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.


The Basics of Polishing – The Base Coat

I wish to welcome all of you who are new to the idea of nail polish and nail art. If done correctly, even a simple nail polishing can look exquisite! Which is why you and I are both here. One of the most important steps of a manicure is laying a solid foundation for it

Step 1: The Base Coat

I have heard, seen and read it various ways with various opinions on the use of a base coat when painting your nails. As someone who genuinely cares about the condition of my nails, I always use a base coat, for a few different reasons, which I will share with you. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if you want to use it. If you decide not to, I would only urge the use of a base coat if you are using a highly pigmented polish, so as to avoid staining your natural nails.

Base Coat has a few helpful perks. The first is that it helps the adhesion of the polish. Polish adheres better to a base coat than most natural nails due to the oils of your natural skin. If you struggle with wearing polish because it just comes right off, I would suggest trying a few different base coats and see if one stays on your nails better than polish. Different brands of base coat will stay and sit on your nails differently. It is alright to go through a few different types of base coat before you find one that you like best.

Base Coat also helps your polish lay smoother across your nail. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but most women have ridges of varying degrees in their nails. It is nothing to worry about, it is a rather natural part of aging, as our nails slowly dry out (I will touch on this in a different post). Whatever you do, please do not sand these ridges down to get your polish or natural manicure to lay smoother. Base coats help fill these in just a bit, and if the ridges in your nails are severe enough, there are actually Ridge Filling Base Coats. If you do go for one of those, I would recommend trying to find a fibrous one, because not only will it fill in the ridges with a more natural appearance, it will help strengthen your nails as well.

Some of us have very thin nails that are soft and weak and that love to break on us. I will let you in on a little secret: I actually use a Nail Strengthener as my every day base coat. As a quick bit of background on myself, when I was just out of high school, I was dealt the blow of becoming seriously ill. Due to this, my body made the decisions for me to let me hair and nails start to fail, in order to overcompensate for the ailments I was dealing with. As someone who has loved my nails since I was little, it was devastating to see them start to crack and splinter at the simplest touch. I was used to nice strong nails, that were straight and narrow with a slight curve to their almost straight free-edge. Gorgeous they were, and I knew it and I loved it. This is when I started to do some serious research into extensive nail care, to try and make up the difference with the available nail care products and procedures. It has taken time, almost five years now, and they are finally getting back to what I would consider normal. Using O.P.I.’s Nail Envy Nail Strengthener was my saving grace for my weakened nails. And the nice thing is, unlike normal base coats, it dries super fast. And you can feel the difference once you have it on.

Going off of that, there are tons of various nail-care products that can act as a base coat, to help your unique situation with your nails. For example, O.P.I. has treatments and strengtheners specifically for aiding Soft & Thin® nails, or Sensitive & Peeling®  as well as what they call their Healthy Maintenance®. Or China Glaze has their Calcium Gell Fortifier®, which covers weak, dry and/or splitting nails. Using those treatments, in combination with a polish on top of it, could help give your nails the support and protection they need to strengthen and improve on their own.

Base Coats have many uses and perks. I know that it is something I will never go without, and something that I would recommend to anyone who puts polish on their nails. Unless an allergy is involved, Base Coats are a precaution to protecting your natural nail, and more harm could be done going without, than the few extra minutes of time.