If your nails are thin or weak, take vitamins with iron and use nail protein as a base coat. You can also use a nail strengthener—look for one made without formaldehyde, which can make nails dry and brittle.
Nails don't have to be long to be beautiful. The shape is what counts. I recommend a natural shape that's not completely rounded or squared. Cuticles have a shape. They should be rounded in toward, not straight across, the nail bed. But don't cut them to shape them—this may cause them to split, tear, or become infected. Push them back instead.
Tonenails vs. Fingernails: The Split Personality
When it comes to nail polish, toes are the extroverts. Women typically go for natural colors on their fingernails, but they're more daring with toes because feet are far away from the face and don't compete with makeup. Fire engine red or aubergine look particularly great with a strappy pair of sandals, and don't forget fun brights for the summer!
- To do a quickie manicure, use natural shades because they don't show mistakes as easily.
- To find out what colors are trendy, go to your local nail salon and see which bottles are almost empty.
- If you're sporting brighter shades of nail polish, keep nails on the shorter side.
How to Get a Professional Manicure or Pedicure at Home
No doubt about it: professional manicures and pedicures are relaxing. Just having your hands and feet cared for by another person is powerfully therapeutic. But if you're not in the mood to splurge, you can also do it yourself at home.
- Aromatic oils
- Non-acetone polish remover
- Orangewood stick (instead of plastic)
- Real cotton balls
- Take off old polish. Use a non-acetone remover because it is easier on your nails and skin, and doesn't have any harsh vapors.
- File your nails. Try not to file the sides too much — it can cause hangnails and weaken your nails.
- Soak in warm water. Soak hands for two to three minutes, and feet for five minutes. Since soap can be drying, use scented salts or essential oils instead. If your feet are callused, use a pumice stone when feet are wet and use a foot file after they are dry. If you do this once a day, calluses won't build up.
- Condition cuticles. Use oil (if you don't have cuticle oil use olive oil or baby oil), then gently push back the cuticle with an orangewood stick to get a really nice shape. Optional step: Use an exfoliator to slough off dry skin, then rinse and put on lotion.
- Give yourself a massage. Slather hands and feet with a good vitamin E-enriched lotion. Use a non-acetone polish remover to clean the nail bed, wiping off any remaining cuticle oil or massage lotion (the surface can't be greasy when you apply polish). Clean under the nail too, with an orangewood stick wrapped with cotton and dipped in the remover. I prefer wood because it's kinder to the tender skin under the nail. Plastic is okay in a pinch — but if your remover has acetone, the plastic will melt.
- Apply nail strengthener. Or use a regular base coat. This protective layer is especially important if you're using dark polish (intense pigment can permanently stain nails).
- Apply two layers of nail color. Polish the ends of your nails, too, for extra wear.
- Apply a clear top coat. Touch the ends with this, too—if your nail was a shiny new car, this would be the front bumper. Let dry and show off your gorgeous hands and feet!
Sonia Kashuk's book, Real Beauty, is available at bookstores nationwide.