Yay Friday! It's been one heck of a long week...I'll explain later. For now, here are some tips to keep in mind while giving yourself a manicure. This isn't a complete set of instructions, just advice to take along the way.
I really enjoy painting my nails. As someone who has trouble relaxing, it's a great way to make me relax because it takes attention, care and focus to do a good job. Which is why I make sure, as often as possible, that if I'm going to paint my nails I'm going to try to do it right.
Start with clean hands and nails. This sets the canvas for your new lacquer. Definitely take off old polish. Cotton balls work well, but I prefer using a nail polish removing jar -- the kind with a sponge inside that you just dip your fingers into one by one. These are available in drugstores and will only set you back a few dollars, which is worth it to me because of the ease of use and how they cut down on mess. The bottle to the right costs $2.49 at drugstore.com.
*Acetone vs. non-acetone remover: Acetone is a strong solvent and the fastest way to dissolve your old polish. It's especially good if you're trying to get off very stubborn lacquer or remove acrylic nails (which is a whole 'nother long process that I know little about, but there are plenty of online resources to fill you in. It seems to call for using pure acetone!) Personally, I prefer for non-acetone remover, even if it takes longer to get things off, because it's more gentle on the skin. If you have dry, brittle or acrylic nails, it's probably the better choice for you too.
Shape your nails. Of course, start with a nail clipper if you need to adjust for length. Once you have that, whip out the emery board! I'm partial to those big, $1-2 cardboard ones that are at drugstores and beauty supplies. They are more sturdy than the package of eight flimsy ones you can get for a buck, easier for me to grip and use to shape, and more sanitary/gentle than metal files. Plus, I don't lose them as much as the super cheap ones! For natural nails a finer grit should do the job. I've never used a glass file so I can't speak to that.
How to file? Gently. Try going from the outside of your nail toward the middle, using strokes that only go in one direction. Imagine the file in your left hand. Place the board against the right side of your thumb on your right hand. Glide the file upward, toward the middle of your thumb nail. Then place the board on the inside section of your thumb and file from the right side of your thumb to the center.
The crude Microsoft Paint drawing shows you what I mean. I find when filing is done this way, it's easy to be gentle and not have to tug a lot on your nail. This is an effective way to shape a rounded tip, which is what I like to wear.
Once this step is done, soaking your nails in some warm, soapy water will soften the cuticles and help get out any remaining dirt around the fingers.
Base coat. Important for several reasons: It fills in ridges in the nail to provide a smooth surface onto which the colored lacquer can adhere, helping your manicure last longer; and it protects nails from staining due to chemical reactions with ingredients like formaldehyde or after the application of dark colored polish. I also find that using base coat makes nail polish easier to remove once the time comes, since instead of sticking directly to my nail it is attached to the clear base coat.
The moment of truth -- your color! The best part and the one on which I feel least qualified to opine. Take your time, don't worry about putting too much color on in the first coat, use long, vertical strokes...most of you can probably run circles around me when it comes to this art! Polish applying has become so second nature to me, it's hard to think about verbalizing all the moves.
Top coat. You went through all that trouble and won't seal the deal? Shame on you. Slap on some top coat and call your beautiful manicure a day!
*P.S. Give yourself time to dry. This always gets me. Once I'm done with my manicure and snapped out of the zone I feel the need to go back to doing my normal five billion things, thus putting my nice nails in danger. No no no! Take your time after the manicure. Thirty minutes or an hour is minimum to keep your nails out of harm's way...and 30 is even pushing it, because though the polish might be too dry to transfer onto other surfaces, it is probably still soft enough to be dented by accidental bumps. When I'm careless and my polish is still tacky, I tend to end up with a lot of texture impressions (especially from fabrics). That ruins all the hard work I put in to keep my nail polish smooth, so really, devoting the extra time to being careful is worth it.
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