Nail Care 101: My Nail Care Routine

Learn how to care for your nails with our basic nail care routine and tips for keeping your nails healthy and beautiful.
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Learn how to care for your nails with our basic nail care routine and tips for keeping your nails healthy and beautiful.
Nails


Photo: ELLE

This week, I wanted to take a break from all the nail art and speak a little bit about nail care - in particular, how I maintain, file and prepare my nails before all the fancy stuff. As one of the readers expertly pointed out, having well groomed nails is the foundation of nail art.

Of course, these are the things that work best for me and my nails, but I'm sure there are a number of suggestions and tutorials out there might be a better fit for yours. As such, be sure to sound off in the comments section below and tell me your best nail care tips!

Let's get to it - read on to learn my best tips for nail care and maintenance:

Taking off your old polish

nail care tools

First off, be sure to take off your old polish before trimming and filing. I use a generic nail polish remover from Sally Hansen, nothing fancy. It does dry out my cuticles, so if you already have a problem with dry skin, there are plenty of options out there for sensitive and weak nails.

The bottle you see is a pump bottle that I filled with nail polish remover - it's a lot easier to work with than the typical bottles removers come in. You can find them inexpensively online or at specialty beauty stores.

Trimming, Filing and Shaping

Now, let's talk about filing and shaping your nails. I'm not a big fan of soaking your nails, à la salons, nor do I have the time for it, but I do like having "damp" nails before I trim my nails, mainly because it's a lot easier and the edges don't get so ragged or sharp.

Personally, I usually take off polish before I take a shower. That way, all the chemicals in the nail polish remover will be washed off and it makes my nails ready to trim. It's also a great time-saver! I can't stand having very long nails, so I trim my nails rather short, just a bit above my fingertip.

Filing nails


Photo Credit

I actually don't put a lot of effort into filing or shaping my nails, since I already like the shape of my nail beds. I just follow the shape of my fingertip (if that makes much sense) and mainly file my nails to get rid of ragged edges and to round out the edges I've trimmed. Other than that, I can't say much about shaping my nails since I don't change the shape much. However, do remember to only file in one direction to avoid any splitting or cracking.

In addition, I recommend using a glass file instead of a disposable emery board. They last a lot longer, are gentler, and more hygienic. Just make sure clean or sterilize them every few months. To do so, run it under hot water or soak it in warm soapy water and rinse. If you use emery boards, you should change them every few months as well to avoid any bacterial growth and such.

Cuticles

Pushing your cuticles back is also easier to do when your fingers are wet or damp. Use an orange stick or cuticle pusher to do this. Oils and moisturizers help as well. Personally, I use the ELF Essential Nourishing Cuticle Pen for extra moisture on my cuticles.

I don't cut my cuticles and I don't suggest doing so, but, if you must, please be careful!

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Since I change my polish quite often, I don't follow all these steps every single time, but I make sure I do them at least once a month. That being said, I always make sure I moisturize whenever I can. Nail polish remover can really dry your skin out, so I always carry hand cream with me, especially during the winter.

Base Coat

base coats

Now lets move on to the basics before applying your polish. To avoid staining your nails, ALWAYS use a base coat. Right now, I'm using a base coat from Etude House that gives a nice layer before I apply my polish. There are plenty of options out there to suit your needs, though!

If I'm using a darker color or a red polish, I opt for a 'heavier' base coat. Basically, something that has more substance than your average base coat, usually a very sheer pink or white. The one I have is Sephora's Couleur Multi-Action, but unfortunately I believe it's been discontinued.

My nails are a lot weaker than average, due to my constant use of nail polish, so sometimes I apply a strengthening base coat instead

Take a Break

If you wear polish all the time, I recommend taking a break every so often. I actually have nails that peel at times, so I have to take care to keep them hydrated and take breaks in between. During these breaks, I apply a thin coat of a sheer or pale pink polish or something that is strengthening to keep my nails from peeling.

Anything I missed? How do you guys take care of your nails?

Are there any tips you would like to share? Let me know down below! Suggestions, comments and questions are always welcome!