Basic Nail Care Tips

Want fabulous-looking nails between spa trips? Taking care of your nails needn't be a nail-biting experience, as long as you have the right products and know a few nail care tips.

It's All In the File
Files or emery boards are used to shape and smooth the nail. Not all files are equal. Metal nail files can rip nails or create a jagged edge, whereas a fine-grade wood nail file produces favorable results. Emery boards are inexpensive but will need frequent replacing.

Crystal glass files are the newest improvement, offering the perfect solution for shaping both natural and artificial nails. Glass files provide smoother filing, and, as a result, your nails will grow stronger with continued use. One major benefit of using a crystal glass nail file is the hygiene factor. The crystal file will not absorb water or harbor bacterial or fungal diseases. They are easily sterilized by washing them with hot water.

No matter which file you use, always file in short strokes in the same direction. Start from the outside of the nail, and make light, even strokes toward the center. Finish with one long, smooth stroke.

When you file, consider the final shape of the nail. Common nail shapes are pointed, oval, round and square.

Make Polish Disappear
Two types of polish remover are on the market: acetone and non-acetone. Both work in the same manner by breaking down the chemicals in nail polish. If you wear artificial nails, use non-acetone remover. Dampen a cotton ball with the remover, and wipe it over each finger. It's best if you can avoid drenching nails and cuticles in the liquid since it can dry out skin.

Other alternatives to using nail polish remover exist. If you prefer to avoid nail polish remover, select a peel-off nail polish. When you're ready for a change of color, simply peel off the polish.

Cuticle Care
The cuticle acts as a barricade that blocks bacteria from entering the body. Leaving the soft skin unbroken is best, but the cuticle should also be trimmed to avoid suffocating nail growth or promoting hangnails. Cuticle creams or oils soften the cuticle so it can be pushed off the nail. Petroleum jelly or baby oil work just as well. After the softener has been applied and sat for a minute or more, soak hands in warm water for a few minutes. You'll also want to invest in a cuticle pusher. An orangewood stick works best for this process. Move the stick in small circles around the base of the nail. Never cut cuticles with scissors. Trim cuticles with a pair of cuticle nippers to remove remaining hangnails. Verify that the nipper is sharp and cuts evenly.

Polish and Strengthen
A base coat is frequently used to prepare fingernails for colored polish. This coat stops darker shades of polish from discoloring the nail. Different formulas of polish can strengthen nails, offer quick-dry capabilities or encourage growth. The top coat consists of another clear layer of polish that hardens and protects the colored layer.

Nail strengtheners provide a protective layer across the nail. Strengtheners can include base coats, nail polish and the top coats, although specific nail strengtheners can be purchased. However, using too much nail strengthener causes brittle nails.

When shopping for nail polish or nail strengthener, take the time to read the ingredients. Some nail polishes contain abrasive chemicals, including formaldehyde.

When applying nail polish, use three strokes: one in the middle, and then twice on each side. Take your time and go slowly to keep everything smooth. Dab away any mistakes with nail polish remover. At the end, add a little polish to the free edge, or the bottom of the tip of the fingernail.

To Dry or Not To Dry?

For anyone who has ever smudged their nail polish while waiting for it to dry, a nail dryer might be a good solution. Dryers range in price from under $10 to $50 for professional models. Mid-price range dryers blow cool air onto the nails; professional models offer hot or cold air selections. Higher price models use UV rays, which offer quick and easy drying.

Maintenance
When you are all finished, don't forget to protect your nails from the elements. Moisturize your cuticles daily, and wear gloves whenever you are cleaning to make your manicure last.

Also, watch what you eat, as a poor diet will show in your nails. A diet rich in protein, biotin, essential fatty acids and calcium can help improve the appearance of your nails in the long run.

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