Ed's note: This is a newer/remixed version of an older post titled "How I Look After My Digits" (which I put into draft). I've tweaked the title, re-shot the post & re-written some of it too. Enjoy!
I think it's best that I let you down now and tell you that I've always had a natural ability to grow my nails long. I can still remember older girls coming up to me in primary school admiring my nails & asking me whether they were fake or not. Seriously, how the hell could an 8 year old have fake nails? I don't know...then again, I suppose all those beauty pageant tots rock the acrylics these days...
Despite this "talent" (for lack of a better word), I haven't always been so conscious of looking after my hands & nails. It was only once I got back into the whole polish-wearing thing several years ago that I figured it wasn't worth painting my nails if I had dry hands, overgrown cuticles & hangnails everywhere....especially if I was going to show off my handiwork to the entire interwebs.
So what must-have products do I think you need to keep your hands & nails in good nick? Read on people, read on....
A good nail file
Still using that metal nail file & wondering why it sounds like scratches down a blackboard every time you file your nails? Using a normal nail file, but worried about hygiene? Toss those crappy things out & get yourself a glass or crystal nail file instead! IMO they work just as well, if not better, than both of those files I mentioned. I bought the blue ombré glass/crystal (not sure which it is) nail file featured in the above photo from Ricky's in NYC, but you don't need to travel all the way over there just to get one. I've seen a couple of glass & crystal nail files on Priceline's website that retail for about $10-$13AUD, so hopefully that won't break your beauty budget.
A decent buffing block
I don't tend to buff my nails before I DIY manicure because I've found out the hard way that it causes my nails to peel once I remove my polish + I feel like the jury is out on whether to buff or not to buff. If your nails aren't ridged, then I see no reason to do this step other than every now & then; but again, that's just personal preference. I was using a standard nail buffer, but have since thrown that out & switched to using Sally Hansen's No More Ridges 4-way buffer instead (see above), which I also use on my toes (I've got 2 - one for fingernails, one for toenails). I don't use the nail file & ridge sides on my fingernails (don't need the nail file + don't have ridges on my fingernails), but I do use the buffing & shining sides. It works quite well, so I highly recommend it.
I've had my bottle of Butter London's Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator for aaaaaaaaaaaages. It's well past its expiry date now, but it's still usable to me so of course I'm continuing to use it! I bought it back when I was getting into polish again, but didn't use it all that often...now I make sure I do. All you need to do with it is apply a bit to your cuticles, wait 2 minutes, then push those babies back with either a cuticle pusher or an orange stick, then wash the excess away before applying hand cream. You can use a cuticle remover on both your fingers & your toes - I always do. I even used it on my Mum recently (after much nagging) & even she couldn't get over the difference it made to her grossly overgrown cuticles.
For a while there I was using Botani's Olive Hand Cream, until Priceline stopped stocking it & I decided I cba buying it online for $25AUD a pop. That habit gets expensive when you go through 1 tube every month! So I guess the million $ question is: what do you use now Shell? I use Lanolips' Rose Everyday Hand Cream. It works just as well as the Botani one (albeit with a different texture once worked into the skin) & my hands & nails are still well moisturised, plus I can easily pick up several tubes when Priceline has their bi-annual 40% off skincare sale...
Along with hand cream, I also use this cuticle oil from New Zealand brand The Aromatherapy Co at least once a day (although I've been forgetting it a lot lately). You could use a cuticle balm if you wish; I just prefer using oil as I feel it goes better with my hand cream. It's all a matter of personal preference though. This oil contains a whole lot of nail-loving ingredients like jojoba oil & evening primrose oil, plus the scent of lavender (it's not overly strong though, so don't panic). I'm still getting through one with the older, rollerball-style packaging; it has since changed in both packaging (now with a brush applicator) & size (15mL down to 4mL, with only a slight decrease in price). NOTE: Confused about cuticle oil & cuticle remover? Don't know what the difference is between the 2? Well, think of cuticle remover as like an exfoliator for your cuticles, whereas cuticle oil is like the nail equivalent of a facial oil. If you do use cuticle oil, apply it before hand cream.
Hopefully this post has given you some insight. Just be warned though, all of this may not work for you - YMMV (your mileage may vary).
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Do you look after your hands & nails at all, or are they in need of nourishment?