Rehab Your Nails: Spa Manicure

1:09 PM

Well ladies and we go.  Today I'm going to show you how to take care of your  cuticles WITHOUT nipping them off.  I've pretty much left my nails to their own devices for a few weeks now.  I haven't done anything to them and they're growing out damage from some repairs I did with acrylic awhile back.  So it's the perfect time to test your knowledge of nail disorders and see what kind of shape your nails are in.  Here's an unaltered (scary times) picture of the nails I'm starting with:

Scary thing isn't it?  When you don't care for your nails and cuticles, this is what ends up happening.  Now, granted I DO have some self inflicted damage from the acrylic patch but it's pretty minimal in the scheme of things.  I also work with my hands and made a point of not moisturizing regularly to fully illustrate my point.  This picture shows SIX common nail problems and all of them will be fixed or bettered with the spa manicure technique I'm going to show you today.  Did you spot them?

I've labeled them for you in this picture so that you can see what you're looking for when you assess your own nails.  Do you have peeling? On my index finger you can see some peeling of the top layers of my nail starting.  Some peeling also involves larger areas of the nail lifting up from the lower layers.  If it's a very deep peel, you'll want to avoid buffing it.  I broke my middle nail which is a very common issue and the only fix for that other than to repair with tips or acrylic (which does cause more damage to the existing nail) is to file and let it grow out.  I'm going to file it down evenly.  My primary cuticle is untamed and as a result you can see the secondary cuticle is growing up my nail plate.  It looks unappealing now but it will later lead to the next problem you see which is a potential hang nail on the side of my ring finger.  I already have one on my thumb but notice the positioning. The one on the thumb is caused by dryness, NOT poor cuticle care.  And finally you can see the thinning at the tips of my middle and ring finger from the buffing and acrylic removal.  So how do we make this better?  Well first you'll need to gather up some tools. Here's what you'll need for a SPA MANI:

A pair of cuticle nippers 
A currette with a small end
A cuticle pusher (preferably spoon shaped)
Cuticle remover (I'm using Blue Cross)
A bowl filled with very hot water and a bit of soap
A hand towel (or a few)
A nail file (I prefer a 600 grit)
A buffer (I'm using the same file I used on my nails)
Cuticle Oil (I'm using Solar Oil by CND)
Lotion (I'm using CND Almond Hydrating Lotion)

Set up your supplies by laying the towel down and folding it towards you.  You can choose to layer it over another towel or two to prevent the surface underneath from getting wet. You'll want your bowl filled with hot water and a splash of soap near the side of your towel. Now you're ready to go.  File your nails gently using the file.  Then place them one by one into the water for about three minutes.  (Do your cuticle work after removing from water and THEN do your other hand. Don't soak one after the other)  Remove your hand from the water, dry it gently using the fold of the towel to pat it dry. Then add your cuticle remover. I like Blue Cross because it's strong and it's a liquid. I keep mine in a pump bottle and I pump one squirt over each nail.  Then you can start pushing with the cuticle pusher.  Be sure to start in the side fold of your  nail and push GENTLY. You will feel the cuticle push back and then you'll feel a bit of release. It will take you awhile to be able to identify the feeling but the more you do it the better you'll get.

It was hard to get a good picture of this because my pusher is so large. But hopefully you can see how far over my pusher is.  Be careful not to go too fast or push to hard or you'll go right through your primary cuticle and cause a hangnail which may bleed or be painful.  Just gently and slowly move back and forth over the nail plate starting from about midway up the nail.  Keep the pusher relatively flat -- the shape is going to do most of the work for you.  You'll see the secondary cuticle coming up.  It looks like this:

Gross, right?  This is why it's important to remove this from the nail plate.  Every time you polish, you're putting the polish right over this layer of skin and that's going to make it not adhere as well.  It's also better for your nails to have the excess removed and will help your nails get healthier.  So now that the secondary cuticle is loosened, you can remove it gently with a currette.  Using the small side, scoop gently from one corner to the other.  If you've done this enough times and it's properly loosened, it will all come off in one little chain of skin.

If it's not loosened properly, go back over with your pusher. If it's coming off in pieces, that's OK too, it just means you pushed a little hard in places and separated the cuticle.  Once you've completed this on all nails, you can use your towel fold to wipe the nails clean making sure to GENTLY push the cuticle towards your hand.  This way you can be sure you've gotten all the secondary cuticle and you'll be able to see lifts or flaps on your primary cuticle.

See all those white areas? Those are loose skin. Remove them carefully with your nippers. Notice NONE of the back curve of that primary cuticle is white. It does not need to be removed. Clear cuticle is healthy.  Only remove that if it's flapping up and will catch on something.  Use the back of the nippers to cut NOT the points. There is an angle to the blade of them and if you work with that angle by tilting them slightly upwards your cuts will be more precise and you'll be less likely to slice yourself.  After you've removed those loose areas, gently buff the nail.

When buffing, avoid touching your skin or your primary cuticle with the buffer.  I use a file for this because the blocks are very hard to control. Also remember that you don't need ANY pressure when filing or buffing. The file will do the work for you. Just touch  it to the nail and gently move it back and forth.  My buffed nail pic came out really fuzzy but it should remove most of the remaining secondary cuticle on the nail plate.  Then add your cuticle oil, rub it in for a few minutes and then add the lotion and thoroughly rub it in. How did they turn out?

I didn't file down that broken one yet!! lol...but otherwise, they look MUCH better. No?  You can still see the thinning which won't be fixed until it grows off the nail but I didn't buff that area so it's no worse.  Even though I didn't nip my primary cuticle, you can see that it's not noticeable.  Pushing and taking care of that secondary cuticle is going to keep the primary one under control. AND the best part is you don't have to worry about cutting yourself, cutting it incorrectly, or it growing back in wonky because you haven't touched it.  Pretty great, huh?  

I hope this was helpful to some of you!! I have a tools post coming up soon and will address getting the best nipper for you and also the differences in currettes!!

Have a great weekend!! :)

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  1. this is so helpful, reblogging, thanks again Bee!

  2. Much better!! Great advise...Very informative and helpful!!!

  3. Wow, that looks great! Wish I had all these tools lol!

  4. Great post- I push my cuticles back and use remover but you had some pretty handy tips in this post. Thanks!

  5. Fantabulous! Thank you for this! :)

  6. Thanks for this post! I am in love with nail care, and this was very informative. Great photo illustrations!

  7. Thank you for this, very helpful info.

  8. What a great post with some very helpful info! Now if I could just find my curette that disappeared.

  9. Great post! I love Red My Lips! Such a great pop. Spa Manicure


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