A few weeks ago, right before I was in a friend’s wedding, I found myself in a nail salon for the first time in years. I tried to play it cool and sophisticated, but as I fumbled with white towels and little bowls of rinsing water, the guy doing my nails laughed and said, “You don’t do this a lot, do you?”
He’s totally right. I don’t go to nail salons a lot. I used to go occasionally, back when I was in college and not particularly concerned with saving money or living a natural lifestyle, but those days are long gone. Most of the time my nails are completely free of polish.
My nails are still sporting a few spots of the pink polish all of us bridesmaids wore, but for the most part I’ve chipped it all off. Glamorous, right? Fortunately, I know that nail salons are not the only way to keep my nails looking nice. There are so many ways to keep your nails neat and pretty without using chemicals or paying lots of money, and I intend to take advantage of them as soon as I chip off all of this polish.
Ten Ways to Have Pretty, Natural Nails
1. Eat a healthy diet.
As with most aspects of our bodies, we get the best results from eating a well-balanced, vitamin rich diet. Vitamin deficiencies show up quickly as weakened, brittle fingernails or pits in the nail.
2. Keep your nails trimmed.
If you’ve ever had long nails, then you’ve almost certainly suffered from a broken nail at some point. Broken nails are painful! They’re also bothersome, and I find that I pick at mine and make them worse. The only solution I’ve found to broken nails is to actually prevent them by keeping my nails well-trimmed. You know the length your nails can withstand; there’s no need to grow them out longer just to suffer the inevitable painful break while you’re trying to wash the dishes.
3. Moisturize your cuticles.
While your fingernails themselves may not need moisture, your fingertips and cuticles absolutely do. The cuticle is a naturally tough piece of skin, but it is prone to cracking and drying out painfully when it isn’t kept well moisturized. If you’re looking for a simple, natural moisturizer for your cuticles, try this homemade herbal body cream. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of cuticles, make sure you never cut them. Your cuticles are a living part of your body, and trimming them will only invite infection.
4. Clean your nails with baking soda.
Regular hand washing is great for keeping the surface of your nails clean, but they will need some extra attention to get them clean and white underneath. The best way to clean them is to dip a wet toothbrush into baking soda and scrub under each nail. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice or peroxide if you need the extra whitening power.
5. File your nails the right way.
When I think of nail files, I picture teenage girls from movies going back and forth over their fingernails while chatting with their friends. Turns out the girls in the movies don’t usually file their nails correctly, though. For one, they probably use a typical emory board with too much grit. Rough nail files do more harm than good to fingernails, and should be replaced with very fine nail files. Also, nails should only be filed in one direction, as sawing back and forth weakens the nail.
(Note from Betsy: I recommend crystal etched glass nail files that never wear down, and file smoothly every time!)
6. Try buffing.
Buffing is the process of polishing your fingernails until they shine. Looking at my nails right now, I can see they are a little dull and not particularly smooth. That’s their natural state, and it usually works just fine for me. However, if you want a more professional or smooth look, using a nail buffer is worth a try. Use caution, though, because too much buffing undermines the natural strength of your nail.
7. Protect your nails.
Since you’re reading this here at DIY Natural, I’m going to assume that you don’t use many household chemicals for cleaning. That’s great for you and great for your nails. If you haven’t completely kicked that habit, though, you really should consider wearing gloves for protection. Household chemicals can weaken and stain your nails with consistent use.
8. Skip the harmful chemicals.
Speaking of chemicals, there are many associated with traditional nail care. Most nail polish itself is full of them (read more on this at Organic Gardening), but it’s not nearly as destructive to your nails as the acetone that many nail polish removers contain. Acetone dries out skin, nails, and cuticles. Non-acetone polish removers are not quite as harmful as acetone, but they do still have a drying effect and contain a myriad of chemicals.
9. If you need nail polish, try organic.
Sometimes you just want to paint your nails. For special events, or if nail color is just your thing, there are less-harmful options available. There are several water-based nail enamels on the market now that don’t contain the harmful chemicals of traditional nail polish, and also come off with water or simple alcohol.
10. Know when to leave your nails alone.
While upkeep and care for your nails are important, sometimes it’s best to leave them alone. Biting your nails, picking at them (I’ve already admitted that I’m guilty of that one, oops!), pulling at hangnails – all of those things will lead to painful problems.
How about you?
Do you have tricks for having pretty, natural nails?