Nail Care Tips for the Cheap and Lazy

Whether you need to have your nails looking great for professional reasons, or are seeking a more glamorous look for your own personal enjoyment, manicures and pedicures can end up costing you major bucks on a long term basis. My top four tips for keeping nail care costs under control?

BYO (Buy Your Own) Tools

These aren’t going to cost you major bucks. In fact, one trip to Sally’s Beauty Supply will likely get you everything you need in this department for less than the cost of a full set and pedicure plus tip. You’ll need things like a pointed tip cuticle snipper, a four way buffer, an orange stick ( or the stainless steel equivalent ), clippers, an emery board or steel diamond file, a nail brush, an initial bottle of nail oil (you can refill it with olive oil later), a pumice stone and perhaps an acrylic file if your nails are exceptionally hard.

Bonus Tip: These tools are reasonable at this store chain anyway, but if you really want to save a few extra bucks, go towards the end of the month and purchase their five dollar annual savings membership card. You’ll not only get an immediate coupon for five dollars off a purchase the following month (which will be in a few days), but you’ll also get the reduced price listed on every single item in the store for the year. And the price differences can be significant, depending on the item.

Having your own tools will enable you to buff and shape your own nails, push back your own cuticles and remove under the nail debris. Youíll also be able to deal with obnoxious hangnails, smooth out ridges for a sleeker look, keep the dead skin off your heels and feet, and moisturize your nails in between polish sessions. Even men can benefit from this particular tip, as those who have to head out the door in business suits every day need to have their nails looking nicely groomed.

Go Natural

I know if you are used to the rock hard acrylic overlays and the freedom from chipping and cracking they can bring, this can seem like a radical concept. But honestly, those toxic fumes are a nightmare and speaking for myself I can honestly say that getting roped into a repeating appointment and recurring bill (which is what happens when you sign up for a high maintenance beauty routine) got to be a real drag, both financially and from a perspective of how I wanted to use my free time.

Keeping your nail beds natural costs far less money, enables you to skip an enormous amount of toxic fumes and is by far the less wasteful way to go. As long as you keep the skin around your nails from looking ratty, maintain ridge free nail beds, and consistently use your nail oil and buffer, you’ll have smooth shiny nails that look well groomed on a regular basis. Also, if you decide to go with a paint job on a regular basis (which we’ll be talking about in a few minutes), having a smooth base just makes for a sleeker looking paint job.

Consider a Shorter Length with a Flatter Tip

Obviously, many of the men in the audience will be going this route anyway. But for those gals who like the look of longer nail tips, going shorter on the length can seem like sacrilege. To tell you the truth, it was an adjustment for me too. Now that I’ve made that adjustment however, I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom if provides. Freedom from having to constantly drive to appointments, make allowances in my budget whenever an overlay starts to lift, and just being locked into a maintenance schedule period.

The truth is though that on the few fashion magazines I do happen to glance at on my way through the checkout line, I’m noticing more and more women going with shorter nails across the board. It really doesn’t take much length at all past the end of your finger tips to allow for the illusion of a longer nail. Also, maintaining this ďjust past the tipsĒ look is actually easier because the nail is constantly getting filed back and has less time to get brittle and crack. As long as I keep mine filed down to around the one eighth to one tenth of an inch mark, I find my fingernails much easier to maintain and rarely notice a break. As soon as I try to go much longer (which is what I did this past couple of weeks), it doesn’t take long to get a break or tear. Then I’m left going back to uber short while the broken nail grows back out.

When it comes to shape, I’ve never been big on the super square tip with pointed edges. They just look a bit harsh for my tastes. That being said, I have had several nail techs share with me over the years that a flatter nail tip provides more stability when your nails hit a hard surface, reducing the probability of bending and cracking. It’s a surface area thing. So what I like to go with is more of a square flat tip with slightly rounded corners. It’s got all the stability of the flat edge, with a more gracefully contoured edge that visually makes your short nails appear a bit longer.

Sometimes Round Is Better

Just a tip on those transitioning from acrylic or fiberglass nails: Even getting to the point where you can get your nails past the tips of your fingers can take quite a while. Anyone who has worn acrylics for two or three years at a time and then tried to quit can attest to the fact that your nails are super thin for a long time after removing the overlays. Also, there can be some serious ridges on your nail beds for quite some time, requiring further buffing for a smoother look. This of course means even thinner nails with an even greater risk of tearing. A vicious cycle? It doesn’t have to be. In this case, I recommend keeping your nails just to the very edge of your fingertips, and going with a completely rounded shape that molds to the shape of your individual fingers. This gives you as much length as you can possibly get without getting past the tips and risking a tear that will bring a nail further back on a particular finger. The perceived length is important for a unified look, as well as for getting the most sophisticated look from a polish job. This brings me to the final tip.

Be Conservative with Your Product and Polish Selection

There really isn’t any need to have twenty-four colors in your polish collection. Chances are they’ll get hard and gooey before you can ever use them up anyway. (Although you can thin them out in a pinch with a splash of remover mixed in the bottle.) If you are seriously strapped for cash and time, go with the nail oil only and keep them buffed. You can even drizzle a little olive oil from your kitchen if you aren’t able to dish out the three or four bucks for brush on oil right away. The next step up would be the best multipurpose top coat you can get with excellent UV protection. Clear coats add a layer of shine, but don’t necessarily show every little ding and chip. It also dries quickly, which is helpful if your schedule is a bit crazy. This same clear coat will be able to do double duty as a base and top coat for any polish colors you may choose.

When it does come to color, the best way to keep things on budget is to stick to neutrals and classics. For example, if you can’t afford two bottles, skip the white tip on the basic French manicure and just go with one of the flesh or light pink tones regularly used for the rest of the nail. A neutral red is always a classic choice as well, or perhaps a light caramel earthy tone for those who wear a lot of clothing in that color scheme. Even all three of these with an extra bottle of white for the standard French tip is still not going to cost what a full set with polish and pedicure will sink you. I guess if you are dead set on those thirty dollar bottles of Chanel it might, but your average bottle of quality polish isn’t nearly that much money. If you do like the good stuff however, stick with one of the basic French colors minus the white tip as I suggested above, and a classic shade of red.

Maintaining Your Manicure Doesnít Have to Be a Drag

While itís true that you will eventually have to remove your old paint job to buff, moisturize and start from scratch, there are a few simple ways to maintain your current manicure for as long as possible. First, keeping a bottle of your chosen base and top coat handy is a great idea. A fresh coat every couple of days keeps the color protected and the finish looking shiny. This is especially helpful if happen to get hairspray or something else on the paint job that dulls it. When this happens, and it will, donít panic. Simply slap on the clear coat a half hour or so before you head out the door. It will dry quickly and have you prepared for that early morning meeting or after-work happy hour meetup. Bonus? You can also use the same product to handle those emergency tears in your hosiery.

Eventually, the color on the tips of your nails will begin to take a beating. This is to be expected. However, you donít need to remove the paint job just yet. Using a liberally-covered brush of the color you used on the original manicure, start as far back toward the center of the nail as you can and paint straight down the middle while gently pushing down. The trick is to get as close to the side edges as possible without hitting the skin and having to touch up errors with a cotton-covered orange stick or swab. Basically, youíre trying to make the tips look fresh again without starting from the beginning. As long as your polish isnít too old and you donít apply it too heavily, youíll end up with a seamless touchup strategy thatís easily accomplished in a fraction of the time. Not only is this helpful for daily commuters, but also for business travelers who are constantly on the move.

Proper nail care doesnít have to be prohibitively expensive. Sure, youíll need to dish out a few pennies. But thereís no reason to break the bank. Using these tips and strategies can provide you with 6-12 monthsí worth of stylish manicures for less than the cost of a full mani and pedi at your local salon.

Photo Credits: iStock

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