“Manicured nails can be traced back some 4,000 years to Southern Babylon, where noblemen used solid gold implements to manicure their nails,” says Leigh Toselli, author of Pro Nail Care: Secrets of the Professionals. You don’t have to use gold implements, though, to give hardworking hands a time-out and a bit of TLC. All it takes are a few tools, available at any drugstore, and a little time. Here are some simple tips for a perfect manicure.
Gather your tools. Before you begin, make sure you have everything you’ll need at hand. You’ll want a nail file, clippers or scissors, cuticle and massage oils and hand lotions, a cuticle stick, nail polish and remover. You’ll also need a small bowl and a supply of warm water.
Nails first. Remove any old nail polish with an acetone-free nail polish remover and cotton balls or pads first. Nails will be easier to shape without ripping when dry, so trim and shape now. The best way to shape nails is with an emery board, filing from the outside to the center of the nail and working from little finger to thumb on each hand.
Cuticles. After filing, soak the fingers in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. This will soften the skin and cuticles. Dry hands, and while the skin is soft and pliable, apply cuticle oil to the base of the nail. Use an orange stick to gently push away the dead skin sticking to the nail bed. Rinse hands in clean water.
Massage. Massage hands gently with a massage oil or hand cream. Don’t just rub the cream in with a hand-washing motion; work the cream into the skin of one hand with the thumb of the other, rubbing in circular motions. Pay attention to each finger individually, and flex fingers and wrists on both hands.
Final polish. Remove any traces of massage oil from the nails with nail polish remover and cotton balls to ensure the polish will adhere. Apply a base coat designed to strengthen or moisturize nails, and allow it to dry completely. Apply two thin coats of color rather than one thick one, and finish off with a top coat to seal and protect the manicure.