I've had several requests for a post about how I care for my nails, and I've finally been able to put that together.
The simple answer, and I apologize in advance, is that I don't really do much. For the most part, I'm fairly lucky with respect to my nails--they are mostly strong enough and have a pretty decent shape. So, before I begin, let me say that just because I do or don't do something, that doesn't make it right! I know I'm lucky with my nails and may not have to do things that are important for other people. And, there may very well be better products out there than the ones I use--I'd love to hear about it if you think so, I'm always looking for what works best. So my recommendations are purely based on what I've managed to find, and like. Please do not take anything I say here with anything other than a huge grain of salt. :)
That said, I do have several problem issues. One is, especially on my right hand, I tend to get splits and peels, and once they start, it's hard to stop them, and it can be very frustrating. The second is, I'm a bit of a germ-o-phobe, so I tend to wash my hands a lot, and that makes my cuticles a bit dry and tough. Finally, when my nails get longer, they curl at the tips. I'll talk about all of these issues below.
When I do a complete manicure, here's what I do:
1) Remove polish.
Back when I did my nails only 1-2 times a week, it didn't matter what sort of nail polish remover I used; I honestly couldn't tell the difference. But since I discovered Konad and started blogging, I remove my polish almost every day (except on rare occasions), and sometimes more than once per day. Since doing this, I've found that I can tell more of a difference, and need to use something a bit more high-quality on my nails. My solution has been Zoya Remove Plus Nail Polish Remover, Which you can find here. A side benefit of this polish is that it comes in a pump bottle, which is a life-saver around my highly destructive kitties and my highly clumsy self--no open polish remover bottles to be knocked over:
You can also buy a bigger refill bottle which makes the remover a bit more economical. It's not cheap regardless, but if you change polish frequently, it's worth the money, imo.
2) Cuticle remover.
I'm not going to recommend a particular one for you, because I'm currently looking to switch myself, because my old brand is owned by a non-cruelty-free company. But, this is a crucial part of my complete manicure and pedicure routine. I apply the remover gel, let it sit according to the directions, and then remove, while pushing my cuticles back with an orange stick. If you don't know what an orange stick is, you really do know, you just don't know that you know (did you follow that?). It's one of these guys:
You can get these just about anywhere, including Sally Beauty and any drugstore...but I get mine on eBay, where they run about a dollar per metric crap-ton (which translates to about 50 in my own personal language). I use the slanted side to push my cuticles back and simultaneously remove the cuticle remover gel. I constantly wipe the end clean on a paper towel while I do it. You can buy plastic ones that can be reused, if you clean them carefully. I just use the biodegradable disposable type. :)
3) Wash your hands thoroughly.
I do this by using a sugar scrub to further exfoliate the cuticles and surrounding skin, and then wash with soap and water. You can use any exfoliant, but I got some Qtica Grapefruit Surprise Sugar Scrub free with an order I placed with Zoya, and I've fallen in love with it. It smell great, works great, and you don't really need much, so it lasts for a fairly long time:
You can find it by clicking here. You want to make sure to wash your hand well, because if you leave cuticle remover on your skin, it will not end well for you.
4) Cuticle oil!
I finish up with cuticle oil. I love California Mango Magic cuticle oil, which was recommended by Colette of My Simple Little Pleasures. I agree with her that it smells great, and I love that it absorbs quickly--I hate to have oily fingers, yuck!!
You can find it at Sally Beauty by clicking here.
Whenever I think about it, I will toss on some cuticle oil, and some Hard As Hoof. I am mentioning the Hard As Hoof to be completely honest about what I use, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. I can't say that I've seen a ton of difference since I started using it, but I also don't use it as often as it says you should, so I haven't given it a fair test in that respect. But, I do love the way it smells, and it makes me feel pampered, so I'll use it up and then decide if I want to get more.
I file my nails 1-2 times a week, depending on how fast they are growing (mine seem to grow faster in summer, but maybe this is just my mind messing with me, lol). Here is the exact file I use; I got it at Sally Beauty but can't find it on their on-line site:
Oh, and I *always* use a base coat. Always. No matter what. Don't actually care which one--I have about 10--but I always use one to prevent staining and to make polish removal easier.
Breaks, splits and peeling
I keep my nails fairly short, but even so I do get some breaks. And once I get a break, I tend to get a never-ending cycle of splits and peels coming off of that break...the break causes some peeling around it, which weakens that part of the nail, which then breaks or peels, which weakens the nail around it...you get the picture. Luckily, I have found a solution, again from Colette at My Simple Little Pleasures. She has a tutorial on patching your nails (You can find her updated tutorial here.), and the products and technique she recommends have been brilliantly successful for me--and have had unexpected side-benefits. I originally tried her technique to try to grow out a break on the side of my nail, and I discovered two extra benefits...first, the patches also allowed the nail to grow out to the point where the peeling/splitting stopped too. So, I tried it on a second nail that had been caught in the never-ending peeling cycle, and wore it until my nail grew out about 1/4 of an inch. While it was growing out, I filed it and treated it otherwise as normal...and when I finally took the patch off--no more splitting or peeling! The patch had given the nail a chance to grow out enough so that the weakened area no longer sabotaged the nail below it, and it's been beautiful and strong ever since. The second benefit was that the patch, when worn on the tip of my nail, almost completely eliminated the curling; I'm not sure why, but my guess is that the extra strength kept the edges from curling under. I have not tried wearing patches solely to keep my nails from curling, but every once in a while I'm tempted to do just that. I'm also not sure that this would work with longer nails, I just know it works with mine, so I thought I'd mention it. :)
UPDATE: My friend Dina of Secretary's Nail Art has suggested to help my curling, I soak my nails once a week in a warm bath with a bowl of argan oil or almond oil. I'm definitely going to try this!
What I don't do
Here are a few things I don't do, just so you don't wonder if I just forgot to mention them. I don't take any sort of special vitamins for my nails. Maybe I wouldn't get the curling if I did, but I've never heard of that helping anyone else in that respect, so I don't bother. I also don't buff my nails unless I have some unusual problem going on (a bump due to smashing my nail or something like that); I don't like to do anything that can weaken my nails, even a little bit, and buffing takes off part of the top layer of the nail. Nor do I use ridge-fillers on my fingernails (I *do* use these on my toenails at times, because my toenails are tragic beyond understanding). Most polishes work well enough to fill out imperfections on my fingernails in my experience, and the few that don't, I don't need to own. Let me say again that this doesn't mean these things don't work great for other people! I just haven't found them that helpful for me. :)
So there you have it, that's my routine. I'm sure I've forgotten something, so I'll probably need to update later, lol! I'm not sure if I covered everything that people wanted to know, so if I didn't definitely ask me. :)
I hope this wasn't too too too boring for people...Thanks for reading if you made it this far! :)