The Basics of Polishing – Manicure Prep

Are there are secrets to starting off a manicure right? I think this is a question every woman asks at some point in her life, and honestly, probably some men as well. And the answer is “Yes!” There is a correct way to starting off a manicure correctly, but don’t worry, it’s actually pretty simple, and it has everything to do with Nail Care. I will go over the extensive options for Nail Care in that specific series, but be warned, there may be some overlaps here.

If you are just starting this for the first time: take your time. Don’t rush anything with this process. It will set you up for success with your manicure, and make things ten times easier next go-around.

Step 1: Wash Your Hands

Say wha’ now? Yes, wash your hands. Get any and all dirt off of them, and make sure you get under your nails. Sounds pretty simple, but excess dirts and oils on your hands can cause some issues with your mani.

Now, let’s add a Nate-trick here. Wash your hands with a sugar scrub instead of a soap. I will admit, I have never come across this being used by anyone else but it is amazing! I personally just buy some by Tree Hut® from the store, and I do this for three main reasons:

  1. Exfoliation – it helps remove dead skin and calluses from your hands.
  2. Cuticles – Oh yes, it works wonders with rough cuticles, and helps minimize maintenance on them, by doing most of the work for you, and the sugar does it so gently.
  3. Moisturize – manicures are rough on hands and specifically fingers. I’m not going to sugar coat it, they are. Sugar scrubs are a great way to prep your hands before you do anything, because they almost guard your hands from the worst of it, such as acetone and getting dried out.

Step 2: File & Shape Your Nails

I cannot stress this enough: Do not clip your nails. As someone who fought weakened nails for years, using clippers made it so much worse, and I had no idea what I was doing, until I came across another blogger who pointed this out. I unfortunately cannot remember where I found it, but to whom it may concern: a most sincere Thank you! The force of clipping your nails, even though to some it may not seem as much, frays the free edge of your nail, starting your impending broken or peeling nail for you.

It is much nicer on your nails to simply file them down. For some this may seem like a chore, but as I said before, if you do this before each manicure, or once every two weeks even, it is not that terrible of a chore. It is actually something I enjoy doing while I sit in front of the T.V. with my family at the end of the day. Take heed to file your natural nails properly, otherwise filing them could also be detrimental to their health. A lot of people file their nails with fast, sharp back and forth strides with the file. That is not proper etiquette for natural nails. That is only allowable when filing down built-up acrylic nails. When filing your natural nails make sure that you consistently file in the same direction. Did you know that the fibers that make up your nails are essentially woven in a criss-cross? Filing back and forth, weakens that weave at the free edge and essentially starts any fraying that you may be trying to avoid. By filing in a single direction, your nails will adjust to it, and it will in turn, help your nails grow stronger.

There are many shapes of nails that you can files your to, and we will cover them at some point in another post, but the simplest, and usually most attractive shape to most people is the most natural, and/or that reflects the shape of your cuticle bed, for the sake of symmetry. If you struggle with weak nails, I would recommend starting by keeping your nails shorter for the first couple manicures you do, to help avoid any unnecessary possibilities of breaking or damaging them.

Step 3: Cuticle Care

The next step to prep your nails for a manicure is to take care of your cuticles. Now, I want you to take a good close look at your nail. Most people call the skin bed around the base and sides of the nail bed, the cuticle. I am going to bust that myth right now. That is actually called the Eponychium. Your cuticle is the thin sliver of tissue between the base of your nail bed and the Eponychium.

Your cuticle can cause issues with your mani staying put, if it is left in the way. Don’t think I want you to go cutting it or anything. Nothing of the sort! We’re simply going to move it out of the way. You may use an orange wood stick or there are metal cuticle pushers available. Word of Caution: The metal cuticle pushers are great because they can move most of the cuticle at a time but it is very easy for you to scrape your actual nail with them if you apply too much force.

With either of your choice, you’re simply going to push your cuticle back towards the Eponychium. Sometimes, pushing your cuticles back can be difficult, and can cause them to rip if they are too dry. If this is the case then simply apply a bit of cuticle oil, or olive oil will do the trick if you do not have any. You do not need a lot of the oil, just the smallest amount will do. Paint it around all three edges of your nails and rub it into the nail bed and cuticle, minding to rub towards towards the free-edge of your nail. Not only will this massage the oil into the cuticle quicker, but it also stimulates healthy nail growth. Once the cuticle oil is completely absorbed and your cuticles are in place, you’re ready to move on.

Step 4: Dehydrate Your Nail Bed

That sounds much worse than it actually is, I promise. If you are someone who struggles with nail polish staying on, it may be due to the natural oils our nails produce to keep them moisturized. Polish or any Base Coat, won’t adhere to the best of its abilities to a nail covered in oils. For this you will need a bottle of 100% acetone and a medium sized brush. Drip the brush in the acetone and simply dust it across your nail bed. It will be cold, and pay attention if you have any torn cuticles, because that can hurt if you get acetone in the wound.

The nice thing about using a brush and keeping the brushing to a minimum is that it only removes the oils from the surface of the nail, and doesn’t dry out the complete nail. Once you’ve done this then congratulations: you’re ready for your Base Coat and then the Mani.


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