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5 Tips for Perfectly Polished Nails

A little tender love and care will make your nails stand out. See more personal hygiene pictures.
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Just like a flashy necklace or the right pair of earrings, if your nails look great, they can complement almost any look. But unsightly nails, on the other hand, can send the wrong impression. An error in shaping can cause your nails to chip, giving them a less than stellar appearance. Regardless of the color, an inexpert paint job can leave your nails looking like the face of the moon.

To help you get the look you want, no matter your fashion tastes, there are some tips that can help you pull off perfectly polished nails. We'll start by looking at the nail beneath the polish and then move into techniques that can help your nails look like you've just been to the spa -- even though you've done them on your own. Finally, we'll give you an integral tip that can make or break your nail masterpiece.

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Let's start with keeping your nails healthy.

Broccoli, a good source of biotin, may be good for nail health.
Broccoli, a good source of biotin, may be good for nail health.
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Similar to building a house, creating beautiful nail art starts with a good foundation. "Like all parts of the body, healthy and beautiful nails are the result of good nutrition," says Marisa Moore, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Following a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and low-fat dairy is the best way to ensure nail growth and health."

While overall good nutrition contributes to health, there are some key areas of your diet to watch carefully when looking to promote healthy nails. "Protein and iron, a mineral, are important to nail health," says Joanne Larsen, registered and licensed dietitian and founder of Ask the Dietitian.

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For protein sources, you can eat meat, poultry, fish and other sources such as soy, while iron can be found in oysters, lentils and iron-fortified cereals.

Along with protein and iron, think about biotin. "Biotin, a water soluble B vitamin, may help strengthen nails," says Moore. Biotin can be found in foods such as eggs, broccoli and fish.

When you moisturize your hands, don't forget your nails.
When you moisturize your hands, don't forget your nails.
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While moisturizing is more of a preventive measure against dried out fingers and nails, it's an integral step to perfectly polished nails. "Cracked nails or nails that easily break could be due to dryness," says Larsen. "Moisturizing your nails could prevent cracking or breaking."

A good practice to keep your hands and fingers moisturized is to lotion after each time your hands come in contact with water, whether you're cleaning dishes, jumping in the shower or just washing your hands. At home, an occasional massage with an intensive hand moisturizer and an overnight respite in a pair of cotton gloves can hydrate your hands [sources: Weinberg, Mingay]. At the spa, you might want to try a hand microdermabrasion. This service can help to exfoliate your hands, allowing the moisturizers to penetrate more deeply into the surface [source: Morgan].

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Cuticles can be especially prone to dryness, so it's important to keep them moisturized. "Cuticle oil prevents hangnails," says Gina Morgan, senior nail instructor at the International School of Skin and Nail Care.

Remember to file in the direction the nails grow.
Remember to file in the direction the nails grow.
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For a beautiful nail canvas, you need to correctly shape your nails by cutting and filing before applying color. One of the most flattering shapes is a squared-off oval, or squoval [source: Wells].

When shaping your nails, start by clipping straight across to a manageable length of about 0.3 centimeters to 0.6 centimeters past the tip of your finger. To achieve the desired shape, file down the nails. Make sure that you file in one direction -- the direction the nails grow -- to prevent splitting [sources: Sally Hansen, Weinberg]. Don't overdo it, though. "The less filing, the better," says Morgan.

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You don't want globs of nail polish to form on your nails.
You don't want globs of nail polish to form on your nails.
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From a pale pink to black, trends in nail polish color change almost seasonally, but tips for applying your color can be helpful regardless of the shade. First, be sure to adequately roll your nail polish bottle, (remembering to tighten the cap, of course). This will serve to adequately distribute the color. To avoid picking up globs of nail polish on your brush, scrape the brush along the inside of the bottle to remove the excess color.

When you're ready to apply the color, try to use three gliding strokes to fill in the entire nail [source: Wells, Weinberg, Morgan]. "Apply three strokes [and] start in the middle, slightly applying pressure to the brush for even distribution," says Morgan.

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Don't be so impatient!
Don't be so impatient!
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Putting the necessary time into your polishing project can mean better results. While you may not want to wait to add several coats of polish, taking it easy for a bit longer while your nails dry can provide a cleaner look. "Always apply a base coat for adhesion and to prevent staining of the color onto the nail," says Morgan.

Adding a top coat can take more time as well, but its benefits include locking in your polish color and helping to prevent chipping. There are even top coats that come with UV protection to reduce fading or discoloration of the polish [source: Weinberg, Mingay].

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Above all, don't rush the drying time. All your hard work could be spoiled by starting to use your hands too early, causing you to chip or smudge your polish.

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Sources

  • AYA Skincare. "Microdermabrasion." (April 16, 2010)http://www.ayaskincare.com/services_micro.html
  • Larsen, Joanne. M.S., R.D., L.D. Dietitian and founder of Ask the Dietitian at www.dietitian.com. Personal correspondence. April 13, 2010.
  • Mingay, Marie. Nail Style. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2000.
  • Moore, Marisa, M.B.A., L.D. Registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Personal correspondence. April 13, 2010.
  • Morgan, Gina. Senior nail instructor at the International School of Skin and Nail Care. Personal correspondence. (April 16, 2010)
  • Sally Hansen. "Beginner's Special." (April 6, 2010)http://www.sallyhansen.com/learn_manicure-class_tutorial.cfm?category=43
  • Ulta.com. "Non-Yellowing Top Coat by Essie." (April 13, 2010)http://www.ulta.com/ulta/browse/productDetail.jsp?skuId=2091179&productId=xlsImpprod1320226&navAction=push&navCount=1&categoryId=cat80070
  • Weinberg, Norma Pasekoff. Natural Hand Care. Storey Books, 1998.
  • Wells, Linda and the editors of Allure. Confessions of a Beauty Editor. Bulfinch Press, 2006.

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