Hand & Nail Care

I have had so many requests for this article, & finally, here it is! I’ve made it into a three-parter: handcare at home, how to give yourself a manicure & how to choose a manicurist.

Handcare At Home

I never used to take very good care of my hands. I was always biting my nails, so I thought that my hands were beyond help. Why bother? Finally, sometime last year, I removed a whole lot of anxiety from my life which also had the pleasant side-effect of meaning I was no longer interested in biting my nails. They started to grow & I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I started going for manicures & then taking care of them myself.

I have always had very soft hands — soft enough that when people shake my hand, they usually comment on it. I think partially that’s genetics, but there are probably a few other contributors. Whenever I wash my hands, I try to use very gentle soap. Since working at Lush Cosmetics, I have been unable to go back to generic, supermarket-bought soap. I loathe the stuff, it stinks & it dries my hands out. A lot of the ingredients in those standard soaps are nasty, so I do my best to avoid them. My favourite Lush soaps (in case you’re interested) are Honey I Washed The Kids, Rock Star & Alkmaar.

I also try to keep my hands out of water as much as possible. Your nails swell when exposed to water & then shrink back, which can make your nails more brittle than they should be. Use gloves when you do the washing-up or any other cleaning around the house: a lot of those cleaning products are NOT meant to hit the skin.

Other things you can try include:
Cuticle cream — I adore Lush’s Lemony Flutter, & when I worked in the shop, I applied it every day & saw an ENORMOUS improvement. (The key is in consistent usage.)
Hand moisturiser — I like good old cocoa butter, I don’t really think there’s anything better, & try keeping a bottle with you at all times for best results
Putting Vaseline on your hands before you go to bed & sticking them in a pair of cotton gloves
Dipping your fingers into a cup of warm olive oil for a few minutes, then rubbing the oil into your hands
Giving yourself a weekly manicure (see below)

How To Give Yourself A Manicure

In my experience, this works best if you’re somewhere warm & relaxing, with good music & a decent chunk of uninterrupted time.

You will need:
Cotton balls
Nailpolish remover
A nail-file
A small bowl
Cuticle stick
A clear base/top coat of polish

Remove all traces of old nailpolish with a cotton ball & a bottle of nailpolish remover. If you’ve been using cheap nailpolish, you might find that your nails are a bit stained. (My favourite nailpolish, Maybelline’s Cherry On, is like this.) If this is the case, do it thoroughly! Just give them a good going over & it should be okay.

File your nails next. The shape you make them is up to you — some people like a sharp tip, but the most popular shapes are a rounded-off square or an oval. File in one direction only, try to avoid going back & forth if at all possible. Make sure they feel smooth. If you have a file which will buff or shine your nails, use it!

Put your hands under running water. Use a little bit of soap & make sure you clean your hands properly. You really need to make sure all the little nail fragments are gone, so that your nailpolish goes on smoothly.

Take a small bowl & fill it with warm water. Soak your fingers (including your thumbs) for ten to fifteen minutes. Some people will put something in with the water, like olive oil, but this is entirely up to you. When you’re done, dry your hands off on a towel.

Push back your cuticles with (you guessed it) a cuticle stick. Hopefully they will be nice & supple after all that soaking, but if not, you might want to use some cuticle butter to facilitate the process. Please don’t clip your cuticles! Ever! It’s a very fast & efficient way to get an infection due to bacteria & fungi.

Okay, time for the base coat! Use something clear. Start in the middle of your nail at the cuticle, moving the brush toward the tip of your nail. Then do one stroke on either side. Do every nail, then let it dry.

Now it’s time for the normal nailpolish! I advise picking an exciting colour! Yes, you could go with traditional pale pink, which is certainly a good classic, but why not try midnight blue, glittery silver or neon pink? (If you don’t like it, you can always take it off again!) I am an OPI nailpolish addict, & I love their Night Brights & Garden Party collections, but your mileage may vary. Another tip — try buying your nailpolish on Ebay. Usually bottles of OPI cost $20 here, but I can buy them on Ebay (including shipping) for about $8. Awesome.

Apply the nailpolish the same way you did the base coat — start in the middle, brush toward the end, then do either side. Let it dry off. You might find you need to do a couple of coats.

Now apply a top coat! I use the same stuff for my base & top coat. The top coat will help prevent your nails from chipping & it will make your polish last longer, so if you can be bothered, it’s definitely worth doing.

Congratulations, you’re done! (If you wanted to give yourself a French manicure, here’s how it’s done.)

How To Choose A Manicurist

If you’d rather have someone else do all the work — & I don’t blame you — getting a professional to attend to your nails is the way to go. It can be a very relaxing way to spend half an hour.

To find a good manicurist, do some research online or if you have a friend who gets regular manicures, you should ask them where they get theirs done & what they think of the service.

As with anything other than the bare necessities (like paying your power bill), I am a strong believer that you should only give money to people who make you feel great or in exchange for an excellent product… so when you walk into a nail salon, if you don’t feel good & comfortable, just leave. Good service is really important to me. If the staff at one salon aren’t pleasant to you, don’t worry, there are a million other people dying to take your money who will be good to you!

Other things to keep in mind are whether they clip cuticles (BAD!) & whether they sterilise their tools. You can ask them this over the phone if you like. A lot of salons will give you the tools they used to take home with you, which I think is marvellous. The manicurist (& the client) should both wash their hands with antibacterial soap before starting (or the manicurist should wear gloves).

When you’re ready to take the plunge, just go in & ask them for a manicure. They will usually give you a few options, like a full polish or a French polish (white tips) or just a basic shape. Take your pick, have a seat & enjoy!

Finally, use your discretion in terms of what you think the service is worth. In big cities you can get a top-class manicure for $10, while in other places (like Melbourne) it seems impossible to get a manicure for less than $30.

Extra For Experts:
Things You Shouldn’t Do (If You Care About Your Nails)
How Can I Stop Biting My Fingernails?