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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

The Pretty Files: Nailing It


Image Credit: Budget Fashionista

When we think about being pretty we usually think about our hair and our skin, how we take care of them and how we enhance them.  But skincare, makeup, and hair aren’t the only elements of being pretty. Our nails are also an important of the appearance and can be their own unique form of creative expression. This month I’m talking about basic nail care and the simple steps to give yourself a simple home manicure that will take your look to the next level.

Fingernails (and toenails) are really just laminated layers of a protein called keratin that grow from the nail bed and cuticles. Nails grow when cells age, get compacted, and are pushed out by new cells. In general health nails are free of pits or grooves, though vertical ridges are normal and they grow more pronounced with age. Caring for nails is fairly simple. You want to keep them clean and dry (that means cleaning underneath the nail area at the tip of the finger) so that bacteria doesn’t collect and grow there. This is often best facilitated by keeping nails short, something that can be achieved by using nail scissors or clippers to trim the nail straight across before using a file to gently round the corners (this prevents scratching and snagging of the nail.)  You should also use a good moisturizer to keep the hand healthy and happy as well as prevent dry, cracking cuticles.

Those are the absolute basics of nail care, but how do you kick it up a notch? What about fun colors? What should you not do to your nails? Some establishments have begun using the SalonTouch spa software, which allows patrons to customize their visit before hand which is a really nice added touch. For starters the nail don’ts is a fairly short list. You should never cut your cuticles. Cutting your cuticles can lead to infection of the nail bed and that is unpleasant. To deal with cuticles you can soften them by soaking your nails in warm water as part of your general nail cleaning and trimming routine and then use an orange stick to gently push the cuticles back. What you can trim away are hangnails, but that should be done only with scissors or clippers. Never just rip a hangnail because it could cause injury to the skin around the nail. You should also avoid filing nails while wet. As for styling your nails? The sky is the limit there. Nail art is popular right now, but nothing looks classier than simple, well-done single colors and that is something you can do for yourself at home. Here are my tried and true steps to a great at-home manicure.

1. Do your basic nail hygiene. Wash your hands well, trim and file the nails to the desired length and shape, then soak them to soften and push back cuticles. If I notice that I have ridges that I want to smooth out, I will use a buffing block to smooth those out, then wash my hands and dry them.

2. Base coat. I can’t suggest this more. Base coat preps the nail to take on color. It makes your color adhere better and also protects your natural nail from staining. I put on one coat of my base coat and let it dry thoroughly. It usually only takes a couple of minutes.

3. Color. With my base coat dry I put on my color. I always choose a nail color that is just color and is free of common toxins, like Clinique or Butter brands. I also elect to not use ones combined with base or top coats because those elements work better separately. They do different things, it’s not a one item fits all. I start with one coat of color, swiping my brush from the base to the tip in the center of my nail and then working out to either side. I always, always let the first coat dry for about twenty minutes before deciding if I need a second coat. For lighter colors I will do two coats, for darker colors just one. If I do need to add an additional coat I follow the same steps as before and then use quick dry drops to hurry the process along. Any quick dry drops will work. I don’t really have a favorite.

4. With my color coats dry I then add my top coat. Yes, my top coat is different than my base coat because a top coat is meant to seal in your color and give it a good shine (or matte if you use a mattifying topcoat.) One coat of that is all you need and I follow it up with quick dry drops as well.

5. With my color and and top coat on I inspect the nails for any mistakes (namely polish on my skin) and clean them up. I follow it all up with a careful washing in cold water, pat dry, and then apply my favorite hand cream.  Boom. It’s super simple and super chic and it saves me $30 or more at the nail shop.

Of course this is just basic nail care and manicure tips. The more comfortable you get the more adventurous you can get with your color and your design. How do you like to care for your nails? Let me know in comments and until next time stay pretty!

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