Your At-Home Natural Manicure

Sometimes it’s easier to just head to the salon when you need a manicure. It’s fuss-free, of course—and who doesn’t love a rainbow of polishes to choose from? But constantly keeping polish on your nails isn’t always the best way to keep them looking healthy and maintained. Natural manicures—which focus on strengthening nails—give you a breather from polish (and the chips that need retouching) and can easily be done at home.

This simple treatment—which can also be used when doing a pedicure—helps protect your nails and cuticles, and prevent cracks, splits and yellowing. Plus, spending a little time soaking and buffing your nails in a comfortable, quiet spot might be just the break you need to reconnect with yourself.

Tools You’ll Need
Before you get started, make sure you have the following natural manicure tools, most of which you can find at your local pharmacy:

  • Non-acetone nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • Two small bowls for soaking fingers (or a larger basin for your feet)
  • Warm whole milk
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle stick
  • Cuticle oil, or almond or olive oil
  • Nail buffing block or disc
  • Hand cream
  • Callus file (for pedicures)

It’s important to thoroughly clean all of your at-home manicure tools after each use. To do that, use an alcohol swab on the clippers, cuticle stick (if it’s not made of wood) and callus file, and allow them to dry completely before storing. It’s also a good idea to replace your nail file after a few uses, or when it begins to lose its grittiness.

6 Steps to a Natural Manicure
Set yourself up in a comfortable spot—on the couch, your balcony, your favorite chair—and using the tools mentioned above, follow this guide for an effective, enjoyable at-home manicure:

Step 1: Remove old polish. Even though many salons use acetone-based removers, which quickly and easily clear off dark or hard-to-remove nail polish, acetone can strip your nails of their natural, lubricating oils and leave them brittle. Instead, gently swipe a cotton ball soaked with non-acetone polish remover over your nails. It may make polish removal take a little longer, but it will do the job without drying out your nails.

Step 2: Soak. After polish is removed, place a little warm whole milk into two small bowls and soak the tips of your fingers for five to 10 minutes. This helps moisturize and soften nails and cuticles, making them easier to clip and gently push back, respectively. If you don’t have milk, you can use warm water mixed with a gentle soap and a dash of oil, which boosts the moisturizing power of the soak. When you’re finished, dry your hands and nails thoroughly using a clean towel.

Step 3: Clip and file. Clip your nails, aiming for a medium length (long enough so you can see about ⅛- to ¼-inch of the white nail tip above your finger pads). Making them too short can cause an infection, so be cautious and just trim a bit to start; you can always do it again if your nails are still too long. Then, use a nail file to smooth out the rough edges and create your preferred nail shape.

Step 4: Care for your cuticles. Although many nail technicians automatically cut cuticles during a manicure or pedicure, you may want to consider just pushing them back with a cuticle stick. After all, your cuticle acts as a seal between your nail and your nail bed, providing a protective layer against bacteria and debris that could cause infection. You should feel absolutely no discomfort when doing this; if you do, you’re pushing too hard, which can cause the skin around your cuticles to become red and inflamed. When you’re done, massage a drop or two of oil into each nail, which helps moisturize both the nails and the skin surrounding them. (If you do choose to cut your cuticles, it’s best to use a sterile cuticle trimming tool.)

Step 5: Buff. Using your buffing block or disc, gently rub each nail until you see a slight shine. This step—often left out of professional manicures—is an excellent way to help your nails shine just as much as if you had polished them. Bonus: Buffing also boosts circulation to the nail bed, giving slow-to-grow or weak nails the shot of fresh, oxygenated blood they need to get stronger and grow faster.

Step 6: Moisturize and massage. Finally, take some time to moisturize your hands and nails with a good-quality hand cream. We recommend Deborah Lippmann’s Rich Girl Broad Spectrum SPF 25 Hand Cream. Squeeze out a bit more lotion than you’d typically use and give your hands, fingers and forearms a good self-massage. Not only will this help hydrate your skin and nails, but it allows for a relaxing moment when you can be present and feel grateful that you took the time to take care of yourself.

More: Avoid Nail Salon Hazards

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