When was the last time you had your nails professionally done? Personally, it's been a while.
I love the post-salon look of freshly primed and polished nails, but I can't help but wonder what's in my polish, and my body, when all is said and done. The good news is that if you know how to do a natural manicure the right way, you can still make your nails look tamed and polished without the chemical-laden ingredients that most nail salons rely on.
How to Do a Natural Manicure at Home
My mom has always had super brittle nails. They're the kind that bend and break at the drop of a hat and crack when the weather gets cold. And while I thought I lucked out in the nail department (it sounds weird, but my dad's side of the family has really nice nails), I quickly learned that's not always the case.
Things like nail polish, acetone polish remover, and exposure to too much hot, soapy water can wreak havoc on my nails. And once problems crop up, things like peeling and tearing are hard to tame without a lot of TLC.
Grab your manicure supplies, because knowing how to do a natural manicure without polish goes a long way toward keeping nails happy and hangnails tamed.
- Nail clippers
- Small bowl of warm water (optional: mix with ¼ cup milk)
- Nail file
- Cuticle stick
- Buffing block
- Vitamin E oil
- Hand cream
- Optional: cotton balls and nail polish remover
1. Trim nails and hangnails
If you're wearing nail polish, go ahead and take it off with nail polish remover and then wash your hands. If you'd prefer to skip the acetone remover, we cover all the different ways you can remove nail polish without remover here.
Using small nail scissors or nail clippers, clean up any ragged skin around the nail and clip away any hangnails. If your nails are different lengths, even them out so they're all roughly the same.
Don't go too crazy here; you just want to clean things up a bit. And whatever you do, don't trim your cuticles like they do at the salon. In my experience, when they grow out you're left with a big ol' ratty mess, and maybe even an infection to boot.
2. Soften cuticles
Soak your hands in a small bowl of warm water for 2–3 minutes. The warm water softens cuticles and replenishes dry skin. If your cuticles are looking especially rough, add ¼ cup milk for its lactic acid, which helps soften the skin and slough away dead skin cells. You can also add a bit of carrier oil or a few drops of an essential oil that's good for nails, like myrrh.
3. Push cuticles back
Using an angled cuticle stick, gently push your cuticles toward the base of the nail. If your cuticles are in pretty nice shape, feel free to skip this step. Whenever I mess with my cuticles it often leads to more problems down the line, so I avoid pushing them back unless they're extremely overgrown. If yours don't look terrible, go ahead and leave this step out of your natural manicure, okay?
4. Round and soften nail edges
Use a nail file to shape your nails and round out the corners. It's best to file nails in just one direction and avoid sawing back and forth, which can cause them to crack.
5. Buff nails
Using a buffing block (not a nail file), gently buff the tops of your nails with a back-and-forth motion. This helps remove ridges and gives nails a nice polish-free shine. If you have thin nails, go easy on the buffing block or you run the risk of weakening them even further.
6. Slough away dry skin
If your hands are dry and cracked like mine are most of the time, this is a great opportunity to gently scrub away dry skin cells. Not only does this sea salt hand scrub tackle flakes, but it also has antibacterial benefits, which rid the nails of germs and encourage healing.
7. Moisturize hands and cuticles
The most important step of any natural manicure: a good hand cream.
Apply hand cream liberally to help lock in moisture so your hands and nails look like a million bucks for weeks to come. If your cuticles peel and crack easily, give them extra attention by massaging vitamin E oil or a nurturing cuticle oil into the nails and cuticles once per day. This prevents nail breakage, strengthens the nail plate, and prevents ridges and grooves from forming in the nails.
Natural Manicure FAQ
How can I make my nails grow more quickly?
To get long, healthy nails, it's best to nourish nails from the inside out. Biotin, healthy fats, and calcium all encourage nail growth and may help keep nails from splitting as they grow.
How can I prevent hangnails from forming in the first place?
Hangnails are usually a sign of dry skin. To keep them at bay, apply a nourishing hand cream twice a day and use gloves whenever you do the dishes.
If that doesn't take care of the problem, you might have a vitamin deficiency, so consult with your doctor.
Will vinegar whiten nails?
Because it's highly acidic, vinegar may help whiten nails over time, particularly if the discoloration is due to a bacterial or fungal infection.
Combine 1 cup water and 4–5 tablespoons of apple cider or white vinegar in a small bowl. Soak your fingernails for 10 minutes, and then pat your hands dry. Repeat daily for best results.
Why do my nails have bumps, ridges, or discoloration?
We've got a whole post about nail problems, what they mean, and how to fix them right here.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Rina Mary Allawh, M.D., a dermatologist who performs adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer treatment, and cosmetic dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow's medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.243