Self Care Nails: Make your fingernails part of your self-care routine with proper nail care. How to give your nails the VIP pamper experience.
Whether you’re the type to keep her nails perfectly manicured with nail polish at all times or gnaw on your cuticles without end, we all dream of having healthy, strong, and well-maintained nails.
Not all nails were created equal, and while some of us are born with strong and long nails, others struggle with brittle nails. While genetics (and a bit of luck) is a definite factor, we can also do some things to help improve the quality of our nails. In fact, the condition of your nails is usually a good reflection of your overall health.
Healthy nails can instantly make you look and feel more refined and beautiful and are one of those less-obvious confidence boosters we could all do with a dose of. It’s kind of like wearing gorgeous lingerie that no one is technically going to see!
In this article, we will look at a few simple lifestyle changes that will quickly take your nail game from zero to sixty. Some have to do with diet and health, and others are small additions to add to your self-care routine. So, get ready for some easy, affordable and expert proven tips to get your nails into tip-top shape!
What is the meaning of nail care?
Put very simply; nail care is the art of taking care of your toenails and fingernails. For starters, we’re talking about good nail hygiene, limiting biting time, and keeping your hands moisturised. But we will get more into this later!
Why is proper nail care important?
Taking care of your cuticles and fingernails will boost your confidence and appearance, but it’s also linked to good general health. It can help you avoid fungal infections, painful ingrown toenails and fingernails, and dry skin infections.
Struggling to follow? Let’s take a quick look at the difference between healthy and unhealthy nails and cuticles:
Signs of healthy nails:
- Pink/white nail beds
- Moisturised cuticles
- White nail tips and consistent length
- Prominent white half-moon at the base of the nail
Signs of unhealthy nails:
- Peeling or splitting nails
- Lots of white spots on the nail bed
- Horizontal or verticle grooves in the nail formation
- Red and swollen cuticles or dry white cuticles
If you’re concerned about any of the above, chat with a professional about your lifestyle and diet. You might have a vitamin deficiency or anaemia that some supplements could help fix.
How do I get strong and healthy nails?
Like your skin and hair, healthy fingernails have a lot to do with your overall health and wellness.
Now that we know what to look out for in healthy and unhealthy fingernails let’s unwrap some of the most recommended tips to improve your finger and toenail health.
1. Keep good nail hygiene
Like most parts of our bodies, the first step to healthy fingernails is good hygiene. Washing and exfoliating your hands is a super important part of your self-care nail routine.
A good tip is to wash your hands with a gentle cleanser and then use a clean nailbrush or toothbrush to remove dirt from under your nails.
While gentle exfoliators can be great for your cuticle health, harsh exfoliators can strip the skin’s protective barrier around your nails and damage your nail surface. So, heavy granulated products might not be your best bet!
2. Moisturise your hands and nails daily
Like moisturising your skin, using a vitamin-rich moisturiser is key to maintaining nourished nails and healthy cuticle skin. However, this step is often overlooked during your self-care mani routine.
A lot of the time, brittle nails directly result from a lack of moisture. In fact, frequent polishes, nail varnish remover use, gels and silicons do to your nails exactly what too much heat application does to your hair. They dehydrate your nail plates, creating a need for a heavy-duty treatment fix.
Moisturise with a good lotion to smooth your skin. One of my favourite things to do is to lather my fingernails and nail plates with thick cream and let the moisture seep into them like a good hair treatment (while I indulge in some light television!)
3. Give your nails a break
Nails are delicate, so you must treat them with care. Of course, because our fingernails are on our hands, it can be hard to avoid certain harsh chemicals such as cleaning materials when doing household chores like washing dishes.
Toxic ingredients can strip away the natural layers of your nail plate, damaging your nail structure and even nail shape.
To avoid this, I recommend wearing house cleaning gloves whenever you’re dealing with a cleaning product you aren’t familiar with.
Cold weather is another factor that can have a negative effect on your nails. Cold air dries out your skin and cuticles, causing your hands to crack and flake. And once we’re dealing with cracked cuticles, we risk picking up a skin infection from dirt that can cause even further damage. Again, we recommend you wear gloves and keep your hands warm and protected during the cold winter months.
Inconveniently, nail varnishes and nail polish remover contain super toxic ingredients to our skin and nails. While it’s always good fun having your nails painted a funky colour, you must give your nails a much-needed break from nail varnish every now and then to help them recover and regenerate to their natural state.
4. Treat your nails to a manicure
Now, when I say manicure, I don’t just mean a professional gel application at the salon. I mean a trip to a nail expert to get the full-shebang treatment experience. I’m talking foot baths for your toenails, exfoliating scrubs, and of course, massages and peels for your cuticles and fingernail care.
A professional nail technician should know exactly how to care for your nails, depending on their current state.
Avoid acrylic and gel manicures
If you’re desperate for a bit of colour, choose nail polish over a gel application. Gel polishes are usually packed with formaldehyde, toluene and other toxic chemicals which damage your nails. Because a gel manicure lasts longer than traditional polish, these chemicals have even more time to penetrate your entire nail, creating brittle nails.
Even bold coloured nail polishes have some strong pigmentations and chemicals, so make sure you pick a good quality varnish brand and give your nails a good break between colour applications.
Always use a base layer and a topcoat
One of the easiest ways to improve your nail health and avoid brittle nails is to always make sure you use a high-quality base layer before applying a colour varnish coating and then using a topcoat.
Although it’s better to go au-natural, a base coat will shield your nail plate from being stained by deep pigments while reinforcing your nail tips.
On the other hand, topcoats are great for sealing your manicure and preventing chipping and cracking. You could even add another top coat every three days to help maintain your manicure.
5. Clip and trim your nails regularly
Just like split ends, healthy fingernails need to be trimmed back regularly. Not only does this help prevent a build-up of dirt and bacteria under your nail, but it also reduces the risks of your nails snagging on your clothing and causing breakages at the nail bed (ouch!)
First, use a nail clipper to trim your nails to your desired length. Try to keep a rounded edge so that your nails don’t catch or snag everything you touch.
Learn how to file your nails properly
After you’ve clipped your nails, I use an emery board to neaten up my nail edges and make sure there are no jagged edges.
6. Eat more protein-rich foods
Just like our skin and hair, keeping the skin surrounding our nails healthy is directly impacted by what we eat.
Our fingernails are made up of laminated layers of a protein called keratin (the same protein we like to treat our hair with at the salon). So naturally, eating protein-rich foods is one of the best ways to get longer nails!
7. Reconsider the nail tools you use
Treating your nails gently means using the right tools and equipment:
- Avoid using metal equipment
- Avoid digging under the cuticles or fingernails
- Use a gentle nail brush instead of a pointed filer to clean under your nails
- Replace your disposable nail file frequently
- Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect your tools between uses
- Replace your equipment regularly
Best self-care nail products
The best route to healthy finger and toenails isn’t with expensive equipment but by keeping healthy lifestyle habits. That being said, there are some tools and products you’ll need to use during your self-care mani’s.
My favourite self-care nail products
Softshell Emery Boards and 4 Step Polishing Blocks
Crystal Nail Files
12 Piece Plastic and Rubber Cuticle Pusher
Double-Sided Nail Brush
CND SolarOil Nail and Cuticle Conditioner
NailsInc Superfood Repair Oil
O.P.I ProSpa Exfoliating Sugar Scrub
NailsInc Thirsty Hands Hydrating Hand Mask
Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturising Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
Lavera Hand and Cuticle Cream
8. Take good care of your cuticles
There are tons of similarities between our skin, hair and nails. All three need to be moisturised and clean, and the use of chemicals should be minimised.
When it comes to cuticles, taking good care of this delicate skin won’t only impact the protective layer of your nail, but it will also reduce your chances of getting hangnails or painful infections.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: Don’t mess with your cuticles! Stop biting, peeling or ripping off pieces of your hangnails and leave your cuticles alone. They form a protective barrier around your nail and surrounding skin, and even the slightest abrasion can cause infection or bacteria.
Cuticles are a protective layer of skin that surrounds the nail and allow it to grow naturally. Cuticles are the best barrier that our nails have, and when damaged, they are the first point of entry for bacteria and infections.
Contrary to popular belief, trimming down your cuticles is not necessary or good for your nails. If your cuticles start to grow over your nails, use a blunt rubber stick to push them back and reset their position. They should then start to grow from this point on.
I’m a true believer that the simpler your hand and nail care routine is, the better. Ditch the expensive products and tools, skip your regular salon manicures, and keep things basic.
Most of the tips and tricks in this article should come naturally, but if not, there are a few high-quality products and routines you can follow to make sure your nails stay in tip-top shape year-round.