Complete Guide to Hand Care: Getting Started

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If you have found this post...well, congrats. I meant to bury it deep within the depths of the blog, but still easily accessible. I wrote this post for a friend just starting her nail journey, so if you are looking for advanced care tips you might want to keep on clicking. But if you are looking to get started or maybe revamp your current routine, then join us on a magical journey of magic!

Start with your shape
Nail shapes are fun and low-commitment (for people other than me). You can generally grow out any shape within a month, so its easy to try new things on a whim. But I believe everyone has their "power shape". By that, I mean the natural shape your nails want to be. I always look at the cuticle shape to give me ideas on what tip shape will most likely be the strongest.

found with no link-back on Pinterest
There are a ton of different cuticle shapes, this is just a tl;dr. And this isn't a hard'n'fast rule either, so take it with a grain of salt. My personal opinion is that you will find that your strongest shape will usually mimic your cuticle shape. So if you have very square, straight cuticles then a squared shape is probably going to be best for you.

Here is my nails, completely nekkid. My cuticles are kinda square/round/oval (squoval is the colloquialism for that). I kinda let my nails find there own way most of the time, and this is where they seem to be happiest. I don't stab myself much and I suffer very few breaks.

from this post
A note on finding your length:
comfortable nail length is very subjective and personal, akin to hair length. you'll have to experiment and figure out what length you like. I still don't know what length I prefer...but I do know that for day-to-day, shorter is a lot more practical. Theoretically, you want the free edge (that white bit) to be long enough to protect the tip of your finger. Beyond as you will.

Get Good Tools
The right tools make all the difference. As with makeup, though, it doesn't always mean the most expensive ones. I think you need a fairly small bag of tricks for nail maintenance, at least in the beginning.

Orangewood Sticks
These are the multitaskers of the nail tool universe. They can be used to clean up errant polish, push back cuticles, pick up nail art jewels, clean under many things. These are the best things to have around, by far. They can't be sanitized, but they are so affordable that it isn't a huge deal to just toss them when you need a fresh one.

Glass File
I have found that glass files are so much nicer to my nails than regular files. I end up with a smoother egde, less splitting, and it seems to lead me to a lot less fussing over the next few days after a major shaping. The only drawback is that is seems to take me a lot longer, though that could be me being afraid of breaking my only file. These are a tiny bit more spendy than your average emery board, but these can be cleaned completely and don't wear down like traditional files. Definitely worth the investment.

Cuticle Oil
Any oil can be a cuticle oil, really. You can (and I have) used olive, coconut, jojoba, whatever. I have found that my nails really like oil blends that include vitamin E, and I've been using an unscented version of the Baroness X oil lately. (Full disclosure: it was sent to me for review) I feel like it leaves the least residue on my skin and the lack of smell is really nice.

Hand Cream
I could write essays on hand cream. Find one you like and keep it with you forever. I've been using the one I linked above since I was about 18. It is lightly scented, not too greasy, and has vitamin E. Any time I've strayed, my nails and skin have rebelled against me. 

Metal Cuticle Nippers
By far, the scariest thing on this list. These SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON YOUR CUTICLES. NEVER. Would you do surgery on yourself? No? Ok, then don't cut your cuticles. I promise, proper care and attention will painlessly and without danger form your cuticles to conform. But...shit happens. Cuticle nippers are amazing for getting hang nails without injuring yourself further. Torn skin, hang nails, and even random splinters don't stand a chance. It is better to cut things off than leave them and mess with them. Especially if you are like me and tend to pick at things. I clip any sticky-uppy bits off as soon as I feel them. If I don't I will fuck with them until my hand is red and irritated.

Exfoliation is imporant. Dead skin looks dull, and will possibly get in the way of your manicure adhesion. Grab some oil and sugar and get to scrubbing.

Start Slow
Don't expect to wake up tomorrow, spend five minutes, and have magic hands. I'm sorry...but no. That isn't how this works. Like anything else in life, it takes maintenance. But it can easily be worked into your daily routine. Here are a few places I think you should start.

•Shape your nails while you are wearing nail polish or against a dark background. My free-edge isn't even on all my nails, and when I shape them, I can get tricked into thinking all my nails are even when they aren't. I try to shape my nails when they are painted because it keeps me from being distracted.

•Grab a washcloth and take a shower. No, really. Go have a 10 minute long, warm, relaxing shower. Before you get out, gently push your cuticles back with your fingernail. GENTLY, I said. You should barely feel anything while doing this. You might notice something white and kinda filmy on your nails...that is your cuticle. It should all wipe away with a bit of scrubbing from the aforementioned washcloth. The washcloth will exfoliate the loose, dead skin without bothering all that living tissue you have going on there. Do this every other day (gently, dammit) and you should be in good shape within the first month.

•Apply lotion every time you wash your hands. Make it a habit. Keep a tube of lotion in your bag, by your sink, and by your bedside. Its obsessive, but keeping the skin moisturized will keep it in good shape...and keep you from picking at things and sliding back down to where we all started.

•Massage cuticle oil in while you are watching tv. What a better time to get a tiny finger massage than while you are binge watching some Supernatural? (season 10 is on netflix now) A wee drop on each nail, and then five minutes or so spent massaging it into your nail and cuticle area will make a world of difference. The oil moisturizes and the massage stimulates blood flow which will help heal damaged skin and promote healthy nail growth. 

Hopefully, this will get you off to a good start. Feel free to ask my any questions you have, I am always glad to answer what I can.