Monday, October 19, 2015

State of my Nails


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


20 comments:

  1. I'm glad you found good nail techs. I had gel nails for three years or so after a few months of brittleness left me frustrated, and I can attest that a good professional with good tools will not ruin your nails. In fact I only stopped getting gels when the salon closed and my favorite tech moved away. I tried two other salons, hated the service, and went back to doing my own nails. And now I have a drawer full of nail polish, but I still suck at doing my toes :-)

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    1. Losing one's favorite nail tech (or stylist, for those who get their hair done) is a nightmare. These people are worth their weight in gold.

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  2. After being initially suspicious of gel color , I am now a fan of it and only have gel for manis and pedis due to the instant drying process.
    I am also a red nail color fan ..it is so universally flattering on all skin tones. I have tried black ,dark blue ,greens ...hmmmmm ... I still revert to red , pinks and sometimes orange.
    I love french manicures as well.
    I stopped DIY-ing my feet due to a bad back years ago .

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    1. There's something about red that looks and feels right. I love other colors in theory, but I feel best in red.

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  3. My nails used to be brittle until I used MSM supplements for my hair. I had incredibly strong, glossy nails, no effect noted on the hair but my skin broke out horribly. Back to brittle nails till I decided to overhaul my diet by adding in more veggies. I found that eating raw cucumber with the skin ON helped my nails became strong and resilient again. I usually have a salad with roughly half a whole cucumber sliced in almost daily and if I skip say a week of this, my nails aren't too happy.

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    1. I'll have to explore the cucumber thing. Thanks for the tip. I'm a vegetarian, so I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, and I never lack for calcium because I eat dairy every day. The brittleness has haunted me since childhood, so I suspect it's genetic. Still, love cucumbers, so it's worth a try.

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  4. Gaia, I'm glad you found a place you like and trust. And you're so right, it doesn't need to be high end to get the job done. I've been getting gel for years and it's the only way to go. No chipping, no smudging, what's not to like! I'm very, very lucky that my natural nails are very strong and grow very fast. Having said that, the gel removal process is, and should be, a non-issue for anyone. If it's being done correctly. I'm firmly in the camp that once you start it, you won't go back.

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    1. Exactly. I suspect people who've had a less than positive experience had the misfortune of encountering a shoddy technician. Doing gel requires skill and an understanding of nails.

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  5. Ahhh. Me too with the back, sadly. And I'm jealous of your perfect-sounding salon! I love gels but they left my nails in rough shape. I'm now dealing with an odd problem which I think is caused by formaldehyde in a (ironically) nail strengthening product I used...separation of the nail from the nail bed. I know, makes you squirm. It's only on my thumbs, oddly. Anyone have any experience with this?

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    1. That sounds really bad. Have you seen a dermatologist? I'd be worried about the risk of infection. I hope it gets resolved soon!

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  6. Oh, and yes. Red absolutely. What's the point otherwise?

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  7. This is a timely post for me as due to a muscle disease it's become a chore to tend to my nails. My specialist even suggested I should go and get a manicure (the combination of short and long nails must have been jarring to her). I know a lot about skincare and makeup but funnily very little about nails so now feel a little more confident about going in to my local salon. Red does sound cheerful.
    Frances

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    1. I hope you feel better, Frances. I'd recommend a little research of local salons (Yelp is helpful), and then go and get pampered. A good treatment always makes me feel good.

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  8. I have discovered gel for nails in the year 2000 and I have been doing it ever since and never regretted it. I've discovered that every 3 weeks is okay for my nails because they don't grow so fast. I love to change the color of my nails every time and right now it's a raspberry color with some beige and golden nail art, looks very elegant.
    Btw, the nails on the cover foto are beautiful! It's exactly the shape my nails have for the last 2 years.

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    1. I wish I could do three weeks! My nails (and hair) seem to be growing right in front of my eyes. It has some advantages, but not when it comes on curbing costs.

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  9. I also have gel on my nails...I've been going to the same nail tech for about 9 years - followed her from one salon to the next until she and her husband opened their own place 4 years ago (which is 5 minutes from my house). She is very good, very fast, and very careful. My nails always look great - I get hands and feet done every 2 weeks, showing down on the pedicures to once a month during the coldest months. I won't do without!

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    1. I'm so glad to hear it, Bisbee. I need more frequent pedicures because my feet get horribly dry, and while I pamper them and treat them like royalty, I do need a professional hand (and not to bend over too much).

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  10. I hear a lot about how damaging the removal process for gel nail color is. Doesn't the gel nail polish just cover the nail problems and they are still there underneath. Or am I wrong? How do your nails look without the polish on?

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    1. Anon, I personally haven't experienced that. The particular gel my tech uses is soaked off with acetone nail polish remover. The way she does it there is no difference in removing the gel versus removing regular nail polish. My nails are in perfect condition and I could just go without applying new gel if I wanted. Whatever issues your natural nail may have should not be exacerbated by the application, and removal, of gel polish. If you experience any nail damage then I would hazard a guess that the nail tech isn't very skilled. Again, this is just my personal experience. The tech I use has been doing my nails for years. She is also the owner of the salon and has a jam packed client schedule. Almost every one of her clients use gel and no one has any problems. Hope that helps.

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    2. My nails look fine underneath the polish. Some say that the key is not to soak for too long, as acetone can weaken the nails. That's why I like the way my salon does it: filing away the top layers before a quick soaking, that as Deb said isn't any different than removing regular polish. I think the filing process also requires a gentle and mindful hand, as to not go into the nail itself and damage it. I'd recommend looking for reviews of the salon in your area and even going in and asking some questions before booking your appointment.

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