So what's the story with my nails? Regular readers may have noticed that I've cut drastically on nail polish reviews, and I have mentioned that for the most part I've stopped doing my nails by myself, after a lifetime of being a DIY girl. I had to face it: my nails became brittle, looked like crap, and I've found myself hiding my hands more often than not. Not exactly the most elegant move when you're attending industry events.
It all started about three years ago when I got on Biotin, the hair and nail supplement. It wasn't for my hair (and thankfully me resemblance to cousin It didn't become even more apparent), but my nails thrived. Within weeks I had the strongest and healthiest nails I've ever had (my nails were questionable even as a child). They've become easy to shape and maintain, and haven't so much as chipped for many months. I decided that Biotin was the best thing ever. Fast forward eight months and something happened to my face. I previously referred to it as a skinpocalypse, but that's too humorous for the reality of the situation: cystic acne is not cute. Especially in your early forties. I got rid of the Biotin and went back to dealing with my nails with oils and creams, testing nail polish colors every week, and doing the same stuff I've always done.
While my face has recovered, my nails suffered. Not my hands, which I've been treating with the very best products, including AHA, SPF, and various quality creams (I keep a tube or three in every drawer and on every side table). Neither did my cuticles, which I nourish with the best oils. But my nails themselves, devoid of supplements and abused to the max couldn't take it anymore. Neither could I. I wanted to look like a well-groomed grownup and not waste energy and angst on something most women my age with similar lifestyles had figured out years ago. So I started getting professional manicures. And pedicures. Because my back protested every time I've spent too long hunched over, trying to paint my nails to perfection.
I've visited a handful of places, researched products and methods, and consulted some nail technicians. That was when I decided to give gel color a chance. Gels have been around for several years. I think at first they were called "Shellacked Nails". The technology and ingredients have somewhat changed since this method was first introduced, and it's no longer the domain of the swankiest nail salons in the big city. Everyone does it, which can also be tricky.
I'm extremely lucky. The little nail salon that's practically around the corner from my house has been my savior. The place looks nothing special. Located in a typical Jersey strip mall, between a 7-11 and a Chinese takeout place, the salon could have been transported straight from the 1980s. No frills, no fancy decor, nothing screams of luxury. But the place is locally famous for their basic pedicure that includes a divine leg massage with hot stones for no extra charge, their lowered rates at the beginning of the week (Monday to Wednesday), and their extremely capable nail techs.
Some people dislike gel color manis because of the curing process and the relative abrasiveness of removal. My salon uses LED lights for the former (no UV lights, though I still use a good SPF on my hands, since I always do it when leaving the house, rain or sun). As for removal, the technicians file away the top layers by hand or with an electrical thingy that reminds me too much of the dentist, yet it's painless and efficient. The last bits are soaked off for less than a minute, so my nails never get an acetone bath like in the old days of shellac. The entire process is quick, my nails are cut and filed to my preferred shape, a shortish squoval, and then painted.
I've been doing it religiously every two weeks (gel color for hands, a regular pedi for feet) for the last six months. I haven't had a chip, a breakage, or even a hair-fraction since. I skip the more expensive treatments, since if there's something I'm really good about is using exfoliants, acids, hand and foot masks, and other products (I find that the stuff they use and over-charge for at the poshest salons to be ludicrous. You can buy the products on Amazon and Sally's and do it yourself easily at the comfort of your home, and it doesn't even require straining your back the way painting your toes does).
I've reduced my nail polish collection to the barest minimum. I usually take a bottle of a favorite color to the salon to be used for my pedicure, but I rely on they gel inventory of my hands. For my feet I sometimes go with a nude or a metallic bronze (remember Petra by Marc Jacobs? Everyone at the salon wants to have a look), but I've discovered that my favorite color for both hands and toes is red. Red nails are my signature, in every seasonal variation. From the tomato red of summer to the black cherry I wore last week (right now I'm sporting a lighter red cherry, just because). I'm a red nail girl, and it makes me ridiculously happy. I can now leave my hands out in the open without a smidgen of self-consciousness. And this is priceless.
Image: Alexey Brodovitch for Harper's Bazaar, 1957