When it comes to nail maintenance, there are many different products on the market. Pictured above, are the items I use most often on my own nails. I don't necessarily use all of them every time I give myself a manicure; sometimes I need one or two of them for a quick fix. If you're interested in a particular product, just find the number below and it will list a description / how I use it.
1. Cuticle Remover
This product comes in several forms including gel and liquid. Its purpose is to remove excess skin around the nail bed and nail walls, which is basically anywhere the nail meets the skin. It works by chemically breaking down dead skin for easy removal. There are many different brands of cuticle remover at various price points. I myself have only tried two different brands, Sally Hansen and Pro FX (pictured above). The Sally Hansen cuticle remover runs from $5-$6 for 0.9 fl oz, whereas the Pro FX version is roughly the same price for 5.6 fl oz. That being said, the Sally Hansen formula was more powerful and seemed to be more effective at removing the excess cuticle. However, I personally prefer the Pro FX cuticle remover, because it still works well and lasts me about 6x as long.
2. Almond Oil / Cuticle Oil
Cuticle oil is a mixture of oils used to keep cuticles healthy and moisturized, and it can also be applied to the nail itself. It can be purchased from most drugstores, but it is also relatively easy to make if you're feeling a DIY project. If you're looking for an alternative to purchasing cuticle oil without concocting your own, you could use just one oil such as almond oil. I like to clean out an old nail polish bottle and refill it with almond oil, so I can easily brush it on.
3. Cuticle Trimmer
This tool can be used to trim excessive skin around the cuticles that cannot be removed with cuticle remover alone. This tool is also great for trimming painful hangnails instead of ripping them off. If you maintain your cuticles regularly, you may never need to use this tool, and even if you do, you shouldn't need to use it very often. I would recommend using cuticle remover and pushing your cuticles back before cutting them.
4. Cuticle Cream
This product serves essentially the same purpose as cuticle oil, however, the consistency is very different. Because this product is more of a cream, I prefer to first apply cuticle oil which I let soak in, and then I wash it off and apply cuticle cream which I leave on. It seems to absorb better, and doesn't leave the skin feeling as greasy as oil does. Because this is just my personal preference, you could just as easily use one product or the other rather than both.
5. Nail File
Nail files typically serve two purposes; to shape and shorten nails. If you only need to take a small amount off your nails, it may make more sense just to file them rather than break out the nail clipper. There are many different types of nail files; mylar, metal, padded cushion, ceramic, and glass. and they vary in coarseness. From my experience, mylar and metal nail files are very harsh on nails, and I would not recommend using them. However, glass and ceramic files are very popular. I personally prefer cushion-files, like the one I have pictured above, because I don't like the way glass files feel on my nails*. Once you've chosen a material you like, you need to pick the level of grit. When it comes to choosing the proper coarseness, the higher the grit number, the finer the file. Higher grit files are used for shaping artificial nails such as acrylic or gel whereas, lower grit files are used shaping natural nails, or buffing / shining nails.
*Update: I personally recommend using the Bliss Kiss crystal file which can be purchased here.
6. Orange Wood Stick / Cuticle Pusher
This tool is used to gently push the cuticles away from the nail plate. This process not only defines the natural curve of the cuticle, but also helps remove any dead skin that builds up around the nail bed. If done regularly, it can reduce the need to trim cuticles. Cuticle pushers are made of several materials including orange wood, metal, and plastic. For nail art purposes, orange wood sticks can be filed into a point to be used as a dotting tool, although some are already come this way.
7. Nail Buffer Block
Lastly, the four sided buffer block is another tool that is often used for filing. Some buffer blocks have the same coarseness on all four sides whereas others have varying grit levels. Along with filing, this tool can be used for buffing and shining nails, or sealing your nails' free edges after filing. Coarser blocks are typically used for buffing false nails, and blocks with varying grit levels often instruct you to use all four sides to buff your natural nails to a shine.
I hope this post was helpful and informative, and as always, please feel free to leave feedback or questions in the comment section!
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