are a few tips:

1. Think long and hard before you get artificial nails. Any time you immobilize your nails and expose them to harsh chemicals, they're going to atrophy. Even nail glue, an absolute necessity for a real girl who gives a damn about her nails*, weakens them. And if your nail tech tells you there won't be any damage, she's either lying or doesn't know what she's talking about. In either case, find a new tech.

Artificial nails are for women whose nails are hopeless. Before you go to the time and expense of fake nails, start getting manicures every 2-4 weeks. Sometimes they just need a little TLC.

If you have fakes, and want to remove them, you'll have a long road of healing ahead of you. The best therapeutic nail products I've worked with is Nailtiques. They are most definitely not inexpensive, but they do speed up the repair process quite a bit.

2. A clean nail will hold polish longer, but using nail polish remover to clean them pretty much defeats the purpose. Use a non-alcohol toner, or just wash your damned hands.

3. If you want your polish to last, you have to use a base coat. The polish needs something to hold on to, so the base coat should be a little tacky when you apply the first coat of color. After that, you can wait as long as you want to apply the second coat. Here's my favorite base coat. (The top coat also rocks.)

4. Wear gloves when you do housework. Do I even have to say that?

5. Don't saw at your nails like they're pieces of wood. File them in one direction.

6. A 3- or 4-way nail buffer is your very, very cheap friend. Start with the coarsest side and work your way to the finest. Or use whatever sides work best for the job. Ten to 20 seconds on each nail is fine. A buffer is also perfect for removing all that raggedy stuff you get after filing.

7. Far be it from to tell you how long and ornate your nails should be, but do you really want to look like you work at 7-11?

8. The best way to remove polish is with pure acetone. Unless you have artificial nails, gels or nail wraps, non-acetone remover is for sissies. (Acetone eats through all the above, in which case you're excused. Except why do you have that crap on your nails in the first place?) Acetone is very drying, but it works really fast and you'll be washing your hands anyway.

9. The only thing that really, truly dries nail polish is time, and by "time" I mean hours. A great top coat like Seche Vite helps, and there is some credence to stuff like sticking your hands in ice water for a few minutes. But you have 4 coats of lacquer on your nails. My point? Don't do your nails and then decide to wash the dishes.

My favorite professional polish is OPI. Essie is also great. My favorite drugstore brand is Revlon. It takes a bit longer to dry, but it holds up better, and it could go under Good Stuff Cheap. I don't have any favorites in the higher end beauty lines, because I'm too cheap to $20 on a bottle of polish.


  1. Back in olden times, before I typed for a living, I kept my nails long. I really liked L'Oreal base coat (VERY adhesive), Revlon color ("Cherries in the Snow" was my go-to shade), and Revlon top coat (much shinier than more expensive brands). Nowadays, I can't stand to have my nails extend past the ends of my fingers. But every once in a while, cruising through Walgreens, I'll take a lap around the nail polish and remember the old days of Revlon and Cutex...

  2. I've never kept my nails long. Before I went to beauty school, I didn't give a damn about them. When I started doing nails, I quickly lost patience with having to mess with them. I spent all day doing everyone else's nails, which was way more fun than doing my own. And I don't trust anyone else to do them. Seriously, it's really hard to find a tech who knows how to give a decent manicure. By a decent manicure, I mean no cuticle cutting, knowing how to properly clean the nails, and applying polish so that it lasts 6-10 days. That's not impossible. It was common for my weekly customers to come in with polish still on their nails. And it wasn't all chipped and ratty looking either.

    Aunt Jenny, I know what you mean about taking a lap around the nail procuts, although I would probably come across more as a stalker. I linger until I feel like a total weirdo. :) And I'm a big fan of Revlon products in general. I think it's the best drugstore line around.

  3. My nails were never as healthy and strong as when I was going for a twice a month manicure. They never, ever broke and were so glamorous! I keep my nails short now and unpolished, but I frequently use the 4 in 1 buffer, so they look OK. Best of luck on your new blog.

  4. Maura, you're the only person I would trust my nails to... if I still "did" my nails (these days, "doing" my nails means scrubbing, clipping, and gently filing down the rough edges).

    I truly believe you would know how to deal with my wonky, flarey, spatulate middle-finger nails that refuse to join the rest of the manicure, aesthetically speaking.

  5. notmuchofacook, it's so true that regular maintenance is usually the best route. I can't say it enough. I had terrible nails until I started taking caring of them when I was in beauty school. Now they grow like weeds. And doing my nails means exactly what Aunt Jenny does. I think I've polished them maybe a half dozen times in the last 15 years.