Even if you can’t make it to the salon every week for a manicure, you can easily maintain neat nails and soft, touchable hands and feet. Have some basic, inexpensive tools on hand for at-home touch-ups, and set aside 20 minutes a week to pamper your fingers and toes. These steps will keep nails looking nice, even when you aren’t wearing nail polish. While it protects nails from breakage, polish can be dehydrating, so go without it for a day or so.
What You Need
The following tools will help keep your nails neat without a weekly trip to the salon. Here’s how to use them.
1. Nail clipper: This can be used as needed to quickly shorten long nails before filing.
2. Emery board: Applying gentle pressure, run the emery board over the tips of nails to shape them and smooth the edges. File in one direction — sides first, then the center. A rounded square shape is popular.
3. Buffer: This tool exfoliates the nail, smoothing ridges and giving it a healthy shine. Gently brush each nail, working up from base. Use just a few strokes so you don’t weaken nail.
4. Cuticle pusher: Soak nails in warm water for a minute or two to soften. Then, use a metal or wooden cuticle pusher around edge of nail to push back the cuticle. The nail is formed right below the cuticle, so use a light touch to avoid damaging it.
5. Cotton balls: Saturate a cotton ball with no acetone polish remover, and wrap it around the tip of the cuticle pusher. Rub it over the nail and cuticle to wipe clean.
6. Cuticle nipper: This is the best tool for trimming hangnails, and it’s easy to use. But don’t cut your cuticles; there’s a risk of infection.
7. Cuticle oil or cream: These types of products contain strong moisturizers such as shea butter and beeswax; rub on the perimeter of nail and cuticle to soften. Wipe the nail with polish remover again to take off any oil or cream. Clean under the nail with the cuticle pusher. Follow with base coat and nail polish if you like.
Always start by applying a base coat to your nails, which gives polish a better surface to stick to. Certain formulas also harden or strengthen nails, helping them to grow. Then put on nail color in two thin coats. Thick layers take longer to dry and won’t adhere to nails properly, so polish may peel.
Let nails dry two or three minutes between coats. Brush across the tip of the nail as a last step; this helps set the polish. Avoid quick-drying top-coat formulas; they can seal the outermost layer before the other coats have had enough time to dry, causing polish to chip sooner. Instead, use a regular top coat and let your nails dry thoroughly — about 20 minutes.
Dip to Dry
Ice water helps set polish more quickly. Fill a bowl of water with ice and let it chill (do this at the beginning of the manicure so it’s ready by the time your nails are painted). After applying a top coat, immediately dip fingers in the water for about 10 seconds.