Natural Nail Care and Maintenance

Now that we understand the complete nail unit, we will be better able to properly care for our nails. There are several things we need to know or remember:

  • The skin and nails are constantly bathed by a tidal flow of oils and moisture.
  • Everything we see and touch except for light and electricity is a chemical.
  • Excessive hand washing or using household cleaning solutions without protection can rob our skin and nails of vital oil and moisture, resulting in split, peeling nails.
  • Water is a chemical, so are all nail related products.
  • Overexposure to any chemical can cause an allergic reaction.
  • The nail plate is comprised of many layers of cells that lose their inner material and become flat, hard and translucent.
  • Strength is a combination of hardness, and flexibility.
  • It is the clients responsibility to maintain her nails at home between salon visits.
  • It is the technicians responsibility to help the client maintain beautiful, healthy nails.
  • Nails that split and peel lack sufficient oil and moisture.
  • Nail diseases and disorders should be diagnosed by a physician and the prescribed medication taken or used as directed.
  • The nail technician is trained to recognize nail diseases and disorders, but not to treat them in the salon.

As nail technicians, our perfect dream would be to have a full book of clients that frequent our salon for all their nail needs. The reality is that there are a great many women (and men) that cannot afford, or have the time, to seek our services and must perform their own nail care at home. It is for these people that this page is written. I have always felt that educating the public on proper nail care is essential to our standing as an industry in the eyes of the consumer. Even though we feel that we spent a lot of money and time in school and in the salon perfecting our craft, and that we should be the only ones performing nail services, there are only so many clients we can see in a day, month or year. Even with a salon on every corner, there are a great many who have never frequented nail salons for professional nail care. The knowledge they have about nails has been gained from magazines, friends, neighbors and/or Infomercials. I would much rather see us take it upon ourselves to educate the public about the benefits of home nail care than to see them chance the possibility of nail damage because of not knowing the proper procedures of a manicure, pedicure, or the proper use of nail related tools and implements.

The following is a list of nail tools and implements required when performing a manicure or pedicure, and an explanation of the proper use:

Terry Towels: To protect the work surface from chemicals and water, and to dry our hands between procedures and before enamel application.

Orangewood Sticks: For gently pushing back the cuticle, for cleaning under the free edge or for removing excess enamel.

Cotton or Gauze Pads: For removing enamel and/or excess oil from the nail plate surface.

Polish Remover: For removing nail enamel or polish from the nail plate surface. Polish remover comes in acetone or non-acetone (ethyl acetate) formulas. The general consensus is that acetone based removers can be safely used on natural nails while some prefer to use non-acetone based removers on artificial surfaces.

Files or Abrasives: Files come in all sizes and in many grits. The higher the number the smaller the grit, and the lower the number, the coarser the grit. It is never recommended to use a grit smaller than 240 on the natural nail plate or for shaping the free edge. Many over the counter ’emery boards’ have a grit of 80 which is too coarse for use on natural nails. Files made of metal are also too rough to safely use as the coarser the grit, the more easily the nail plate layers are shredded. Files that are called ‘3-way buffers’ have a grit higher than 3600. They are used to smooth the surface of the nail plate without scratches, and to impart a high gloss shine. Use the black side first to refine, then the white side to semi-shine, then finish with the gray side to super shine. Padded abrasives are easier to hold, maintain their grit for longer periods, and many of them can be sanitized.

Cuticle Nippers: Cuticle nippers come with different sizes of cutting surfaces: 1/4 jaw, 1/2 jaw and full jaw. What this means is that the more cutting surface there is, the easier it is to cut the skin with a single ‘nip’. It is better to use a nipper with a smaller cutting surface if one is not accustomed to using these implements. Remember, it is only the true cuticle that is removed during the manicuring process and not the live skin of the eponychium or lateral nail folds.

Nail or Toenail Nippers/Clippers/Scissors: Nail nippers are simply a larger size cuticle nipper which have been designed to remove excess nail length, and are usually used to cut the toenails. Nail scissors have a small, curved blade and are designed to remove length from the fingernails. Nail clippers come in small and large sizes with a curved cutting edge, and are designed to cut the fingernail and toenail. Always be sure you use the proper tool for the proper procedure.

Cuticle Pusher: A metal implement used to push the invisible, translucent true cuticle from the nail plate. When using this implement, never apply heavy, downward force to push back the cuticle as too much pressure applied in this area can damage the matrix.

Curette: An instrument designed to ‘scrape’ excess cuticle from the nail plate. Many technicians prefer using a curette as it is designed to remove the true cuticle from the nail plate vs. simply pushing it back. Proper use of this instrument to remove true cuticle negates the need for nippers.

Nail Brush: Used wet, and with warm soapy water for scrubbing the surface and underside of the nail plate to aid in complete removal of pathogenic organisms, dirt and debris.

Manicure/Finger Bowl: Usually a plastic container shaped to hold the fingers and hand in a comfortable position while soaking in a warm, soapy water bath.

Hot Oil Machine: A heating unit designed to warm lotion or oil in a paper or plastic ‘tub’. A hot oil manicure is always recommended for persons with extremely dry skin and nails.

Paraffin Machine: A machine that warms paraffin wax that is used during some manicure/pedicure procedures. Warm wax will benefit tired, sore, stressed hands while serving to deep condition and moisturize the skin. Some paraffin waxes contain additives of eucalyptus and other essential oils.

Pedicure Tub: A foot tub that holds and heats water for soaking the feet. Some pedicure tubs will massage the feet while they are soaking. It is not recommended that the feet of the elderly be immersed in very hot water or massaged using these machines. Seek the advise of the elderly persons physician before performing a pedicure procedure — especially one that may have a severe or debilitating health issue.