There is nothing quite like a fresh manicure to make me feel like my life is together (you know what they say… fake it ‘til you make it). I am a big fan of acrylic nails, as they are extremely durable and look fresh for a couple weeks. I also love chatting in a nail salon as much as the next person, but the chemicals salons use in acrylics, gels, cuticle removers, etc., come with a whole slew of gross toxins.
Getting acrylics, or even gels, at a salon requires the trifecta of sacrifices: time, money, and the health of your real nails. If you are looking to save on all three but your homemade paint job never looks quite as polished as you’d like, here are a few tips for getting a salon quality non-toxic manicure on your own.
Strong, long nails actually start with your health.
Balanced nutrition and plenty of water is a good starting point for growing beautiful nails, but if you still struggle with brittleness or dullness, try consciously incorporating more healthy fats (from foods like nuts, avocado, and olive oil) and protein into your diet. Both healthy fat and protein are essential in nail growth.
If you do not already, consider supplementing your nutrition with a daily multivitamin. Many minerals essential to your nail (and hair!) health, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc, can become depleted throughout the day from coffee, sugar, stress, and other factors. A daily multivitamin can do wonders in your general nutrition and keeping your nails looking nice.
Whew, now for the fun stuff!
When preparing your hands for polish, be sure to exfoliate with a sugar or salt scrub, especially around your cuticle and nail bed to remove dead skin and smooth rough spots. Use a warm washcloth to push back your cuticles, and a file to shape your nails. Avoid soaking your nails in water to soften cuticles or hands– this actually can cause nail brittleness! A warm washcloth will make the cuticle soft without weakening the nail.
Try to follow your natural nail shape when filing to keep everything looking clean and even. Lastly, before polishing, run a clean cotton ball or piece of tissue over each nail to make sure there is no product residue or moisture left.
The key to a non-toxic manicure is of course, the polish.
Finding an entirely toxin-free, shiny, chip-free nail polish is pretty tough. However, when purchasing polish, you can look for brands that omit the “toxic trio:” dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, and toluene. One of the best drugstore brands made without the toxic trio is OPI (my personal favorite shade: Dulce de Leche).
Not only is each bottle around $8, but the color range is phenomenal, and the polish dries shiny even sans top coat. Two coats of an OPI shade with no base or top coat lasts on my nails for about 4-5 days without a single chip, and even looks good with touch ups for a full week!
Be sure to paint in thin coats and let each dry completely to avoid bubbles or smudges. Doing three thin coats with drying time in between will give a smoother appearance than one or two thick layers.
Lastly, taking care of your hands will be the ultimate factor in keeping the manicure looking nice. Set a bottle of hand cream by your bed and apply it every night to keep hangnails at bay, and wear gloves when washing dishes or using cleaning products. This nail routine may quickly become part of your self-care regime– a salon quality manicure can absolutely be done without draining your wallet, destroying your nails, or even leaving the house!
Also published on Medium.