I love my nails.

There’s nothing I like more than a fresh manicure…it’s almost an addiction! But, as a recovering nail-biter, the road to nice nails hasn’t been a smooth one.

When I first stopped biting my nails, my hands looked pretty ragged. I was in dire need of a manicure miracle, but it was too expensive to go to the salon as often as my poor nails required; once-a-week visits were not in my budget!

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands (literally!) and start doing my own manicures again. I learned the techniques needed to make my dry, cracked hands presentable because, not only did I have my nasty habit working against me, but I also have eczema, which makes my skin resemble that of a crocodile.

All this trial and error has taught me a lot about keeping my nails in good form, so read on for some of my tips – and favourite products – for your next DIY manicure.

Prep hands like a pro

  • Remove any existing nail polish from your hands
  • Take turns placing hands in a small bowl filled with warm water and (my secret ingredient) pure almond oil (I use this one). Soaking a few minutes each will suffice.
  • Dry off hands, but leave finger nails slightly wet
  • Dampen the tip of a cuticle stone, then use it to push back cuticles and gently file away dead skin around nail area.
  • Next, slather cream on your hands and let it soak in.
  • Swipe your nails with either acetone or rubbing alcohol – this is important!! It ensures there’s no residue left on your nails and guarantees a good, clean surface for your polish.

Use a good base coat

  • I can tell you from experience that a quality base coat really does help make your manicure last. I currently use Orly Bonder and, if my nails are particularly brittle, I put Seche Vite Rebuild underneath it.

Apply colour

  • Two thin coats of colour applied to each hand, allowing a minute or two in between coats, is the secret to a great manicure. If polish is too thick, the manicure will chip and peel a lot quicker.
  • Be sure to avoid cuticles when applying polish. It’s better to have a bit of bare nail all around the edges, than have polish pooling there. As with anything, practice makes perfect. You’ll get more precise with the nail polish brush the more you use it.
  • Tip: most reputable polishes on the market are free of these three nasty chemicals – DBP, toluene and formaldehyde – but you should check your polish bottle anyway.

Add fun nail art (optional)

  • I discovered a cute, inexpensive line of nail art stickers and supplies called Essence (I buy mine at Shoppers Drug Mart). I love it because the nail art options are pretty good for only $2-$3! Last week, I created accent nails that looked like Easter eggs using their glitter strips and nail art tool. The effect was amazing, yet they were so easy to do.

Finish off with a great topcoat

  • I really like Out The Door and Seche Vite – they dry quickly and add a tough, shiny, protective layer to your nails.
  • How to: swipe it across the tip of your nail, then proceed to apply topcoat to the rest of the nail. This will help reduce chipping.

 Leave sufficient drying time

  • If you’ve applied thin coats of polish, the drying time shouldn’t be too long. Using a quick-dry topcoat, like the ones mentioned above, helps too.

I love taking time to give myself a manicure. But my weekly ritual isn’t just a way to keep my nails looking good – it’s a tiny morsel of time that I carve out for myself, with no guilt or reservations. I unwind and forget the stresses of the day by doing something just for me.

As busy Mamas, it’s important to set aside whatever little time we can to make ourselves feel good – whether it’s getting a manicure, reading a book, or having coffee with a friend. So find something that gives you a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy every minute of it!

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