Manicures and Nail Care
And I'm not just talking about women in this discussion of hand and nail care. Men are just as needful of learning to properly care for their hands. There is no reason for a man not to keep himself properly groomed. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is pointless for a man to try and dress nicely unless he plans to fully care for his appearance. That includes regular manicures and pedicures.
The hands are our main tools for interfacing with the world around us. They allow us to use the tools we need to perform our jobs, feed ourselves, and communicate with others around us. Women are expected to have smooth skin and clean hands and nails, but some men feel that this isn't as important for them. There is nothing that says more about a man than the way he shakes hands. And yet just because a firm handshake is a sign of a strong man, there is no reason for the hand in question to feel like sandpaper or stone.
There are simple rules to taking care of your hands. Apart from nail care, which we'll cover in just a moment, there are two things to remember whether you are a man or a woman:
One: Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands as often as necessary to keep them clean, regardless of your profession. Remember that various items you come in contact with can leave a residue on your hands whether or not it is visible. A good product to keep on hand is a hand sanitizing gel. This isn't for fear of some risk of infections or germs, but rather because these products offer a handy solution to hand cleaning and offer a pleasant fragrance that will remove residual odors.
Two: Use a lotion or hand cream to keep your hands soft and your skin smooth. This is no longer just a woman's issue. For women, there are countless products available for you, and men will be gratified to know that there are now products produced and marketed specifically for men featuring masculine fragrances as well as products that have gender neutral scents.
The nails of the hands and feet are made of keratinized protein that grows in a small region at the tips of the fingers and toes. If you look carefully at the nails of your fingers you will see the basic parts of the nail's anatomy.
The white area of the nail that (if left untrimmed and unbroken) grows to extend past the tips of the finger is called the free edge.
The area of the nail that is still attached to the finger and seems to extend back under the fold of skin is called the nail plate.
At the base of the nail plate, where the skin folds over the edge of the nail, you will often see a whitish semi-circular shape under the nail. This is called the lunula, because of its resemblance to the crescent moon. The lunula is the portion of the matrix bed (from which the nail is formed) that is visible.
And the fold of skin that overlaps the nail at its base is the cuticle (also called the eponychium). The purpose of the cuticle is to protect the matrix bed from contaminants and infection.
At the base of the nail, beneath the cuticle and as part of the matrix bed are tendons to anchor the nail in place and blood vessels that carry nutrients and moisture to the nails allowing healthy growth.
For both men and women, basic nail care is the same. Keep your nails clean, trimmed and filed to a length and in a shape that you find comfortable and pleasing. For some women this means long, claw-like talons, while for others it means short and serviceable. Men, on the other hand generally prefer short, and some prefer their nails to be trimmed very short - to the point where there is very little, if any, free edge visible.
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Fortunately, you don't have to go to a nail salon in order to get proper nail care. You can take care of the basics on your own. It just takes a few simple tools and the desire to do something to care for your nails.
What You Need:
Nail Clippers: These are the standard nail trimming tools that everyone needs. Nail clippers are relatively inexpensive and you should always get the best possible quality of clippers that you can find. A good quality pair of nail clippers will cost you less that US $10 and will last you a lifetime. A good nail clipper will cut cleanly without needing to exert a lot of pressure. Poorly made or dull clippers can end up tearing the nails and can lead to problems (not to mention pain) if the nail tears into the nail plate.
Nail File or emery board: Another inexpensive item that you should buy for quality is a Nail file. These are used to pare down and shape the nails as desired, and to smooth the edges of the nails after clipping. The nail file can be metal and designed to last a long time, or plastic coated with grit for durable wear (although not permanent). Or you can use emery boards which are small cardboard files coated with a different coarseness of sandpaper-like grit on each side. These are designed for single use and should be discarded afterward.
Nail Brush: This is a small brush with short bristles designed to clean into the grooves at the sides and under the free edge of the nail. It is useful for removing dirt and debris that gets into the crevices at the tips of the fingers.
Cuticle Pusher or Orangewood Stick and cotton balls with lotion: The cuticle pusher is a tool designed to gently slide the cuticle back from the nail plate. In the normal course of growth, the cuticle can extend onto the nail plate and become bothersome. Many cuticle pushers come with a rubberized tip to gently buff away dead cuticle skin from the nail plate. Orangewood sticks are disposable wooden rods that are cut at an angle to provide a tapered flat edge for pushing back the cuticle. Both cuticle pushers and orangewood stick should be wrapped with a small amount of cotton before using, and a small amount of lotion should be applied to the cuticle beforehand to soften it and aid in the process.
Sanding Block: This is a rectangular foam block that is coated with a fine grit. It is used for smoothing out ridges in the surface of the nail.
Cuticle Oil: This is a light emollient designed to absorb quickly and keep the cuticle soft and healthy. It prevents painful cracking and drying that can occur in some cases.
Nail Buffer and buffing cream or Buffer Stick: The nail buffer is an elongated foam rubber tool covered with a chamois. It is used with a special cream that acts as a fine smoothing paste to "polish" the surface of the nail and give it a shine. Most men prefer to have their nails buffed instead of using clear polish. The Buffer stick looks like a nail file of sorts with rubberized panels of differing hardness to smooth and buff the surface of the nail without any additional product. It takes longer than the Buffer and cream method, but has the benefit that it can be used anywhere. Done properly, both the buffer and cream and the buffer stick will give the nails a high glossy finish that will last a long time.
Clear Nail Polish (basecoats, topcoats), Colored Nail Polishes: These are nail enamels that are designed to give shine to the nails, or add a fashionable color.
The Basic Manicure:
Step One: Wash your hands thoroughly and carefully and dry them completely. Be sure to use your nail brush to clean beneath the free edge and in the grooves along the sides of the nail. Your nails are somewhat porous and will become softer when wet. When they are wet they become more easily damaged.
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Always try to keep your nails an even length when compared to the other fingers. Begin with the little finger on each hand and work your way inward. The goal is uniformity.
Step Three: File the nails to remove sharp or rough edges. Use your nail file to pare down the nail and shape it as you desire. There are five basic nail shapes people use: Round, Oval, Pointed, Square and a relatively new shape: Squoval.
The Round shape follows the curve of the fingertip and is usually shorter in length extending only slightly past the tip of the finger. Many men prefer this shape when manicuring their nails.
The Oval shape is longer with a rounded end and is considered the strongest of the shapes based on the experiences of nail technicians. It can be difficult to keep even lengths with oval shaped nails, but practice and experience will pay off.
The Pointed nail is tapered to the center of the nail, although it is rarely shaped into an actual 'point'. This shape looks best on women with long slender fingers.
The Square shape is one where the nail is trimmed to a specific length and the ends are filed to a straight edge. The corners are filed only enough to remove any truly sharp corners to prevent accidental scratching. Many men like to have their nails filed into a short, square shape.
The Squoval shape is relatively new, and came about because of the number of people who liked the look of the squared nail, but needed the added structural strength of the oval. It is simply a square nail with the corners rounded.
Step Four: Once your nails are the desired shape, examine your cuticles. If they are growing down onto the nail plate or appear to be sticking to the nail plate, you need to push them back. Apply a dab of lotion to each fingertip on the cuticle, and massage it in. Give the lotion a few moments to soften the cuticle and then take your cuticle pusher or orangewood stick and wrap the tip in cotton. Gently rub the padded tip along the nail plate at the base of the nail and push the cuticle back away from the nail.
Be sure to rub away any remaining dead skin residue. Gentle is the key here; the cuticle is usually very sensitive and can be painful when damaged. A light touch is usually sufficient to push back any cuticle.
Step Five: Examine the nail plate. If there are any ridges in the nail plate, you can use the sanding block to gentle grind them down. Gentle pressure and small circular motions work best. Once the surface of the nail plate looks and feels smooth, you're done.
Step Six: It's time to finish your nails. Some people simply want a coat of clear polish for a clean, glossy look. Others - mostly women - like to have color applied. Many men don't like the idea of even clear polish, and prefer to have their nails buffed.
We'll discuss the steps for applying polish in a moment, but for now, let's talk buffing. Apply a small dab of buffing cream to the center of each nail with a cotton swab or the unused end of your orangewood stick. The cream is usually quick-drying, so give it just a moment and use your nail buffer to rub the cream all over the nail and begin buffing the nail plate with long, quick strokes. The act of buffing and the texture of the cream mean that the nail tends to heat up in this process, so try to keep your number of strokes in succession to three or four. It's easiest to count it out. (Back, forth, back, forth, and pause; back, forth, back, forth, and pause; etc.) You'll start to see the results after a few repetitions and you can continue until you reach your desired level of shine.
And now you have well-groomed hands. You'll be ready to show them off, or wait for someone to notice them. You'll be surprised how many people do. However, we still need to talk about applying nail polishes for those people who want to use them.
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Applying Nail Polish:
Applying nail polish seems like a simple way to finish the nails after manicuring, but the following procedure is recommended to get the best results and longest wear from your polish.
Step One: Basecoat
Starting with the little finger and working your way in to the thumbs, apply a coat of clear polish. There are polishes designed specifically for use as base coats. The purpose of the base coat is to fill in any uneven spots in the surface of the nail and to prevent the nail from being stained by any color that is later applied. (If all you want is to have clear polish on your nails, simple apply two coats of clear polish, and you're done.)
Step Two: Colored Polish
Carefully apply your colored polish to the nails working from little finger inward. Allow the first coat to dry completely and then apply a second coat to ensure even coverage. Use an orangewood stick dipped in nail polish remover to scrape away any mistakes.
Step Three: Topcoat
Once your colored polish has been applied and allowed to dry fully, add another coat of clear polish to the nails. (Again, there are polishes designed specifically for use as a top coat.) The purpose of the top coat is to seal the color and protect it against chipping and scuffs.
The finished nails will look glossy and have depth of color. The great thing about nail color is that it is a fashion accessory in and of itself. You can change your color to match an outfit, or your mood. It's easy and comparably quick.