Have you ever peeled your nail polish off of your nails or forgotten to use a base coat at the start of an at-home manicure? How about noticing midway through a meeting than your cuticles are looking less than stellar? It happens to all of us. However, neglecting your hands and nails is a big beauty no-no. After all, they are the only parts of your body (besides your beautiful face) that are almost always exposed, no matter the situation. Well, it’s time to start paying some closer attention to how you take care of your hands and nails. Just as you would immediately address any dry skin on your complexion, try to practice the same care when it comes to your hands and nails. In fact, we think you should consider hand cream to be one of your skin care essentials. Add the following 16 nail care routine tips to your regular skin care routine ASAP.
nail care routine tip #1. MOISTURIZE DAILY
Just like you should moisturize your complexion twice a day, it’s important to keep your hands hydrated, too. Without enough consistent moisture, you’ll quickly experience dry skin and ragged cuticles on your hands. So, stock up on some small tubes of hand cream—toss one in your purse, keep one in your car, and put one on your bedside table so that you can slather moisturizer on wherever you are. Another pro tip: Apply the moisturizer onto damp skin, right after you hop out of the shower or wash your hands, to help lock in hydration.
nail care routine tip #2. PROTECT YOUR HANDS FROM THE ELEMENTS
You know how your complexion can tend to feel drier when the air is cold and dry? The same thing can happen to your hands. In addition to properly moisturizing, make sure to wear gloves when you’re in cold climates in order to limit your exposure to the frigid elements.
nail care routine tip #3. AVOID HOT TEMPS IN THE SHOWER
We know: A long, hot shower is probably something you look forward to at the end of a long day—especially if it’s been a particularly cold one. The issue is, super-hot water can strip your skin of essential moisture. Instead, try to turn the dial down and rinse off in lukewarm water. And don't forget to apply this advice when washing your hands, too!
nail care routine tip #4. SLATHER ON THE SPF
When your skin is exposed to the sun—and you’re not wearing sunscreen and taking other protective measures—it can lead to skin damage and show up as visible signs of aging like dark spots and fine lines and wrinkles down the road. According to the Food & Drug Administration, you should wear a broad-spectrum SPF of 15 or higher every day (yes, you can get burned even on cloudy days!). So, apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside, making sure to get both sides of your hands, and remember to reapply every two hours!
nail care routine tip #5. INVEST IN CUTICLE OIL
Ah, this often-overlooked part of your fingers deserves some attention. Rub on a little bit of cuticle oil each day to help care for dry cuticles.
nail care routine tip #6. KEEP YOUR NAILS SHORT
Do your long nails tend to break easily? Avoid the annoying (and possibly painful) hassle by cutting—and keeping—them short. Simply trim and file them to the length and shape of your liking and be gentle while doing so.
nail care routine tip #7. don’t forget to buff
This next tip applies to at-home manicures, but it can also be helpful if you just want to keep your bare nails looking their best. Invest in a nail buffing tool and use it when needed (probably once a week) to help keep your nails smooth. This extra step in your nail care routine can be particularly helpful for before you apply your polish to help ensure a more even application.
nail care routine tip #8: USe a nail primer
The first step to a proper manicure is applying a primer to help create a smooth canvas on which to apply your polish (just like you use a makeup primer before you apply your foundation). After you buff, it’s time to use your nail primer. Look for one that’s formulated to addresses your specific nail issue, be it ridges, breakage, or yellowing nails.
nail care routine tip #9. FOLLOW UP WITH A BASE COAT
Now that you’ve primed your nails, it’s time to put on a base coat. The purpose of applying a base coat is to extend the life of a manicure. Plus, if you’re planning on wearing a dark hue, a base coat can help to prevent polish from staining your nails.
nail care routine tip #10. POLISH AWAY!
Once your base coat has dried, you can get to work on actually painting your nails. Apply a thin coat of polish, let it dry, then apply a second coat. Remember to be patient—don’t rush the drying process or you might regret it!
nail care routine tip #11. FINISH OFF WITH A TOP COAT
It’s time to seal the deal with a layer of top coat to help protect your manicure from chips. A top coat can also help to add shine. Wait until your two coats of color are semi-dry before applying your top coat, and then wait until your top coat is fully dry before touching anything!
nail care routine tip #12: wear gloves in the kitchen
Once you’ve spent time creating your perfect manicure, you don’t want to see it chip off the second you have any household chores to do! Doing the dishes, or getting your nails wet in any capacity, can shorten the lifespan of your manicure, and that's so frustrating. So, get a pair of kitchen gloves and throw them on next time you’re cleaning your frying pan or rinsing dishes. It only adds about five seconds to your clean-up routine and it’s well worth it.
nail care routine tip #13: exfoliate regularly
Just like the rest of your body can benefit from regular exfoliation—we’re talking head to toe—don’t forget to give your hands the same treatment! We use our hands constantly throughout the day and they take on lots of wear and tear. Once or twice a week, use a sugar scrub to give your hands a quick exfoliation and help keep them smooth and soft.
nail care routine tip #14: give your nails a break
As much as we love a good manicure, your nails can also benefit from a polish break every once in a while. If you notice your nails feeling extra brittle or looking yellow-tinted in between your polish changes, it’s time to give them a rest. Go polish-free for one to two weeks, or until your nails start feeling and looking like their normal selves.
nail care routine tip #15: File your nails in one direction
Although your natural inclination might be to file your nails back and forth, back and forth, doing this can leave the edges rough and frayed. Instead, file in just one direction, picking the file back up in between each swipe.
nail care routine tip #16: don’t peel off your gels
When you notice your gel manicure starting to chip, do not—we repeat, do not—peel the polish off of your nails! This will literally strip your nail, leaving it extremely weak and fragile. Instead, dissolve your gels in acetone and use a cotton round to wipe off the color.