In response to a request from lovely reader Gef, here's what I use to maintain my nails:
Glass File (I like OPI's and Essie's)
Buffer (cheap three-ways from nail supplies work well)
Metal Cuticle Pusher (Round on one end with a pointy thing on the other)
Cuticle Nippers (must be extremely sharp and clean!)
Nail Brush (cheap disposable ones that I change out often, used every time I wash my hands)
Creative Nail Design Cuticle Remover (the clear gel in the big squeeze bottle)
Creative Nail Design Solar Oil
Creative Nail Design Cuticle Eraser
Qtica Intense Cuticle Repair Balm
Qtica Half Time Drying Drops
OPI Nail Envy
Seche Vite (or Poshe)
Cutex Original Nail Polish Remover (or if I'm feeling fancy, Zoya Remove+)
So, there are my absolute must-haves. Now, how to go about using them...
My basic routine is mostly upkeep. I never really take much length off my nails so I usually just file them to maintain their shape. When I do a full manicure, it goes something like this:
- Remove old polish
- File nails to desired shape using glass file.
- Apply CND Cuticle Remover and wait a minute.
- Begin pushing back cuticles and cleaning up around sides of nails and under nails with metal cuticle pusher. Be gentle, but remove as much as you can.
- Wash off cuticle remover and scrub hands with a grainy sugar scrub.
- Using cuticle nippers, cut only what's hanging off or sticking up. I never actually cut my cuticles, but if I have a hangnail or just too much excess cuticle I carefully trim it.
- Gently buff nails with 3-way buffer. I only do this if I need to. Too much buffing weakens my nails, so I only buff when they look rough.
- Apply tons of lotion and Solar Oil.
Now for the "treatments" portion of the list. You'll notice that I have a lot of favorites. I love cuticle oil and cuticle balm and I apply it several times during the day. With the CND Cuticle Eraser, I apply that once or twice a day, sometimes only every other day or whenever I remember to. I also like Poshe's AHA Cuticle Therapy- it comes in a better tube with a label that doesn't peel off and it doesn't smell like rotten lemon juice.
The Solar Oil (or OPI Avoplex, which I also love) I apply constantly. I have the big bottle near my couch, so whenever I'm watching TV I apply it a few times. It soaks in really quickly, so you can apply it repeatedly without getting greasy fingers. I buy tons of mini bottles and stash them all over- in my purse, in the bathroom, in my car, in the kitchen, everywhere. Apply the oil every time you see it.
The Qtica Intense Cuticle Repair Balm is special. It's a new favorite of mine and I don't know how I didn't find this sooner. It's super thick, rich and a little sticky- perfect for after you wash your hands. It really locks in moisture and it's so soothing on dry cuticles. I put this on before bed also.
OPI Nail Envy is one of my favorite treatments, but I'm also really digging Qtica Natural Nail Growth Stimulator. I use them as a base coat before polish. They seem to prevent chipping and staining quite well, with the added benefit of strengthening your nails at the same time. If I'm using a base coat, I like it to double as a treatment. I used to use Nailtek II Foundation, but I've misplaced my bottle and have no idea where I left it.
As a topcoat, I always use either Seche Vite or Poshe. I tend to favor Seche Vite because it seems to dry a bit faster, but Poshe seems a little shinier. Anyway, I don't know what I would do without these! The way to use them, if you've never used them before, is to apply it directly on top of wet polish. You get a decent sized bead on the brush and you spread it over the nail. it will even itself out, but it does start drying right away. Once you apply the topcoat, your nails will be dry to the touch in a minute or two and completely dry in 10-15 minutes. To speed it up, I use Qtica Half Time drying drops. All you do with the drops is drop a tiny amount onto each nail and it protects your polish while it's drying and helps it to dry faster. They rock.
So, there you have it. My bare necessities, my basic nail care must haves!