The most frequently asked questions I’ve received have been focused around hand and nail care. I review lots of nail polishes and change colors frequently and taking care of my hands has always been a must. I’ll go through my hand and nail care routine and answer some questions that I receive on a regular basis.
I’ll share a bit of background on my nail/hand care routine and history. I played the violin when I was younger and kept playing through through college. This required me to keep my nails extremely short with only a sliver of the white tips showing. Out of habit and personal preference I’ve always kept my nails on the shorter end, although in recent years I’ve started growing them a bit longer. You can see the difference then in 2010 vs. now in 2014. For everyday hand activity I’ve had a diverse work history that has required a lot of typing from number crunching and market research. I tend to type with my hands at an angle (rather than having finger more at a 90 degree angle) so my nails don’t tend to hit the keys as much as someone who holds their hands at a more perpendicular angle to the keyboards. Some frequently asked questions:
- Are your nails always professionally manicured? Or do you maintain them yourself? My manicures are a mix of both professionally applied nail polish and DIY. For the longest time I couldn’t properly do my own nail polish for a full manicure. Being able to paint one’s nails doesn’t always come naturally, it takes lots and lots of practice. I would say my manicures are 50/50 done myself versus at a professional salon.
- How often do you get professional manicures? It varies depending on what I’m testing out, swatching, and also time constraints. I would say it ranges from every other week to once a month.
- Your nail polish seems to have a long wear life without tip wear, I work at an office job that requires a lot of typing, how do you avoid tip wear? Tip wear will probably depend on how long your nails are, if they are on the long side there will be a lot of surface contact which can lend to more tip wear. I recommend keeping them on the shorter end to avoid breakage. Make sure you use a good base coat, brush the tips of the nails with a bit of color to cover the end of the nail, make sure your top coat covers not just the top of your nail but brush over the tip end as well.
- What base and top coats do you use? I’ll go into what I use below, I usually use Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat and Chanel Top Coat but it varies depending on what brand of color I’m using.
- My nail polish never lasts more than 3 days, it starts to peel and chip no matter what brand, help? Several things could contribute to short-lived manicures. For prep, your nail might not be entirely clean. Even with polish remover, if you’ve used oils or lotions, there could be remnants of product still lingering on the nail. Use a nail cleaner or polish remover that helps clean (more below). You could be loading on too much color too soon. While it may seem to be a time saver to load up more color for 1 coat, don’t do it. Apply your polish in thin coats even if it looks uneven the first coat. The second or third (for sheerer colors) will smooth out the surface. You also might not be covering your entire nail tip with top coat – doing so will make sure you covered the entire nail.
- What advice would you give to those who are a novice to DIY manicures? I would recommend getting your nails professionally manicured the first 3-4 manicures you have so you can observe their application technique in person. You really only need salon manicures every once in a while for a clean up. It’s easy to maintain your nails yourself in between salon visits. You don’t necessarily have to do it yourself, as some can vouch, manicuring your own nails can sometimes take longer and be more frustrating.
- Do you need to stick with the same brand of polish and base/top coats? Or can you mix and match? I don’t think you need to stick with the same brands, although using the same can often be best. Different brands have different formulas and don’t always work well together for me. For example I’m super picky with top coats – I don’t like any sign of shrinkage where the top coats dry and shrink over the nail polish leaving a visible line around the edges. (Seche and OPI do that with Chanel for me). I like to mix and match.
The items I use are going to broken down into the following categories: Removers, Treatments, Tools, Base Prep and Top Coats. Like most beauty routines, I believe nail care items should be built slowly over time with testing or by researching reviews online.
I used to use cheap nail polish removers from CVS and Target, but after I started changing my nail polish frequently, I found that they made my nails and fingers extremely sensitive and that my nails started to peel (the actual nail). Based on reviews and recommendations I’ve found several new removers that are gentle for sensitive fingers but still very effective in removing all traces of polish. Items shown above described left to right:
- Zoya Remove + Big Flipper is a 3 in 1 product that removes color, preps the nail and conditions. I discovered this thanks to the recommendation of Café Makeup – we discussed nail care, I shared my finger woes, she said try the Zoya, it’s “so good.” She was right. Read the reviews on Zoya or Makeupalley and you’ll see others agree. There are different size options, I like the Big Flipper because it has an easy push down dispenser.
- Sephora Formula X Delete Nail Polish Remover is another love (reviewed here). This is another item I bought based on online reviews. It has a similar push down dispenser lid. I like this one because it’s compact and the design is very sleek and simple. The easy to use pump action makes it super handy – you don’t have to flip over the bottle and risk ruining painted nails if you need to clean edges or mess-ups.
- Dior Dissolvant Abricot is an ultra luxurious and pricey non-acetone remover, it has a rich abricot scent formulated with ingredients to nourish, hydrate and strengthen. I found it was extremely effective in removing Dior’s Gel Top Coat and dark polish underneath. I’m not a fan of the price and those sensitive to fragrance may find this too heavy. I went through one bottle pretty quickly and repurchased a second. It’s the only remover I’ve tried that has a slightly moisturizing/hydrating feel. If the bottle were about 3-4 times larger I think I could justify the price for more frequent use.
- Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover is the only cuticle softener that I’ve tried but I was lucky to find a really good one on my first try. It comes in a milky white liquid with a dropper. Apply to the cuticle area for a minute and then push back with a cuticle tool and it removes excess cuticle skin easily. This is a definite must for anyone who does their own manicures. It’s gentle but super effective.
I attribute good looking hands to good hand care. I’m almost always carrying one to two hand creams in my purse. I rely on L’Occitane because they come in travel sizes, a variety of scents and have fun packaging. Plus the formula is hard to beat. For extra care I’ve discovered layering oil into hand cream can help give an added boost of moisture. I prefer hand creams that absorb quickly into the skin and that aren’t greasy feeling so it doesn’t ruin paper, clothes or get everywhere you touch. My current loves, left to right:
- Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil is as good as it gets (there’s a mini version as well). A little goes a long way with the dropper, you only need a little bit. It’s not greasy but can get sticky, I recommend applying this with precision to the cuticles and rub in quickly. It has Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, Mineral Oil and smells amazing. I use this about once a week and it keeps the cuticles looking really good.
- Caudalie Divine Oil is a must for me (review here), unfortunately they’ve changed the packaging of the mini size and it doesn’t come with the spray pump dispenser. When I visited the Venice Boutique, they had hand massage treatments and they mixed the oil with their Hand and Nail Cream (review here) which is another staple of mine. I can’t rave enough about these.
- Tatcha Soothing Silk Indigo Hand Cream (review here) helps to soothe dry or irritated hands, it hydrates well and absorbs quickly into the skin, the packaging is compact enough to fit into the purse
- L’Occitane Hand Creams have been a classic for me for years (check out the L’Occitane Hand Cream Bar), they can be on the pricey side for the side, but the formula is worth every penny, these come in a variety of scents and special formulas, my current favorites are the Shea Butter Honey (soothing and creamy) along with the new Vitória-Régia from the Viva Brazil collection (lush sweet floral). L’Occitane has monthly gift with purchase promotions in stores and online, it’s one of the few brand newsletters I subscribe to that I don’t mind receiving weekly (they have good deals). I’ve converted so many of my friends to L’Occitane as these hand creams make good small gifts or add-ons (just add a box of Godiva chocolate or small bouquet of flowers).
- Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Hand Cream was a huge step-up gift with purchase from Neiman Marcus at one of the Estee Lauder events they had a year ago in store. I was a bit intimidated by the size and packaging as it looks like an intensive treatment. It is indeed an intense hand cream but still very gentle and is the best at smoothing lines. You can see the effects immediately and over time it does improve the overall look and appearance of your hands.
My tools are very basic, items were either found at local drugstores or Ulta. There are a wide number of tools out on the market, I’m sure there are more experienced nail experts who know more about tools, my picks were picked out without much research or planning.
- Revlon Nail Clipper is an older version that I have, they’ve gone through a few revamps and upgrades in packaging design but the overall shape and size remains the same
- Tweezerman Nail File I’ve picked up various nail files over the years, I find Tweezerman to be sturdy but with a rough enough surface to be effective on harder nails but not too harsh, the ones from Sephora that I’ve bought come with a plastic storage sleeve which is convenient for storage (and makes sure it doesn’t scratch your other products)
- Ulta Crystal Nail File if you’re one who hates the feeling of filing nails, you need to check out Crystal Nail Files, a multitude of brands have these such as OPI and Sephora. These have a unique fine-grade glass surface that is good for sensitive or thinner nails, it gently smooths edges and also has a tapered precision tip to clean beneath the nail.
- Tweezerman Pushy Cuticle Pusher is a smaller tool for cuticles, I prefer smaller shapes, although some prefer ones with larger curved tips to match the natural shape of the nails. I find the Tweezerman one to be small enough for my small fingers, it’s sturdy and effective for me. For any kind of cuticle removal or care, I recommend you proceed with extra caution. Don’t push too hard and be extra gentle with the cuticles – this is where I recommend you observe a professional several times before attempting on your own.
- Revlon Cuticle Nippers are another basic drugstore purchase, I’ve had two from Revlon, both have lasted over 5 years, just make sure you clean them regularly with warm water and soap (I use antibacterial dish soap) or alcohol. I wouldn’t recommend using cuticle clippers regularly, I use them to clip hang nails or only use if the cuticles have been softened and properly prepped.
For base coats, I look for something that helps protect bare nails. I look for items that won’t turn the nails yellow, items that aren’t drying and that also don’t make the nails peel. I’ll highlight the ones I use briefly, let me know if you need more information on any of these, I find they all work well with other brands such as Chanel, OPI, YSL, Dior, Tom Ford and NARS.
- Sephora Formula X Nail Cleanser (reviewed here) is a relatively new discovery for me but I find that having a completely clean nail surface before using base coat or color really makes a difference in the wear of nail polish
- Sephora Formula X Base Coat (reviewed here) is a sticky formula that helps polish adhere well, I like this best with the Formula X polishes but I’ve also tried (and love it) with Dior, Marc Jacobs and Chanel
- CND Stickey Base Coat is a classic that I’ve repurchased multiple times, it’s an affordable option that works well with all brands I’ve tried
- Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat is my most-frequently used base coat, I don’t usually have nails that peel except when I do a lot of swatching and comparisons on the fingers, this helps immensely
- Sephora Formula X Shine Top Coat (review here) is an awesome top coat but is on the thicker side, it works best with Formula X brand nail colors, when I used The System and their Nail Color, I had a manicure last over 7 days without any tip wear or chipping
- Creative Nail Design Super Shiny Top Coat is another beauty staple, some of the nail salons I go to layer this with a Revlon top coat for an ultra cushy look (I haven’t looked into the Revlon personally)
- Chanel Laque Brilliance Extreme is my all time favorite top coat, it helps my polishes last long, doesn’t crack or chip and give a lush shiny gloss
- Rescue Beauty Lounge Top Coat is another item I’ve repurchased (I’m on my third bottle), it’s just as good as Chanel, some say it’s better, mine has a pinkish tinge because I didn’t let my pink nail polish dry long enough and had some color transfer
- Dior Gel Coat is a top coat I’ve found works best with Dior Polishes (Chanel v Dior post here), it works well over other brands for a gel-shine finish and lush look, but can be prone to cracking on certain brands
This sums up my hand and nail care favorites. I hope this give you a comprehensive overview on my personal hand and nail care routine. To recap, I definitely think you can maintain your hands and nails on your own but regular salon visits help keep hands looking better. You don’t need an expensive salon to maintain your nails, there are a lot of good ones that are more affordable.
This post contains some items that were sent for review consideration. Most items were purchased by me. Press samples include Sephora The System, Tatcha Indigo, L’Occitane Vitória-Régia. For more information refer to my Disclosures.