How to Give Yourself Manicures?

Categories: Updated on September 2nd, 2009Comments Off on How to Give Yourself Manicures?

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Do you crunch your hands up into white-knuckled fists on dates, ashamed of your stubby nails? Are you tired of looking like you just clawed your way out of a mud pit? Well, it’s time to extend your personal grooming to your fingertips. A set of well-manicured digits is an excellent way to say, “Hey, youse guys: I’m a real classy lady/dude.” Classy fingers are what you’re looking for, and we’re here to help.

Gather Your Tools

  • Investing in these tools may cost you a bit of money initially, but certainly no more than the cost of one visit to a professional manicurist. Plus, you’ll have them at your disposal for the next time you give yourself a manicure. Here’s a list of every item you might need. Read through the article and decide what you can do without. Most of these items can be found at your local drug store or purchased online:

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* Nail-polish remover or nail-polish remover wipes* Cotton pads (not cotton balls; those are too linty)

* Nail file

* Extra-fine emery board or professional manicurist emery board

* Bowl of warm water

* Scented oil or salt

* Table lamp

* Cuticle oil

* Orangewood stick (a soft wooden stick)

* Nail scissors

* Hair dryer

* White block buffer

* Base-coat polish or ridge filler polish

* Color polish

* Nail-polish solvent or nail-polish thinner

* Top coat or sealant

Pick a Shape

  • First, remove any old nail polish from your nails. Do this by applying a bit of nail-polish remover to a cotton pad (or using a nail-polish wipe) and wiping it across the nail until all old polish is gone. Next, listen to your mother. She always told you to wash your hands, and now is the time to do it. So give your hands a good washing, using plenty of water and soap and ridding your mitts of all grime. If you have dirty nails, gently run a nail file under the nail’s free edge (the white portion of your nail that extends beyond the fingertip). Dry your hands on a clean towel. You are shaping your nails before soaking them, because the nail is weaker when it is newly wet.Now comes your first creative decision: You have to choose a shape for your nails. You can always go for the “I don’t do a lick of manual labor” look, in which your nails extend ten feet beyond your fingertips, but bear in mind that this look is tough to maintain. It also makes it tough to do important things . . . like eat. Most manicurists recommend only letting the free edge of your nails extend a few millimeters beyond the fingertip. This cuts down on nail breakage and allows you to undertake those licks of manual labor.When choosing a nail shape, you should pick one that enhances the shape of your finger. Take a moment to study your hand, analyzing the finger length and thickness, hand size and cuticle shape. Keep in mind these suggestions:* Petite hands and fingers look best with almond-shaped nails.* Short and stocky fingers look best with squoval-shaped nails. (There’s a manicurist term to impress your friends with–it means “squared-off oval.”)* Heavy-set hands look best with squared-off ends. This is also true for fingers with wide nail beds (the main body of the nail that defines its shape).

    A rule of thumb (Ha ha! What a pun!) is to match the shape of the free edge to that of the cuticle (the protective layer of skin at the bottom of the nail). If the cuticle is oval, go with that shape; if it’s square, make the nail more squoval. If you have no cuticle, check your pulse: You may be dead.

    Now that you’ve chosen your shape, take your emery board in hand and start filing. Don’t start violently see-sawing your poor nails. Your nails are made up of compacted keratin fibers running lengthwise from the matrix (the base beneath the cuticle where the nail starts its growth) to the free edge. If you push them back and forth, they will start to separate and your nail will weaken. Instead of being a big spaz, delicately caress the nail with single-direction strokes. Start at the outer edge of one nail and move the emery board gently, at a 45- to 90-degree angle against the edge, along the nail toward the center. Repeat this until your nail is the desired shape. Then do the same on the other side, working out from the opposite edge to the center. Maintain the unidirectional theme until your nails are the shape you desire. One note of caution: Never file too deeply into the corners; you might get an infection. Also, side growth makes the nail look longer.

Soak the Cuticles

  1. Now that your nails are the shape you want, wipe off the nail dust (ick!) and plunge them into a nice warm bowl of water (pretend you’re Madge in that old Palmolive commercial). You can add a bit of scented oil to the water to make your hands even softer. Some manicurists add salt to keep the hands from becoming too pruney. Again, this is one of your many creative nail decisions. Keep your hands in the water for a few minutes, or until they just start to wrinkle. If you want to maintain the warmth of the water, you can position a little table lamp (one of those goose-neck college numbers would be an excellent tool) over the top of it. But don’t put the lamp too close: Burnt skin smells bad.When you’re done soaking, take your hands out of the water and gently dry them on a towel. Now it’s time to push back your cuticles. If you have extra-tough cuticles (again, ick!), you might want to rub some cuticle oil on them to soften them before you get to work. Take an orange stick and gently push the cuticles back to expose more of the lanula (the round, pinkish “moon” shape on your nail, and the only visible portion of the matrix). Never, ever, ever ever cut living tissue from the cuticle. A healthy cuticle will prevent bacteria from entering your body by sealing off the nail root from outside elements. The only reason you have nail scissors on hand is to cut off any dead skin that is still attached and risks pulling away healthy cuticle. Trim these hangnails as closely as possible without damaging living tissue. Push the exposed end back in with the rest of the cuticle. If you keep your cuticles well-maintained and your hands properly moisturized, you shouldn’t have trouble with hangnails.

Apply Color

  1. Now it’s time to color! Make sure your nails are dry from their previous soak. (You might get an infection if you seal off a wet nail.) Take a moment to let your hands air dry, or blast them for a few seconds with a hair dryer. When they are dry, make sure they are not covered in lint from your brand-new towels. (You wouldn’t want to ruin your nails with a bumpy piece of sealed-in lint!) Professional manicurists use special lint-free towels, but you can just wipe off the nail with your finger or your cotton pads.BuffBefore you apply any polish to your nails, check out the ridges on them. Whatever the state of your nails, you should lightly buff them with a white block buffer or an extra-fine emery board. This will not only decrease your ridges, but will remove any oil on the top of the nail plate (the hard layer of keratin that covers the nail bed). And by gently roughing up the surface of the nail plate, you will help the polish to stick to the nailsBase coatOnce you have buffed, you can now apply the base coat. If you still feel your nails have too many ridges, you can apply a ridge filler as your base. The base coat should be a matte, dull and quick to dry. It should be a bit tacky as well, so the polish has a better surface to stick to. Apply a thin coat and allow it to dry just until your nails are tacky. Remember that, after every coat of polish, you must let your nails dry thoroughly and not touch anything to avoid scuffing the polish.Pick a color and polish up

    Now it’s time to apply your colored polish. Most manicurists (unless they’re trying to sell you something) will tell you that there is no difference between expensive and cheap nail polish. You should choose your polish for its color and luminosity only (that is, if you want pretty nails). Of course, different colors look better on different individuals. Generally speaking, deeper reads are considered to be sleek, subtle and professional, while bright reds are considered to be fun and flashy. Please don’t use black nail polish. That’s so 1997, Gothgirl.

    Take the wand out of the bottle and apply a very thin layer of polish. To avoid getting polish on your skin, place the end of the loaded brush on the nail 1/8 of an inch away from the cuticle. Then push it in gently until the brush is just touching the nail before the cuticle. Next, sweep the brush down along the nail to the free edge. Repeat this until the nail is fully colored. If your nickname in high school was “butterfingers,” or if this sounds way too surgical for you, don’t worry: You can always remove polish from your skin with a cotton pad dipped in nail-polish remover. If you don’t want to put polish remover on your skin (it will dry it out), there is another solution: Do your manicure at night and take a hot shower the next morning. The steam will soften up the polish on your skin, and you should be able to pick it off.

    Don’t overwork your brushstrokes. It should only take three or four strokes to fill the nail. And here’s something many people fail to understand: Don’t worry about visible brush marks on the nail. When you let the nail dry, the polish should settle into an even coat. Let the polish dry completely and begin with another coat. You should only need about two to three coats. It is very important to keep the coats thin, as this will make it easier for the polish to settle. If your polish is too thick, you can always thin it by adding nail solvent (or nail-polish thinner, as it might be called. Don’t use remover, as it contains acetone and will break down your polish). Don’t thin your polish too much or too frequently, or you’ll screw up the concentration of the polish. To keep your polish from getting too thick in the first place, store it in your refrigerator. (The cooler and darker the storage environment, the less quickly the moisture in the polish will evaporate.)

    Once the color has dried (again, let your nails air-dry, or blast them with a hair dryer if you are in a hurry), it’s time to add your topcoat or sealant. This is a glossy, glass-like clear polish that is shiny and slow-drying. Its purpose is to protect your nails from chipping or cracking. Apply the polish in one thin coat, being especially careful not to overwork your brushstrokes. Once the polish is on, allow it to settle, and be very careful not to touch anything while they dry. With other coats, you can quick-dry them with a hair dryer; with the topcoat, it is best to leave it alone, as you don’t want to risk damaging the top layer of your beautiful work. For longer-lasting results (we sound just like a commercial, don’t we?), renew this topcoat every two to three days.

Get Fancy

  1. And now you have beautiful nails! What’s that, you overachiever? That’s not good enough? You want your nails to stand up and yell, “Hey, look at me!” Well, we’re still here for you. If you’re looking for something a little different in nail grooming, you can try these two techniques: the backflip (it’s not as dirty as it sounds) or a french manicure (it’s not as dirty as it sounds, either).BackflipThe backflip is almost as easy as a regular manicure. Groom your nails as you normally would, but when it comes time to apply the base coat, apply it to the top of the nail, as well as to the underside of the free edge. Next, you will choose two colors. One will be your main color, which is applied to the nail plate as described in Step 4. When your thin layers are dry, turn your hands over and apply the accent color to the underside of the free edge. You don’t just get to choose one nail color, but two! Apply the same number of coats as you did for the top of your nail. When everything is dry, apply the sealant on both sides of the nail.French manicureThe French manicure is a slightly more difficult technique, but it gives your nails a very classic look. Groom your nails as described in Step 4 to the point where you apply the base coat. Once this coat is dry, you can start your French manicure. Because this is a very natural look, most manicurists choose to use white nail polish, or slightly off-whites with a golden or pink tinge. Take the loaded brush and place it on the side of the nail’s free edge (the part closest to your finger). “Swoop” it down across the one side of the free edge, being careful to preserve the nail’s smile line (the shape of the white of the free edge against the rest of the nail). Repeat this on the other side of the nail. You should do only one “swoop” per side, but you can touch up the middle of the nail, as the two “swoops” will meet there, and you will have excess polish. Remember the golden rule of manicuring, and don’t overwork your brushstrokes, instead allowing the polish to settle itself. Repeat the smile line swoop (don’t forget to swing your partner!) on your other nine nails (lest you look unbalanced). When this coat is dry, apply a second thin layer. When the second layer is dry, apply the topcoat (the topcoats are coming! The topcoats are coming!) to the whole nail as you normally would, giving it enough time to dry. As this topcoat is now the main coat of your manicure, make sure you renew your topcoat every other day to maintain your pristine French manicure.

Care for Your Nails

  1. So now you have ten (we hope) beautiful nails, and you’ll want to keep them that way. Renew your topcoat of polish every two to three days. When doing any work, don’t use your nails as a tool, but rather use your finger pads. If you want your manicure to last, you shouldn’t use your nails to pry batteries out of the remote control, loosen screws or pick food out of your teeth.You’ll eventually have to re-do your manicure, but don’t do it more than once a week, as nail-polish remover is very drying to the skin. Keep your hands in good shape by moisturizing whenever you wash them, and by protecting them from harsh chemicals or cold weather by wearing gloves. Watch out for nail infections, looking out for such symptoms as:* thick skin around the cuticle* discolored nails that are not stained from dark polish* in yucky, advanced stages of infection, spongy, mushy nailsIf you experience any of these symptoms, get thee to a doctor soon, as your nails are not happy with you.

    And now go show off your glorious digits! Take up piano, hand modeling or a crazy Valley Girl dialect that has your waving your hands all over the place. Don’t let us catch you hiding your hands in your pockets!

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