how to take care of your nails

nail care is one of those things i'm passionate about, so i figured i'd make a tutorial on how to take care of your nails, prevent injuries, and grow them out if that's something you're interested in!

part 00: thoughts and supplies

things to consider:

necessary supplies:

part 01: avoid damage and injury

keeping your nails healthy and avoiding injury are the main goals of nail care. even if you have other goals, like length, these are still the foundation. when i say “injury,” of course i mean it in the classic sense… but i'm also referring to breaks. because breakage is considered a “vanity concern,” i don't often see it addressed that breakage is still damage being done to your body, and often times breakage can have gnarly consequences aside from just aesthetic effect. i've drawn blood with rips, lads ): so cared for nails = nails less prone to being injured

* i want to note that caring for cuticles, and even removing some of them safely isn't the same thing as cutting into living tissue. i'll discuss this more in the manicure section, but i also thought it was important to note in the injury section to just… don't cut yourself on purpose :,)

part 02: basic manicures

when people think of a "manicure,” they probably think of going to a salon and having a tech paint your nails. that's… not entirely wrong :,) here i say “basic” because there are basic steps to a manicure that are beneficial to everyone, whether you intend to paint your nails or not

step 01: remove old nail polish (preferably with acetone-free nail polish remover)

step 02: gently push back the cuticles with an orange stick or rubber tip. you can use a cuticle softener/remover gel to help make the job easier. these products make the cuticle softer, similar to how the skin gets in water, without the water part. (although right after bathing is a prime time to push your cuticles back as well!) pushing them back helps keep the nail plate even, so when you apply polish you won't have a ridge. it can also look nicer, and be more comfortable so you don't have any snags. reminder, DO NOT “CUT YOUR CUTICLES”*

* you can trim your cuticles. as i mentioned before, cutting live tissue is dangerous. a lot of the problem with this is a lot of people might be confused about what the “cuticle” actually is. i made a point of putting “cut your cuticles” in quotations because that's how other people refer to it, and unfortunately they often mean cutting your eponychium or nail fold, not cuticles. i've also made a point of saying not to cut live tissue. the actual cuticle is dead tissue. eponychium = live tissue, not the cuticle. nail fold  = live tissue, not the cuticle. cuticle = dead tissue, not the eponychium or nail fold

usually just pushing the cuticle back with a softener/remover will be sufficient, but sometimes you might have overgrowth of dead stuff. the dead stuff is safe to remove, so long as you leave the live tissue alone. i've included a picture of an example of overgrown dead tissue, and someone removing it. a general rule of thumb is live tissue is opaque to slightly translucent and soft, while dead tissue is whiter and hard

if you're going to trim dead tissue, it's better to use a nipper, not a shaver. you have more control with a nipper and are less likely to cut deeper than intended on accident

step 03: (cut and) file the nails. this step is to get the nails to the length you'd prefer them to be, and help smooth any snags that might be on the free edge. you can do this entirely with a file, but you can also use nail scissors to trim and then file if you're removing a lot of length. clippers aren't recommended because they can be more damaging

step 04: dry the nails. using a dehydrator product is ideal, but a light swipe of 99% alcohol applied with a cotton ball can also help remove natural oils from the nail plate. while it's good to keep your nails moisturized, when you're applying products it's better to work on a clean, dry surface, so that the product will actually adhere to the nail

optional: apply treatments, such as a strengthener or hardener. a strengthener's goal is to nourish the nails to make them... well, stronger :,) a hardener's goal is to... well, harden the nails :,) a side effect of a hardener can be brittleness, so bear in mind what your nails would need. these treatments are often considered base coats, but i find they and base coats have separate benefits and have had no problems wearing both

step 05: apply some type of base coat along and under the free edge of the nail, "wrapping" it. this will help prevent chipping and staining. this is in line with "no naked nails" from the previous section. once the nail is wrapped, apply the base coat all over the nail and let it dry

there's various types of base coats to consider! you can also layer them, but it may be best to weigh the pros and cons so you don't have a ton of layers. but if you need multiple benefits, layering is an option

part 03: applying lacquer

here's what most people think of when they hear "manicure" lol. this section is about painting your nails, aka the fun part!

step 01: wrap the color on the free edge and partially under the nail. this will help seal it and prevent chipping. we're doing this first so that when the polish is applied to the nail bed, it will cover what's on the free edge, and mask the little bump

step 02: apply the first coat of polish on the nail bed. use thin coats of polish. thick coats take longer to dry, and can come out uneven and gloopy. this can also flood the cuticle, which is not what we want. thin layers that dry completely are also a lot less likely to flake and peel

start in the middle of the nail, near the cuticle (but not at the cuticle.) set the brush on the nail, and push it up a little bit, as close as you can get to the cuticle without flooding it. then drag the brush down the middle of the nail. do another two swipes down the sides

allow this coat to completely dry

optional: apply more coats of nail polish if you want or find it necessary. again, make the layers thin and let them dry completely. most lacquers need at least two coats to be opaque. if you need a third coat, do it but maybe consider if that polish is worth it or would work better as a topper :,)

optional: apply a topper if you want one. toppers are sheer and add some sort of effect, such as adding a tint or glitter

step 03: wrap the tip and under the nail with top coat

step 04: apply top coat to the nail bed

now your nails should be a pretty color, and hopefully the color will hold up :)

part 04: other color methods

lacquer isn't the only way to color your nails! these products are also fairly accessible, available at most retailers!

i personally primarily stick to regular polish*, so i won't be going over how to use these other methods in-depth, but they may be worth a shot to see if they're to your preference! there's a ton of guides out there on how to use these products

* sometimes i'll paint my nails as usual, then go over them with a gel top coat and cure it for extra longevity. i actually like changing my polish once a week, and because this method can actually make a color last longer than that, i don't do it too often simply because it does take a lot of time to remove if i want to switch it up lol. but tl;dr a regular polish + gel top coat is an option if you want a cheaper way to make a mani last

part 05: acrylics and falsies

these aren't recommended for extended wear, because frankly they're very damaging ): it's also difficult to grow your natural nails and care for them because they're covered up. ngl i love both but [clenches fist with tears in my eyes like a shounen anime protagonist] i gotta let 'em go

disclaimer: there's also polygel as an option, but... i'm not familiar with that product and have never used it, so i don't think i'm really qualified to give a statement on it

part 06: healthy moisture

moisturize the hands, cuticles, and nails with a cream, butter, and/or oil. (but honestly? using all three doesn't hurt lmao.) do this numerous times a day. even if you don't do anything else in this guide, please do this. this is what's gonna make your hands look clean and smooth, what's gonna give your nails more durability and flexibility, and will nourish your skin. what i personally do is apply oil, and massage my fingers and let it soak in. then i put cream over that, because it's lighter and also soaks in. then i put butter over that to really lock the moisture in

if your hands are exposed to water, immediately follow up with a product to lock in moisture so hopefully damage will be minimized. i find a cream suffices for these situations

i personally keep numerous moisturizers around in various places so i have access to them. i keep my stuff on my desk right by where i work and hang out so it'll be right by me, and i can apply moisture while i'm talking on the phone or watching youtube or whatever. i also keep a butter on my night stand next to my bed to apply before i go to sleep, a cream by the sink so i can apply after i wash my hands, and a cream in my purse to apply throughout the day while i'm out bc hand sanitizer is a priority but drying :,)

the best oils are jojoba, which is closest to the body's sebum so it gets absorbed well, vitamin e for strength and hydration, and tea tree which helps lifting/separation, and is antibacterial. note: tea tree oil needs a carrier oil, ie a few drops added to a whole bottle of another oil is fine :,) for vitamin e, while i think pure oil is easier, you can also get digestible tablets and poke a hole in them and squeeze the oil out

your options aren't limited to these tho, it's just based on my obsessive extensive research. i find these the Top Three most beneficial oils. i highly recommend at least using these three oils, but you can always add some more too! other oils that wouldn't hurt are argan, coconut, grapeseed, rosehip, sunflower seed, sweet almond, and other scented oils (chamomile, lavender, rose, etc. these also follow the carrier rule and only a few drops should be used however.) you can also just put your mix in a travel bottle, or nifty twist pens. there's also, of course, pre-made cuticle oils out there that wouldn't hurt

a really cheap way to seal in moisturizer and oil is to also apply vaseline on top. does it feel slimy? yeah. is it good for your nails? hell yeah. you can also get a pair of cotton gloves and wear them after applying moisturizers at night. cotton is breathable, so not as hot, and it allows your skin to breathe while keeping the moisturizers on them. (you can do this with socks for pedicures too and if you want soft tootsies lol)

seriously moisturizing is so important it gets it's own part lol

part 07: supply storage and care

part 08: product recommendations

these are just recommendations for stuff i currently use or have in the past. if i were a youtuber i'd make an empties and rebuy video lol. i know i'm a bougie libra with particular taste, so you can likely find a cheaper alternative with some looking. however, things marked with a are my personal holy grails i recommend above any other product