We're phasing out of gel-nails and bringing back DIY nails. Here are some tips on easily transitioning to stronger natural nails
I’ll admit, nothing intimidates me more than the thought of doing my own nails at home. For the longest time, I’ve always had them done at a salon. Not necessarily because I want to (I could do without spending $60 on a manicure) but because I, for the life of me, simply can’t.
I used to think of myself as one of those people that are just not blessed with the patience of doing nails. And in terms of my approach to caring and maintaining them, let’s say I put it in the same category as hair—best to leave it to the experts. (Probably not the best way to start an article about nails, but I thought I owed Sauce readers the truth) If you think about it, nails are one of the first beauty treatments we learn as kids. From an early age, we were taught to shower every day, brush our teeth, comb our hair, and keep our nails short and clean. I’m trying to remember when this personal-grooming ritual, became this intimidating essentially-done-by-a-professional task. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything bad about having your nails done at a salon. Nothing beats its convenience, and the feeling you get after seeing your freshly-painted nails, an evidence that you’ve succumbed to the calls of the “treat yourself” voice inside your head-- It’s the best.
But let’s get one thing straight; nail care is not only about nail polish, the same way that skincare is not only about moisturizing. In my journey to loving and caring for my nails, I’ve collected 6 guidelines from nail experts that have truly transformed how I viewed nail care and giving gel nails a pass this season. If you’re anything like me, and you enjoy saving money and putting a little extra effort in personal grooming, this article is for you.
1. The three absolutes of nail care.
Nothing has to be complicated
Everything is fixable
A little bit of TLC goes a long way
From the very first chapter of her book, Ji Baek, author of Rescue Your Nails and founder of New York’s top nail salon Rescue Beauty Lounge, made sure that every woman starting out on their venture to nail care knows these three absolutes. To be honest, I was a bit taken aback when I first read this, I mean, just the first absolute alone was enough to make me want to raise my hand in protest. But as the nail guru herself goes on to explain, nails are not and should not be complicated at all. If anything, among any other beauty treatments they’re the least complex, “Nail care is about instant gratification and looking good” Ji Baek shares.
Think of it this way: if you are trying out a new product on your skin, you usually have to wait a couple of days to see its full effect. Nails, however, are another story. You can change your nails as quickly as you change your mind, and if you end up not liking it, it doesn’t matter, because everything is fixable. It’s time we put on our big girl pants and stop looking at doing nails like a chore. A little bit of care at home can make a massive difference down the line, and even save you a few trips to your nail salon.
2. Water intake and proper diet is key to stronger nails
When our bodies are lacking the nutrients it needs, our skin, hair and nails show the first signs of this. To combat this, make sure to include calcium-rich foods and Vitamin E in your diet, as they are essential in building strong, good-looking nails. So next time you pack yourself some lunch, throw in a yogurt or a bag of almonds in there to help revive your nails from the inside. Dehydration is a major cause in nails being brittle and cracked. Drinking enough water and other liquids (like carrot juice, which is rich in calcium and phosphorous) is important if you want to rid yourself of dry skin and cracks in your nails.
3. So what’s really causing your nails to be dry and brittle?
Most often than not, it’s caused by external factors in our everyday lives. If you’re the kind of gal who likes to get her hands dirty (and we mean literally), you might want to consider wearing gloves especially when handling detergents or any form of chemicals that could damage your fingernails. Gloves can also be handy when doing housework or gardening. A good tip by Mabel Van Niekerk in her book, Finger and Toe Nail Care: Facts and Information, is to apply hand cream or lotion on your hands before putting on gloves.
Also, avoid using nail polish removers with acetone and alcohol. Most brands nowadays carry two varieties; acetone and non-acetone. Although the former is notorious for effectively removing polish, it is extremely drying and should be avoided by people who have sensitive nails.
Finally, although we mentioned how amazing water is for good-looking nails, soaking your nails in them is a no-go. Long exposure to water can cause your nail plates to be more prone to dryness and breakage. Remember to keep your nails out of the water!
Sauce Recommends: For a milder alternative to acetone, use RGB Cosmetics Nail Color Remover Pads. (Which by the way is 100% organic and is Soy-based!). And to give your cuticles the nourishment it needs apply Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil, perfect for days when you’re without polish but still want your nails to look healthy and moisturised!
4. Rules for tools (THREE S'S: Sanitation, Sterilization, and Storage)
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the horror stories of a bad manicure. The worst being; to get cut by an unsanitary nipper and suffer from a fungal infection. Which, if you’re on the fence about, one of our favourite nail artists, Bonnie Hu (of Bonnie Hu Nails & Makeup), shares her sage advice on avoiding infections, “Don’t ever cut your cuticle skin, or let anyone do so. It’s there to protect your fingers and it’s a piece of living tissue. Nipping them off could easily cause infections and normally cause a bit of pain and discomfort, which indicates it shouldn’t be cut off.” Now I don’t mean to put you off, remember: nothing has to be complicated! But it is important that you know the three s’s of caring for your tools if you plan to do your nail care at home safely.
Nail salons are equipped with sterilization machines that efficiently cleans tools, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself at home. Dry-heating, boiling, and soaking are three effective ways to sterilize your tools in your kitchen. After you’ve sterilized your tools, it’s time pack them away and put them someplace free from dirt and dust. Which brings us to storage, a crucial step to caring for your tools. Experts recommend putting them in a zip lock bag or a medical pouch to keep them nice and sanitary.
5. If it works for your face, it works for your hands.
Repurposing beauty products is not only a sure way of getting the most out of your dollar, but is an opportunity to be a bit more creative in your regimen. And yes, you’ve read that right: you can use face products for your hands. Although the skin on your hands is a bit tougher than that of your face, all the good chemicals and emollients in your facial cleansers, moisturizers, and serums can work wonders in your hands.
If you want to go the extra mile and purchase a product specifically designed for your hands and nails, we got you covered! An insider tip from Bonnie Hu is to “use cuticle oil at least once a day, it’s gonna be the best friend of your nails and skin around. My fave is Dadi Oil by Famous Names, it’s 95% organic and super concentrated, it beats all the diluted commercial brands you see in pharmacies, but it’s only sold in professional salons.” There you have it, whether you’re raiding your medicine-cabinet or paying your local beauty supply store a visit, it’s time to get cracking and give your hands and nails a much-needed TLC session.
Sauce Recommends: To exfoliate your hands, use a facial scrub and rinse it off. This is a great way to get rid of the dead skin in your palms and fingers. Cracked cuticles? Apply eye cream on it and leave overnight. Eye creams are very richly formulated and give concentrated moisture to the skin, perfect for cuticles which tend to dry out easily.
6. Don’t be afraid to try new trends.
One of the great things about doing your own nails at home is the freedom to put on any colour of nail polish you want, no matter how bold or simple, without the fear of getting judged by the person sitting next to you. Doing your nails at home gives you a creative space to experiment without the added pressure of anyone telling you what colour to choose. And the best part is, if you’re not happy, all it takes is a swipe of some polish remover and you’re back to a blank canvas (without charge!).
Sauce Recommends: If you’re stuck in a rut or just want to try something different but not too out there, we say: red nails are the way to go! Try Burberry Military Red or for a more affordable dupe Essie Nail Polish in Clambake. If you want to go down the au naturale road, coat your nails with Sally Hansen Hard As Nails clear polish that also doubles as a nail hardener! Classic nudes in your thing? We've got you covered.
Nails are one of the most neglected parts of our beauty regimen, yet it plays a major role in how we present ourselves to the world. You would be surprised how much a simple clear nail polish can instantly change the way someone talks with their hand. So, I think it’s only fair that we finally give our nails the love and care it deserves.
I mean, I know I will.
Images via intothegloss.com and vogue.com
Words | Jameela Jouf-Gatanela
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Jameela is a self-proclaimed beauty addict and soy caramel latte apologist. She is absolutely terrible at writing bios, but pretty okay with writing thought pieces and reviews. You can find her work here and on her Instagram @jmgtnl