The Twenty-Something Series: Nail-care is my favourite kind of self-care

There are so many stages to a simple nail-care routine, but it's so worth it. I share mine in this post!

I think I might've mentioned this on my blog before, but one of my go-to self-care things is to paint my nails.

I work on a laptop all day, and I'm usually on my laptop outside of work too - doing my other job, as a writer. I think it's probably because I work with a keyboard so much, where I can see my hands constantly, that I like to have my nails painted (and not chipped). If my nails look nice, it just helps me feel more together.

(You know how nice it looks when someone has their nails painted, right? I love that. It's so pretty.)

Of course, painting my nails so much can take its toll on them. It can make them fragile, flaky, coarse.

Thankfully, a straightforward (and relatively inexpensive) nail care routine does wonders. It can take a little time, but I've got mine down to ten minutes and find I only have to do my nails once a week, if that often.

Start out with clean nails

I don't buy expensive nail polish remover - I think I spend up to £1 on whatever's store-brand in the supermarket. I clean off whatever nail varnish I had on, wash my hands, and then file and shape. 

Get a four-way buffer

I use the file flat on my nails to smooth out any flakiness, and have one of those four-way buffer things to work over the nail beds. I only discovered this tool about a year ago, and honestly, it's changed my life. Again - I think I spent maybe £2 on it? It wasn't expensive, whatever it was. My nails always feel soft and smooth after using it.

Plus, it gives your nail varnish a better surface when you apply it. You know when your nails get all ridged and bumpy? A varnish nightmare.

Don't forget your cuticles

You know those little wooden sticks you get in a manicure kit? They're for pushing back your cuticles. (And your cuticles are those bits of skin that grow up over the bottom of your nail.) Pushing them back makes your nails look longer, and it doesn't hurt, if that's a concern. I personally don't bother with cuticle oil, so that's not an expense I ever worry about.

Start with a clear varnish

Give the colour a base to stick to - and you want to know what I've found this makes the biggest difference to? Taking your nail varnish off. If I use a dark blue or a bright red polish, I know it's going to stain my nails - but if I've used a clear base coat first, it makes the world of difference. I do have a set of gel-like base and top coats I spent quite a bit of money on, but mostly I just use a Rimmel London one and it serves me pretty well. 

Sometimes, you gotta spend money for long-lasting colour

I swear by my Sally Hansen nail varnishes. They cost £10 a bottle (I did manage to get a deal where I got four bottles at £20 though, which was awesome) but I can wear them for ten days, with hardly any chips. It's ideal if I know I'm travelling (which I was a lot in the last few months!)

When you find a brand that works for you, stick with it

Sometimes I'll find a nail varnish that's under a fiver and lasts a week, and it's a goddamn miracle. And sometimes, I'll buy a more expensive one and... it barely lasts a day. (Honestly, Boots No 7 just does not work on my nails. Every time I try to wear it, it just peels right off whole. I have a friend who gets this with Barry M. If it happens, accept it, and don't go back there.) If you use a nail varnish that doesn't peel off, doesn't chip much - try more of that brand! New Look has actually been one of my favourites for this. I bought one in a khaki colour I fancied, but it lasted so well I went back for more.

Many thin coats are better than one thick coat

You heard me. 

Just make sure you leave enough time for it to dry, however thin! I like to do my nails when I'm on my tablet or computer, because I can carry on but there's next to no risk of me smudging the nail varnish before it dries.

Don't forget to seal the colour with a clear top coat!

No explanation needed here! (I just use the same one as I use for my base coat.)

If your nails are looking weak...

I had gels done professionally back in October. I know how awful it is and how you're totally not supposed to, but... I peeled it off when it started to flake, instead of going to get it taken off at a salon. My nails were terrible after I cleaned them up. The whole nail bed looked flaky and just felt awful.

I found this nail varnish in TKMaxx, completely on accident, the next day. Ciaté Knight in Shining Armour, an overnight nail mask. It came out clear and thick, dried like normal nail varnish. I put it on in the evening and took it off with nail varnish remover the next morning. A brief four-way buff later and my nails had never felt so good. You'd never have known they'd been in such a state the day before! I couldn't get over how amazing it was, and swear by this now. I know it's kind of expensive, but it was totally worth it as far as I was concerned.

And one last thing not to neglect:

Hand cream! 

I like L'Occitane if I'm feeling fancy, but most of the time I stick with some from The Body Shop (the shea butter one is my go-to, because my hands get pretty sore and sensitive). If you need something milder and unscented - try E45's hand cream. My hands were cracked and raw a while ago, and my mum gave me hers. It's cheap and cheerful, and super gentle.

I know it sounds like a lot, but honestly, I find it's so worth it. And it's definitely worth the extra care and attention into prepping my nails, rather than just slapping on a new colour, in the long run!

Do you have a nail-care routine, or any go-to recommendations? I'd love to hear - share in the comments!

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