The Dos & Dont's of At-Home Nail Care

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Frequent hand-washing is one of the steps we should all be taking to mitigate the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, while it keeps germs at bay, it also causes our hands, nails, and cuticles to be more prone than ever to cracking and dehydration.

Even though you can’t see your favorite nail technician in person right now, here are a few dos and don’ts of at-home care that can keep your nails and cuticles healthy and ready for your next visit.  

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DO: Carefully remove your gel and acrylic manicures with an acetone-based remover.

“To remove soak-off gels at home, begin by filing the ends and the surface of each nail with a nail file,” says Rita Remark, Essie’s global lead educator. “This breaks the seals, allowing acetone to soften the gels quickly. Next, saturate a cotton pad with acetone, lay it on top of your nail, and secure it firmly in place with a square of tinfoil. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the acetone to soften and lift the gels gently off of your nails. Once the time is up, working one finger at a time, press and remove the foils and cotton. If there is any remaining gel residue, gently push it away with a cuticle pusher or an orangewood stick.”

Remark says the same process can be used to remove acrylics, but it takes a little more time and work.

“Before you apply the cotton, acetone, and foil, generously file down the surface of the enhancement by half,” says Remark. “Keep the foils on the nails for 20 minutes as opposed to 10 to 15 and if the majority of the acrylic doesn’t soften in the first round, you may have to do two rounds to fully and completely remove the acrylic without damaging the natural nail. Whether you’ve removed gel or acrylic, once your nails are bare, give them a light buff with a buffer block to remove excess residue and to smooth the surface and finish with a hydrating dose of cuticle oil.”

For an alternative option, check out Orly's At-Home Gel Removal Kit, which includes its Genius RemoverPocket Removers, nail file, and a wooden stick. Orly recommends using the nail file to file off the topcoat layer, soaking your nails with some of the Genius Remover in the Pocket Removers, and after 10 minutes, gently pushing off the rest of the polish with the wooden stick.

DON’T: Pick or peel off your old manicure.

“If you are still hanging on to your enhancements or gel manicure, the worst thing you can do is improperly remove them or pick and peel them off,” says Sigourney Nunez, OPI North America education manager. “Peeling off your old manicure will delaminate your nail plate and will make them weak and brittle.”

DO: Trim and file your nails regularly.

“Try and keep your nails short whilst at home right now, as the longer your nails are, the harder it is to ensure you are able to ensure you are keeping your nails clean and sanitized,” says dermatologist Elizabeth Mullans, M.D

The doctor also advises filing your nails in order to avoid trauma during everyday tasks such as opening packages.

DON’T: Use a file that’s too aggressive.

“A gentle, non-aggressive nail file that is 240/180 grit is optimal for natural nails,” says Silva Nahabedian, director of education at Dazzle Dry. “Aggressive nail files designed for artificial enhancements can cause fraying at the free edge and compromise the integrity of the natural nail.”

DO: Remember to take care of your cuticles.

“Cuticle oil is a moisturizing treatment that helps your nails and cuticles stay hydrated, which is an often-overlooked part of our self-care routine,” says Nunez. “When you apply a drop of cuticle and massage it into the surrounding skin of your nail, you are replenishing that moisture and stimulating blood flow at the matrix—root of the nail—which can help promote nail growth.”

According to Nunez, cuticle oil is also critical in preventing breakage, especially since it keeps your nails from getting dry and brittle.

DON’T: Over cut or be too aggressive with your cuticles.

“Gently pushing back your cuticles using an orangewood stick or washcloth daily after a shower can prevent cuticles from becoming unruly or frayed,” says Nahabedian. “Use caution not to be too aggressive when pushing, as this could cause permanent damage to your nail root.”

DO: Moisturize after washing your hands.

“Moisturize one to two times a day with a cream such as CeraVe Cream or Aveeno Eczema Cream,” says Mullans. “Choosing a fragrance-free formula is also a good idea.”

DON’T: Expose your hands to unnecessary damage.

“Wear gloves when you can for hand washing dishes or cleaning to protect your nails and cuticles," says Mullans.

DO: Use products that will keep your nails strong.

Nunez recommends using a natural nail strengthener like OPI Nail Envy, and Mullans recommends keeping Nailtiques 2 Plus or Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails in your nail care kit.

Plus, keeping your nails strong doesn’t mean you have to completely forego color. Many brands are now incorporating strengthening products into polishes.

“Wearing a polish such as the Dazzle Dry Nail Lacquer System adds mechanical protection and resilience to the nail so that you can keep your desired nail length,” says Nahabedian.

DON’T: Be afraid to get creative on your own.

While Michelle Saunders, celebrity manicurist and owner of Saunders and James (Oakland, CA), does recommend giving your nails a break, if you’re itching for color on your fingertips, she has a few easy suggestions up her sleeve.

“It’s ok to take a beauty break,” says Saunders. “If you find inspiration in painting your nails then I recommend something simple like a sheer pink or beige base. If you want to add a perk of color, choose your favorite and add a dot, line, or streak somewhere on top of the neutral color for a modern look.”

Remark also had a few simple suggestions, including using common household items to add flair to your DIY manicure.

“To create polka dots, you can use toothpicks, the backs of sewing pins, or makeup brushes or bobby pins,” says Remark. “All of these makeshift tools are perfect for creating a variety of dot sizes. Simply pour a small puddle of nail polish onto a palette or a piece of tinfoil, dip your preferred dotting tool into the polish, and dot lightly onto the nail for a perfect circle every time.”

Also, if you’re looking for more long-wear options, Saunders recommends an at-home gel brand, like Essie’ Gel Couture line. “Essie has the best product for long-wearing nail color, and you don't need a base coat,” says Saunders. “The colors are beautiful, and it’s a system, so be sure to use the Gel Couture topcoat in the white bottle.”

While it’s easy to forget about our nails without regular visits to the salon, it’s important to keep in mind that taking care of our nails and cuticles keeps them healthy, clean, less prone to infections, and primed and ready for your next trip to the salon when the time comes.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, AmericanSpa.com  

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