April 27, 2013

Nail Care Basics (Or, The Most Important Blog Post Of Your Lifetime)

Nail care basics essentials best Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator Butter London cuticle remover Nail Envy OPI Original Seche Vite Seche Clear glossy top coat base coat Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil

You're never going to achieve Great Nails if you're not keeping them healthy and using the right tools. It's just science. Too many people just devote all their time to the polish and painting their nails and wonder why their nails are still looking a mess. For Great Nails, you need to invest in the health of both your nails and cuticles. The nail questions I probably get asked most have to do with cuticle upkeep and how to combat different problems relating to nail health. My nail routine is practically perfect in every way at this point and I'm about to divulge all my secrets in an ultimate nail care product guide.

Here are the basics that anyone who has fingernails should own:

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream Denco nail brush Tweezerman stainless steel cuticle pusher glass file nail care basics essentials
Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, Denco nail brush, Nail clipper, Tweezerman Stainless Steel Cuticle Pusher, glass file

Nail care basics essentials best Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator Butter London cuticle remover Nail Envy OPI Original Seche Vite Seche Clear glossy top coat base coat Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil
butter London Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator, OPI Nail Envy Original, Seche Clear base coat, Seche Vite top coat, Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil

butter London Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator ($19)
I will admit, the price of this is steep at $19 for .6 fl oz. I put off buying it for the longest time because I wanted to barf thinking about parting with 19 of my dollars for one little item. All that time is just months of my life that I could have spent with pristine cuticles, wasted. This stuff is amazing and truly does "melt away" even the driest cuticles. My old cuticle remover was a Sally Hansen gel and I just full on threw it in the trash after using this twice. Just threw away an almost full bottle of something I paid for, something sitting among nail polishes I hate or top coats that I think are just meh. I NEVER throw away nail things but I knew nothing was going to compare to the butter London version. Apply to your cuticles after soaking your hands in warm water (or after a hot shower) for best results.

Tweezerman Stainless Steel Cuticle Pusher and Cleaner ($18)
 I use this with butter London's Cuticle Eliminator and the combination is almost too good. They remove a disgusting amount of skin without any effort so you have to use a gentle hand when using the two together. Scrape off all the dead skin and push your cuticles back so you'll have a nice, big canvas for your nail polish.

 Denco Heavy Duty Nail Brush ($3.19)
 I ordered mine on drugstore.com and it shows that I wasn't able to pick out the color myself (probably the only dark green thing I own). Use this with regular old hand soap to exfoliate the last of the dead skin off your fingers and remove the cuticle eliminator.

Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil ($8.50)
This is my favorite cuticle oil and it really smells like apricots. The only downside is that you probably will never be able to eat apricots again. I had apricot sherbert at a restaurant last year and could only eat a couple bites because it just tasted like hands. I apply this liberally to my cuticles (and my nails, on off polish days) both after my cuticle routine and after painting my nails.

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream ($3.49)
A cheaper alternative to Lush's Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter. If you prefer cuticle cream to oil, I recommend this.

For Shaping:
I use whatever nail clippers, just switching between a straight and curved edge depending on the nail shape I'm going for. That being said, anyone who tells you nail files don't matter is flat out untrustworthy. It's tempting to buy the dollar a ten pack emery boards or the cute, patterned emery boards many stores sell but for the love of your nails, don't do this. These files will rip apart the edges of your nails and promote peeling which will make your manicure chip. Long term use is going to make your nails brittle and they'll start falling apart, edges first. Stick to crystal or glass files and try to file in one direction instead of going back and forth, even if the latter makes you feel like Beyonce in the Irreplaceable music video.

When You Paint Your Nails:

OPI Nail Envy, Original Formula ($17)
 I've been around the block a few times and have tried multiple formulas of Nail Envy. I like the original the best; it dries quickly, it isn't thick or gooey and it really helps improve the quality of your nails. I think you're making a mistake if you paint your nails a lot and don't use a nail strengthener. This stuff will rebuild even the thinnest, peeling, brittle nails. I use it every time I paint my nails as the foundation for my polish to nourish my nails. You can also paint extra layers on top of your manicure if you plan stick with one color for awhile.

Seche Clear base coat ($7)
To be honest, I'm not married to a particular base coat. I think it's a good idea to shop around and find what fits you best. Do your nails chip no matter what you do? Orly Bonder Base Coat is probably the best choice. Do you suffer from ridges? Look for a ridge filling base coat. Regardless of what you pick, base coats are an important step because they form a barrier between your nail and the polish and prevent gross things like yellowing. Apply a coat over the Nail Envy and then paint your nails as usual.

Seche Vite top coat ($8)
I endorse no other top coat. I've tried Out the Door. I've tried Sally Hansen Insta Dri. I always come back to Seche Vite, wondering why I even bothered trying to beat perfection in the first place. Your nails dry quickly and to a glossy, mirror like shine. I know a lot of people complain that it gets thick and unmanageable halfway through but that's why they sell Seche Restore! Invest in that and add a couple of drops into your goopy bottle - good as new. People also worry about the California warning that says the product could cause birth defects but whatever, I'll give birth to a kid with a dorsal fin if it means my nails get to look this good.

Optional Extras:
  • Vitamins can make all the difference for the health of your nail and can be instrumental if you're trying to grow yours out. I'm no medical professional, but I've personally found that biotin works the best for me. Still, you have to realize that you're putting something into your body that won't stop at your nails. Biotin will also make your hair grow like crazy which can be good for growing your hair long but bad when you end up needing a weed whacker for your legs or have to invest in a waxing kit for a mustache you definitely didn't have before. Biotin can also do crazy things to your skin. I once bumped myself up to a 10,000mg per day pill and ended up with breakouts that extended all the way to my scalp. What works best for me is 5,000mg of biotin every other day. I still buy the 10,000mg pills and cut them in half to get double the crazy nail growth for my money. Drugstores also sell Hair, Skin and Nails multi vitamins if that's more your speed. Prenatal vitamins do wonders as well. Find what works for you if you're in a rut trying to grow your own long talons.
  • Steer clear of nail polish removers with acetone. It's very drying for your nails and just plain bad for them. I try to avoid acetone unless I'm particularly frustrated with a stubborn glitter polish (yes, I know about the foil method, I'm just not here for it) and stick with more nourishing formulas for everyday use.
Trust me, use this routine a few times and you'll find that you're worrying about your cuticles a whole lot less. I can tell you first hand that taking poor care of your cuticles can result in a trip to the emergency room (but that's a story for another time) so I, as a non medical professional, highly recommend giving them a little TLC. Healthy cuticles will not only promote general nail health but they'll keep you from becoming one of those tragic Instagram users who proudly take pictures of their manicures with messed up cuticles. You know the ones. Where they seem so pleased with their nails but their cuticles are dry and peeling and you're just recoiling and wondering how painful it is, totally too distracted by their sloppy cuticle hygiene to even care about their new nail polish or nail art. You'll soon be this judgmental about bad cuticles because your problem ones will be transformed with these products. You're welcome!

I realize the prices of some of these items are intimidating and may seem like a waste. $10 or $20 goes a long way and it can be hard to spend it on cuticle oil or base coat or a cuticle pusher instead of something fun, like a new nail polish. Still, think about it. You'll be using these products every single time you paint your nails, no matter the color, and get a lot more use out of them than a new eyeshadow or nail polish. You'll get your money's worth and your nails and cuticles will absolutely notice the difference. Painting your nails can take a lot out of them and it's just plain irresponsible to use things like chemicals and acetone on your nails without protecting and nourishing them.

For best prices, I usually order from drugstore.com/beauty.com as they're not susceptible to the inflated prices I suffer through in city drugstores. Another unexpected place to find great deals on all of these items in Bed Bath and Beyond. They have a huge selection of beauty products (such as the glass file shown above) and are usually a couple dollars cheaper than a drugstore. Every little bit helps, even when you're buying $19 cuticle remover, right?

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