Saffron’s Guide to Claws and Paws
One of the things I am routinely complimented on is my hands and nails – they’re kind of the most well-kept part of my body (and I talk with my hands a lot so I guess they grab attention flapping about) so I do have a great nail care routine.
So, since I’m apparently a hand- and nail-expert, here’s what I do to keep my talons in shape.
Dish gloves are a must
Water, especially hot, soapy water is the enemy of your hands and nails. This is why I avoid doing dishes at any cost (I’ve been known to fake illness to get out of doing it), but when I must I wear gloves. The gloves feel and look gross but not as gross as when your skin cracks open from being dried out!
Pick a shape & length that works for you
We all have differently shaped nails and nail beds – I have long nail beds and very curved nails. This means that a squared-off or “squoval” nail is basically impossible for me to pull off, since my nail has such a naturally rounded shape. So I go with an almond or oval shape and vary the length depending on mood. If you’re unsure of what shape to choose, look at the shape of your cuticle and mirror it. A flatter nail can pull off a more square shape, while a curved nail works best with rounded shapes.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Nails are kind of gross, when you think about them – dead cells that gather filth and bacteria underneath. Yuck. That’s why it’s important to brush your nails when you wash your hands – nail brushes are cheap and only take a moment to use. Get a nail brush that’s on the softer side and gently scrub the underside and the area around your nail bed – and don’t forget to do the same to your toenails when you’re showering!
I keep my nails polished at all times. There’s a pervasive myth that your nails need to “breathe” in between manicures – it’s nonsense. Nail polish forms a protective barrier that helps keep your nails from weakening from things like hot water. Use a good protective base coat to start and seal it all off with a high-shine top coat. The varnish forms a hard shell that acts kind of like splint for weak nails, keeping them from flexing too much.
Remove polish gently
There are dizzying amounts of nail polish removers on the market, and I’ve recently become a convert to the dip-in method where a sponge soaked in remover is housed in a plastic container. Stick a polished fingertip in, wiggle around a bit, and voila – no polish. Some removers will feel immediately drying and make your nails flaky and weak, so shop around for a type that’s gentle but effective, and don’t forget to moisturize your nail after exposing it to nail polish remover.
I’m obsessed with exfoliating pretty much every part of my body, and my nails are no exception. Perhaps you’ve seen products labelled “peeling gel” or “cuticle remover” – it sounds scarier than it is. These products help slough off residual dead skin on the top of your nail and around the nail bed, giving you a smooth surface with a well-kept appearance. If you use these types of products regularly, you won’t need to push or (heaven forbid) cut your cuticles ever again.
Thou Shalt Not Buff
Allow me to share a horror story. I was watching Stranger Things with my mother, and she was buffing her nails at the same time – without paying enough attention. The next day, she shows me her nails – thin and papery with bright red spots showing through the nail from irritation. Yes, my friends – she’d nearly buffed straight through the nail. If your nails are EXTREMELY ridgy, you may be permitted a LIGHT buffing, but for the love of god be careful. (and this, by the way, is why I don’t do gel or acrylic)
Oils are a hot ticket item in beauty care, and nail oils are a classic. Your nails, unlike your face, aren’t super picky – you can get a fancy nail oil specially formulated for the nail or just drip on a face or body oil you find lying around your bathroom cabinet. Don’t forget the underside of the nail – I like to use a cotton bud here. Creams also if you prefer them (they’re certainly less messy). If you’re super dry, a balm like aquaphor or even lip balm will do the trick.
Cut only when you must
Cutting nails is something that should only be done in the case of emergency – don’t ask me why, but whenever you approach a nail with scissors or clippers you start getting tears and cracks. Sometimes, if my nails are way too long I’ll trim off a bit with clippers before filing, but generally it’s best to shape your nails using a glass file. Glass files are gentler than emery boards and last longer before they lose their grit – and of course, you should be filing in one direction rather than a sawing motion. I file in a V shape, so I always file towards the tip of the nail.
Nail Hardeners Are Liars
Nail hardeners may be a tempting option if your nails are weak and flimsy. I was once like this – my nails kept bending, tearing and separating into gross flaky layers. So I tried some nails hardeners. A lot of nail hardeners. I’ll tell you right now – they did jack shit. In fact, they may make your nails too hard and brittle, making them shatter like glass. Plus, a lot of hardeners contain formaldehyde which you don’t want touching your skin.
While all these things have helped my nails go from flaky and weak to strong and healthy, I also want to point out that genetics play a part here. And if you find your nails are unusually weak, discoloured or brittle, you may want to see a doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of a more serious medical issue.
Now tell me your favourite nail care tricks and products in the comments!