Monday, January 4, 2010

Tip and Toe Care: Part 4 At Home Manicure

Now we're finally up to one the fun parts of this series, at home manicure! This will be as a step by step guide to walk you through a good weekly manicure routine for natural nails, but of course most of it can be implemented on artificial nails as well. I'll try and explain things along the way but if something isn't clear just ask, or maybe you can find the answer in one of the previous articles, you can find the links at the bottom of this post. Let's get started!

Start by removing old polish, don't forget to clean under the free edge. To affect your nailplate as little as possible try not to rub while removing polish. Moisten a cotton pad or ball, gently press against the nailplate and hold until the nailpolish is dissolved then swipe towards the free edge. For nailart items, glitter polishes or other hard to remove nail polish you can wrap the finger tip in aluminium foil instead of holding the cotton down. This will prevent the remover from evaporating before the polish or nail glue is fully dissolved. Use a cotton bud or a orange stick wrapped with cotton to remove any polish that might be under your free edge.

Filing, Shaping the Nails
The aim of filing is to shape the nails without causing damage to the nailplate. Make sure you have a good file or emeryboard (you can read more about nail files in Part 3). Hold the nail file lightly between your thumb, middle finger and index finger, never apply pressure while filing, let the file do the work. Holding the nail file at a 45degree angle, leaning the bottom part towards your finger tip, start filing in one direction only, from the outside corner towards the middle. Sawing back and forth across the free edge can distrupt the nail plate layers and cause splitting or peeling. Some say the ideal shape of the nails should mirror the shape of the cuticle i.e. oval cuticle should have a oval free edge. I personally think you should pick the shape you like and feel comfortable with.
Here are the most common nail shapes:

Round Nail Shape
A round nail shape will give your nails strenght and a natural look. Start by filing the lenght down as much as you want, file off the corners to make them round and make the curve of the free edge smooth and rounded.

Square Nail Shape
A square nailshape has a straight free edge with smooth corners. This shape is fairly strong and is a popular shape. To get a square nail shape you have to file down the free edge to the length you like. Make the side of the nails straight by holding the nail file along the side wall. Finish by slightly curving the corners and smooth the free edge.

Oval Nail Shape
The oval shape is probably the most classic and elegant shape but unfortunately it makes them easier to break. To make an oval shape you start by filing the lenght down as you like. Start shaping the nail by creating an arch from the side wall to the top (middle) of the free edge. Make sure you get both sides symetrical, creating a smooth oval, egg shape.

Squoval Nail Shape
Squoval is a fairly new shape that is becoming more and more popular, especially for longer nails. It's a mix between square and oval with the straight side walls but the tip is rounded or oval instead of straight. Start by filing down the free edge to the lenght you like. Make the sides straight by holding the nail file along the side wall. Depending on how much of a rounded tip you want, start a little bit down on the side wall and start making an arch towards the top (middle) of the free edge, make sure you start at the same spot for both sides to make the curve symmetrical.

When you have achieved the shape that you want, smooth and seal the free edge by using a 3-way buffer. This will seal the layers of the free edge to prevent splitting or peeling.

Cuticle Care
There are a number of ways to remove the lose skin around your cuticles. Here are the ones I find the most gentle but effective.

Removing cuticles without a specific product.
1. Soak your fingers in warm water for a couple of minutes. Add some aroma oil or liquid soap to the water to help cleanse and relax you fingers.

2. Thoroughly wipe your hands

3. Apply cuticle cream, oil or lotion to the entire cuticle line and rub it in.

5. Use a cotton bud or orange stick wrapped in cotton. Dip it quickly in water to make it damp and gently push the cuticle back and by using circular movements removing the excess skin.

6. Wipe off excess creme.

Removing cuticles using a cuticle remover
There are various types of cuticle removers, make sure you read what it says on the product you have as the directions might be slightly different.

1.Apply the cuticle remover all around the cuticle area and soak your nails for a few minutes in warm water.

2. Remove the fingers from the soaking bowl and start removing the lose skin by pushing the cuticles back using an orange stick or a metal cuticle pusher. Do not use downward force as this might damage your matrix. Keep in mind that you only want to remove the dead skin, not break the seal between the nailplate and the nailfold or damage the live skin.

Some removers are already watered out and you do not need to soak before starting to remove the cuticles. Just apply, wait a little bit and start pushing your cuticles back and soak your fingers afterwards to clean your hands and make sure there's no product left on your fingers.

Never soak your nails for longer than 3 to 5 minutes. Soaking longer than that will fully saturate your nails causing the nail plate to swell. Once the plate returns to it's normal shape any nail polish that is applied will crack and chip.

If you have hang nail it's best to use a cuticle nipper and gently, following the curve of the cuticle, cut the dead skin off. Be careful so you do not cut any live tissue.

At this point you may want to exfoliate your skin. Gently massage your scrub product all over your hands for a few minutes. You can use olive oil and salt mixed together if you don't have a scrub or just like to do things yourself.

When you are all done wash your hands using liquid soap and a nail brush, don't forget the underside of the free edge! Moisturize using a regular hand lotion.

If the nail plate is ridged or otherwise uneven you may wish to smooth it using a buffer. Buffing also makes your nails shiny and will seal the nail plate making it more durable if you do not wish to use nailpolish. If you're going to apply nailpolish and your nail surface already is smooth you can skip this step.

Whenever the nail plate surface is filed in any way, even with a buffer, it should be filed in one direction only. Buff from the matrix towards the free edge, by moving in the direction of nail growth you don't disrupt the nail plate layers as you would if you used a sawing motion or moved from side to side. Keep the speed under control, if you start feeling heat in your nail it's time to slow down or the nail might get dehydrated.

Once you have buffed all nails, using all 3 sides of the buffer apply some cuticle oil and gently massage in all around your cutucle area. I like to put a few drops of olive oil in an eggcup, heat it in the microwave and apply that. The warm oil feels great!

Applying Polish
Applying polish sounds easy enough, but there are a few things that are good to think about.

Start off by removing any moisture, oil or lotion left on your nails, as the polish wont adhere properly to an oily surface. Wipe your nail plate with a cotton pad damp with nail polish remover or a 'prep' product. Don't forget the underside of the free edge.

Always use a basecoat as this will prevent staining and also make the colored polish adhere better to you nails. As I've mentioned in previous articles, nail polish protects your nails from water and fully saturated nails is a bad thing. I always apply basecoat to the under side of my free edge as well, it helps them keep their shape and not curve from constantly being saturated and dehydrated.

Start applying the colored nail polish by painting a little bit of polish on the free edge, the very tip of the nail. This will bind together with the rest of then polish preventing tipwear and chips for a longer period of time.

Starting from the center of the nail, touch the brush right before the cuticle line and carefully push up the polish towards the cuticles leaving a small space, ideally the width of a hair but do more if you need to, then stroke down towards the free edge. Draw the cuticle line with the corner of the brush and stroke down towards the free edge on both sides of the middle stripe. 3 or 4 strokes should be enough to completely cover the nail, additional stroking might lift and move the enamel leaving behind streaks and/or bare spots on the nail surface. It's important that the polish do not touch the cuticles or surrounding skin as that will dehydrate the skin and block the nail folds from absorbing necessary moisture. If your hands don't feel steady or if you for other reasons have a hard time getting that little gap you can clean it up afterwards using an orange stick or a toothpick.

Repeat the previous step and do as many coats as needed for the polish to be opaque and even.

Finish off by applying topcoat! Using a slow drying top coat will make the color more vivid as slower evaporating solvents produce brighter colors. Using a polish dryer that blow air on your nails might lower the adhesion and gloss of your polish.
I'm personally a fast-dry topcoat junkie, when I paint my nails I want it to be done fast! And changing my color almost every day it doesn't matter if it would start losing brightness versus if I had used a slow drying topcoat. Some fast-dry topcaots migth cause shrinkage or cracking, it's a whole science and it has to do with how your body react to the ingredients. So try different products until you find the right one for you! Might be something to think about if you want to wear your manicure for as long as possible.
Now when you're all perfectly polished, finish up with a little bit of cuticle oil and you're good to go!

Links to previous articles in the Tip and Toe Care series:
Part 1: The Nail Anatomy
Part 2: Nail Growth
Part 3: Natural Nail Care

My own knowledge
Marti Preuss -
Minnie Matsumoto -
Various other websites where no author or sources were mentioned,
therefore I do not know who to credit.
If you recognize any of the material posted here as yours don't hesitate to contact me


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Nail Nerd by day, Ninja by night! My favourite things are informercials and thumb tacs... NO! It's nails of course! and ninjas. Nails and ninjas.. yup!
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