Having nice nails is a HUGE must for me. Whether they're fake or natural, I always like to take proper care of my hands so they're always at their best. Especially since I just got married, so I'm always ready to show off the ring :)
Get to know your nails!
First off, what do we know about our hands and fingernails? Well, fingernails are made up of a protein called keratin. This is also what makes up your hair, and found in your skin too. You might not know this, but your nails need moisture just the same as your skin and your hair!
Ever have those little ridges up running up and down your nail? That's from lack of moisture. It causes the nail to not grow as smoothly. Sometimes your natural nails will get this from every day ware and tear, or if you wear nailpolish frequently.
Want to get them done professionally?
There are several types of ways to get your nails done at a salon. When I was in high school and went in to get them done for the first time, I was clueless. Let me fill you in.
Manicure- a manicure typically consists of shaping your nail and cuticle, some type of lotion or treatment, a massage, and polish. Pros: Manicures are cheaper than fake nails, and last longer than a regular paint jobs you'd do at home. The nail techs don't use any files or etching to thin the nail (like they would to help the fake nails adhere better) so after your manicure is worn, your nails will be back to normal. Cons: If you're a nail biter, it won't be any easier to stay away from them. Doesn't make them longer or add any protection from breaking or chipping.
French Manicure- a french manicure is the same as a regular manicure would be, except the nail tips are painted white and the rest of the nail is a pink or neutral color. Pros: Looks of fake nails without the cost. Cons: see Manicure
Acrylic Nails- typically what you hear referred to as one 'getting their nails done'. These are the standard fake nails. They're made by gluing white tips to the end of your natural nails (and cut to the length you prefer) and a powder mixed with a liquid forms a paste that they brush on, and hardens. Pros: They last from 2-3 weeks- much longer than a manicure. Women opt for acrylics because they're stronger than the natural nail, less likely to break, and if you have biting problems, you will have a particularly hard time chewing these off. Cons: After they start growing out, the ridges will be noticeable between the fake nail and your natural ones. You can now go in to get them filled (which costs slightly less then they did initially), or you can wait for them to fall off. Your nail will be damaged for a while from the abrasion used to adhere the acrylic to the nail.
Gel Nails- as opposed to acrylics, these nails are thinner, shinier, and last longer. They're the up and coming trend in nails right now, as they promise never to damage nails the way acrylics will. They're like fake nails with a more natural look. You can get a regular manicure-looking color that will last (at least!) two weeks, or get french tips like I do, so they're a better alternative to acrylics. Pros: the ridges are much thinner, and it's therefore less noticeable when they start to grow out. They last the longest. No damaging drills to rough up the natural nail. Less harmful chemicals and it's completely odorless, so they're also the safest option when it comes to fake nails. Cons: Can be a bit more expensive than acrylics, depending on where you go. Otherwise, they're great!
(**note from Sarah: I have tried all of the above reviewed procedures at multiple salons over the years, and my favorites are the gels! I highly recommend them.)
Treat your nails with respect.
While nailpolish is said to protect your nails in certain ways- preventing cracking or splitting, sometimes the best thing to do is give them a break for a day or two. If you're anything like me, it's few and far between when you're found with naked nails. But trust me ladies- I've found it's very important to take a break from nail polish every so often. If you can't give yourself a day in between color switches, try to do it once a every month or two. Take this time to treat them to a hot oil treatment or slather on some lotion. As I mentioned above, this is important in keeping them strong and healthy.
If you aren't a big wearer of nailpolish, don't think you're exempt. You still need to pay attention to those guys too! Moisturize, file, and keep 'em clean!
Invest in a multi-sided nail file (see pic below): one that includes at least one side for buffing the top of the nail. This is key in smoothing out all the ridges you already have, making it easier to prevent them in the future.
Cut 'em down to size. The RIGHT way!
Clip them? File them? Shape them? What's the right thing to do?
The answer is a combination of everything. If you only clip your nails, you leave tiny little sharp edges on the ends of your nails, or wherever the ends of the clipper have been. This unevenness can get caught on things and break down the tip of your nail, eventually making them break or split. If you file your nails, the back and forth action causes tiny little breakage points across your nail which will make them weaker and more prone to splits as well.
The best way to work around these problems is to clip your nails down to size, and THEN file them to smooth out the edges. Be sure not to over-file; you're not filing to shorten the nail, just to smooth out any rough parts.
This is the most effective way to keep your nails healthy and prevent splits or breaks.
1. Remove all polish from your nails.
2. Clip and file the nail, using my instructions above.
If you have a nail buffer, use that to smooth out the nail now.
3. If you have a cuticle pusher, soak the nails in warm
water for 5-10 minutes. Dry hands thoroughly and push
4. Add a base coat or if you don't have that, a coat of clear
polish to your nails.
5. After the base coat is dry, add your color.
6. If you choose to, add any nail decals once the color has dried.
7. Once the color is dry or you've added decals, swipe over the nailpolish
with a top coat, or if you don't have that, some clear nail polish.
8. Show those babies off! They're lookin' good!