Having Fabulous Natural Nails IS Possible!
One of the key things I always tell my clients is, to come to the studio with their hands ‘ready to be photographed’. Almost always your hands will make an appearance at some point during the session, so it’s important they look just as fantastic as the rest of you!
But as someone who has historically never been able to grow or have long beautiful lady nails, I’ve always been mystified on how other women do it!
But, then, when visiting a day spa, I noticed the receptionist had lovely nails - when I asked about them, she told me they were tips… Tips?! Well… I wanted long nails at least once in my life, so I was inspired to give it a try. And they were great! For a while….
But, before long, the 3 hour bi-weekly trips to the salon were becoming quite a chore (and expensive); not to mention, you can only keep it up for so long before your natural nails begin to suffer. When the tips started popping off and there was a thin, almost non-existent nail living underneath it, I knew I had to stop…. What to do???
Well, by chance I happened to sit next to a lovely woman on a flight out to California who had amazing natural nails. I asked her her secret and she told me three things: regularly filing, taking vitamins, and wearing dish gloves. Hmmmm…..
I was inspired by her tips, but I knew for someone like me who’s nails just aren’t that strong. no matter what, I decided to dig a little deeper and come up with my own ‘formula’ for success.
And I found it!! I now have the most beautiful *natural* nails I’ve ever had.
How you ask?? It does take a little work, persistence and diligence, but if you follow my tips, it’s possible for you too!
1. Wear dish gloves! The woman on the plane was correct! When your nails get wet, they get soft and very easy to damage. Not to mention, despite any softeners or lotions they might add, dish soap is detrimental to the skin on your hands too - remember it’s the neck and the hands that give away a woman’s age, so you want to do your best to keep it all looking as healthy (and youthful) as possible.
2. File regularly. It may seem like a chore to have to file your nails often (every other day or so), but believe me, it makes a big difference. Filing keeps the edges smooth, so they don’t tear or rip as easily. Besides, the longer your nails grow, the more ‘out in the world’ they are, which means they’ll get dented and you want to keep them looking sharp and refined.
a. I use a crystal nail file (offered by Sephora). Its very delicate grain is great for precise shaping.
b. Do it when you’re on the phone or watching TV. It takes maybe a minute or two at most.
c. Practice, practice, practice. If you’re like me your motor skills are much more refined in one hand over the other, so trying to file with your weak hand may seem impossible, but with time and frequency it does get easier.
3. Push your cuticles. Dry, peeling, creeping or ‘ripped’ cuticles will make any manicure look terrible, so this too is a must do activity. I find it's easiest right after a shower or a bath when your skin is nice and soft and very easy to manipulate. My personal favorite is to use an angled orange stick to gently push back and rub with to remove any dead skin.
a. I do not recommend cutting your own cuticles!!! If you think that it’s necessary, you should leave this up to a manicurist - there is nothing more painful if you do it wrong (not to mention it makes you vulnerable to infection, which never looks pretty).
4. Don’t clip! This may seem counter intuitive, but for your hands, you should only shape with a nail file - if you need to remove an amount of length, get a nail file board that has different surfaces (very rough to fine) so that you can use the rough side to cut down and the fine side to shape up.
5. Clean underneath. Now, this doesn’t influence the length or strength any, but it does keep your hands looking neat and proper at all times. When your nails get longer you’ll notice a lot more stuff gets stuck underneath (lotions, lip balms, finger foods, etc.). So, it’s a must to be diligent - the orange stick works great for this too.
6. Apply and Repeat. Having beautiful nails is an ongoing effort. Unfortunately, its not a one and done phenomenon. I usually do a new manicure once a week or if my schedule is uber busy, then two weeks tops! But, if you follow my tips, they’ll still look great if you’re not able to keep a regular schedule.
I wish it were possible to just maintain your nails and produce magical results, but the truth is, you need a little help from the following friends if you want to truly have lovely, lady nails.
1. Nail Hardener. My favorite is by Alemana. This stuff is amazing!! It doesn’t smell the best, but you can literally feel your nails harden up as it starts to dry. It goes great under a top coat, or looks lovely on its own. It doesn’t chip, lasts long and if you’re a lazy nail painter (i.e you wait a couple weeks in between manicures) this is the stuff for you!
a. It only takes one coat to do the trick. Doing more than one can actually be a little painful.
2. Nail Strengthener. My favorite is by Barielle. This stuff is magical. Apparently it was originally formulated to use on thoroughbred race horses to keep their hooves looking show quality. When I first started using it, my poor nails were recovering from being under tips and shellac - which means they were peeling and paper thin. I did it twice a day (as recommended) until my nails started looking thicker and feeling stronger. Now I do it every other day as maintenance, but believe me, I can scratch hard surfaces, peel stickers, open coke cans, peel oranges….
3. Nail Growth. For me, my problem has always been having thin and flaking nails, whenever they’d get to a decent length, they’d start to tear or chip away. So frustrating! So, the clear solution at the time, was just to keep them short. I started using Duri Rejuvacote Nail Growth. Since using it there's a noticable difference in my nails; they are now stronger than they've ever been, and it's easy to use and dries quickly.
4. Vitamins* Beautiful nails come from the inside too. There are two specific vitamins I take to support growth and strength.
a. Biotin - this promotes “healthy hair, skin and nails” so it’s 3x win all around. The dosage is up to you - I use 5,000 mcg, which is like 1,667% of your daily value, but they have many different options, so choose one that works best for your needs.
b. Prenatal pills - I specifically use the ones made by GNC with added Iron. I started using these on the recommendation of a wonderful Makeup Artist I used to work with. And this sounds crazy, but within hours of taking both this and the Biotin my nails literally felt stronger. They now grow faster, it’s true, because when I slack off on the vitamins my nails become noticeably more flexible, and when I start up again they go back to being rock solid.
5. Nail Glue. This is a must have! Because, as your nails get longer, no matter how much maintenance and care you give, you will experience a rip, a tear or even a break from time to time. There’s nothing sadder than working months to have great nails only to have one break. I love using Kiss Salon Results Precision Nail Glue as soon as a problem shows up. Its slender tip makes it easy to apply and it dries pretty quickly. I always put a healthy drop on the top (and underneath) and then once it’s dry, file it down to smooth the surface. Once you have a break in your nail you may have to keep applying glue as it grows out, but it keeps your hands looking great.
No nails look completely finished w/o a lovely top coat. I won’t lie and say that I’m an amazing nail painter, ‘cause I’m not. Even with practice, if I used colored polish, my right hand looks like I had a kindergartener helped me out…. I’ve come up with a ‘work around’ that allows you to have lady-like hands, w/o having to pay someone to do it. The secret?? Sheer, pale shades and gold or silver glitters.
1. Using a sheer, pale shade like Dior’s Ivoire 108 or Essie’s 518 Princess Pink or K400 Pure Pearlfection will give you delicate, finished-looking nails and if you spill over to your cuticles (which I definitely do), it’s barely noticeable. Score!!
2. Or, if you’re feeling fun, using glitters as a top coat is also a great way to go, too. They make your nails look ‘wet’ and give the illusion of length (and again if you make a mess, it’s easy enough to hide). My personal favorites are Essie LuxeEffects Set in Stones (large silver flakes), As Gold as it Gets (tiny tiny gold flakes) or Encrusted Treasures, Hors d'Oeuvres, which is actually opaque gold and silver glitter, which is fun for special occasions, like New Year’s or your birthday. But, do be warned, the downside of glitter polish is that takes a some effort to remove.
1. Start with clean, dry nails (I use a non-acetone remover and a cotton ball to get rid of the prior manicure).
2. If you need to push your cuticles, do it after a shower, or you can soak your fingertips in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes too.
3. File and shape your nails - I prefer an oval, pointed tip; that to me just looks very lady-like, but you may prefer square tips or ‘squoval’ which is a combo of the two.
a. If you have to glue (or re-apply glue) to a nail, this is the time to do it. Just be sure to file or buff it down, a four sided buffer works great.
4. Apply your base coat of Alemana nail hardener. If you want to keep it simple, you can stop here.
5. Apply your top coat (sheer or glitter).
6. At night before bed, use a small amount of Barielle. Now that my nails are longer, I put it both on the topside and the underside of the tip for added impact.
7. File every few days to keep the shape and the edges smooth.
8. Take vitamins* daily (follow the instructions on the bottle).
9. Repeat after a week or two.
For the Fellas:
I don’t want you to feel left out, because having nice hands and nails is also very important for you too!
You probably won’t need any of the above mentioned products, but the 5 things you need to remember are:
1. Clean! At the bare minimum, keep under your nails clean and white and wear gloves if you’re going to be doing any manual, dirty labor.
2. Clip! Keep your nails trim and even length, nothing looks stranger than when a man has uneven or unkept nails.
3. File! Yes, you have to file! Clipping will keep them short, but filing will keep them neat.
4. Buff! This you do not have to do, but it’s highly recommended. Get a four sided buffer and take a few minutes to pass the rough side and then the smooth side over your nails to keep them looking maintained and sharp.
5. Lotion! Dry rough hands never look (or feel, ahem) good.
7. Advanced: Soak your nails in warm soapy water for 3-5 mins, and use an
Before long, you’ll notice that your nails are growing longer, stronger, and more elegant than you ever dreamed possible! Share with us your photos and tips you’d like to share!
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