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Nail Care Tips And Advice

( Originally Published 1963 )


I never had a nail till three years ago. My nails are terribly thin-they break, they chip, and on top of all that I used to pick on them. Then, I discovered Nena Rico, a young manicurist who has made such an art of manicuring and nail care that even I have finally got what are, frankly, pretty good-looking hands and nails.


It hasn't been easy. Nena "re-educates" her steady clients in the use of their hands. She's taught me how to pull on a girdle, make quick changes when performing, do the clasps on my jewelry without breaking my nails. I never dial phone numbers with my fingers anymore. That's a sure nail-breaker, you know. I've learned they sell telephone dialers for a nickel, or the eraser on a pencil will substitute, and if worse comes to worse use your knuckle even if it hurts.No matter how healthy or strong your nails may be, if you use your hands the wrong way your nails will split. The biggest percentage of broken nails happen in the kitchen. Use rubber gloves for heavy water and soap activities. If you're using a soap pad, which is particularly tough on nails, put a sponge over it so that the nails will never have to touch the rough metal wires. Use cotton gloves when you are doing things like packing, dusting, rearranging things. Women who are proud of long beautiful nails say they would rather break a leg than a nail, and some of them mean it.

Your hands are as much in evidence as your face is. They can be more so because you can always cover your face with your hands-you can't cover your hands with your face. Hands have been the subject of a hundred myths since history began. Palmistry is still going strong. And almost everyone believes that hands tell a great deal about a person. The way you use your hands is tremendously revealing. I've noticed that women with beautiful hands use their hands more beautifully than women who feel-consciously or unconsciously-that their hands are not attractive.


There is, I've found, a definite way to file your nails so that they will grow-and another definite way to file them so that they will break. This second way is how most women file their nails. Never file your nails to a point-the nail has no protection then and of course it will break sooner or later. The top of your nail should complement its base. If the base of the nail is square the top of the nail should be filed square, if the base is round, file it round.


Fundamental to hand and nail care is creaming. The more often your hands and nails are soaked in oils (vegetable oils, salad oils and olive oil) and creamed (with lanolin or dry skin creams) the softer and more beautiful they will be. The healthier your skin and nail texture the better they will respond. A diet high in protein is best for nails, as it is for hair, although Nena and other well-known nail authorities say the strength and quality of your nails are pretty much determined by heredity.

Before beginning any manicure, whether its one you give yourself or have done in a beauty shop, a good soak in warm oil is imperative. Next file-the way I have suggested (it's the way Nena files my nails). Don't over-file and don't file far down the sides of the nails. Do the minimum amount of filing necessary to smooth off rough edges and to establish the shape of your nail.

Almost every manicurist I've ever known cuts the cuticles. Nena doesn't believe in it. She says the cuticle is necessary to protect the nail and if you cut it it will grow back next day. How true. She creams the cuticles, massages them, cleans them. She never pushes them roughly, she is always very gentle, and if you cream your cuticles well they won't need much clipping. At this stage of your manicure pick up the nail file again and shape your nails some more till they look the way you want them to. Remember, no points. Now apply your coat of base.


Even the most "re-educated" pupils find it impossible to avoid an occasional slip;-a too quick fumbling for the light switch, an anxious dig into the change purse on a bus. This brings us to the stage of the manicure where Nena patches all "sick" nails. It is not easy for the average woman to learn how to patch unless she can watch a professional manicurist do it first. Even then, the right technique and the right equipment are hard to come by. For short split nails Nena uses a very thin, specially treated paper and puts it over the split or break with nail-fix. She applies the paper in exactly the direction of the split, and covers it. For patching long dragon-lady type nails she uses a specially fine cotton the same way she uses the paper on the short nails and then covers the cotton with the paper. The patch must always follow the line of the break.

After the patch is applied another base coat is put on. This patching technique protects and supports the nail until the natural nail can grow out, and ideally, according to Nena, until the person learns how to use her hands correctly. It takes two to three months for a nail that has broken to grow back fully, but (depending on how much care is taken to keep the nail intact) patches can be changed several times.


You are ready to polish. If Nena or a similarly apt manicurist is doing it for you, relax. If you're doing it yourself be patient and careful. You don't have to spend a lot of money on an expensive polish if you can find a color you like in a less expensive polish, which can be just as good. If your nail is healthy, no product can hurt the nail. If your nail is "sick" (brittle, peeling, or split) it can be further damaged by a harsh polish or helped by a softer one-one that has oils added to it.

Of course, you know that you must never put fresh polish on over old polish. You must remove all vestiges of your last polish before you begin anew. I know you knew that all along. . . . Give your nails two base coats of the colorless polish. When these have dried (they dry quickly), you can give your nails two coats of polish. Bring both coatings of polish under the end of your nail to seal it-so that it can't chip at the edge. Don't put your polish too close to the cuticle and if you are very handy with the brush try leaving the white half moon of your cuticle bare once in a while for special effect.After you've put your two coats of polish on you are ready for your top sealer. This is a much thinner polish that glides over the thicker polish and seals the tip edge of your nail firmly, and hopefully, till your next manicure.

Now-the most crucial and determining stage of your manicure. You must allow the polish to dry fully, protect the newly covered nails from accidental damage, avoid if possible the use of water for twelve hours. "No baths or dishwashing", says Nena. This may sound a bit extreme but it is perfectly true that if you take care of your new manicure its first day you can pretty much forget to worry about it for the following week or two.

If you are doing your manicures at home you probably ought to give yourself one every week. A professional manicure is expected to last longer and every other week should be enough, barring emergencies. If you keep your hands and nails well creamed they should never look really bad, and you will never be bothered with hangnails. Some women take the beauty of their hands so seriously that they wear gloves over their creamed hands whenever possible. This was the secret of the great Southern beauties. But it can be carried too far. One woman I know tried wearing gloves to bed till her husband asked her-"Are you going formal tonight, dear?"


Hidden for most of the year from public view the average foot languishes and grows even less attractive than the foot usually is to begin with. Even your feet, you will find, will respond most happily to frequent creamings, good washing, scrubbing the toes and between them with a small nail brush.

The key to foot beauty is in the big toe. If you can keep that toe clean, well-shaped, polished if you like it that way, your entire foot will assume class, dignity, and character-if not actual beauty. The big toe properly groomed can give your foot its look.After soaking your feet in warm soapy water your toenails are at their most cuttable because they are softened. Cut them then and after the foot has dried all the nails will be ready for filing. File your toenails very much the way you do your fingernails. That is, follow the base line of the nail; if it is round, round the top of the nail, if it's square, square it. Do not cut the cuticles of your toenails. This can be very dangerous and your toenails have even more need of their cuticles for protection than the fingernails do. Cream them, push them back gently, but steadily.A good foot massage is a joy. Do your massaging after applying cream (lanolin or any dry skin cream), pushing the toe knuckles back each time and working the area just behind the toes known as the arch in a rotating, kneading motion. Then go to work in the same general way on your inner arch region. Work very much by feel because the better it feels the better your massaging.

Pumice stone applied to the back of the heel will smooth it and make it white.

The oftener you can be barefooted the happier your feet will be. Wiggle your toes, make circles with your feet, run out on the grass if you can, and walk, walk, walk on the sand without bathing shoes or sandals when you're at the beach.

As for shoes-I'd tell you to wear sensible ones, but I know you won't listen .