Our resident beauty columnist, Ava Welsing-Kitcher, is ready to answer all your questions
My lockdown project was to master the art of the manicure. Watching endless video tutorials, ordering different tools and colours, and, when salons opened, quizzing nail artists about their craft and their prized products, I went pretty nail crazy – to the point where a huge nail brand saw how much I’d been posting my projects and offered me professional training (I still need to take them up on that). There’s something so calming about transforming an old, tired nail job into something sparkling new, about cleaning up cuticles and playing around with shapes and shades. Whether it was enrolling in LA salon Olive & June’s live mani/pedi bootcamps (they’re now saved as IGTVs), or studying the prep work of the most detail-oriented nail technicians in London, at Nails & Brows Mayfair, I absorbed so much in just a year, which I can’t wait to share with you. Don’t worry about being wobbly-handed or not patient enough – just read on for the fool-proof steps that will make a manicurist out of anyone. And on that note, make sure to check out Manucurist, where you can receive 15% off with the code MANUCURISTICONS15.
Whether I’m taking off normal polish or gel, the remover liquid can still dry out the surrounding skin. While I love Manucurist’s 97% bio-sourced Green Flash remover (or CND’s Offly for gel), I still protect cuticles with something thick and nourishing, like Bybi’s Babe Balm. As most damage arises from peeling off gel polish and not the polish itself, you have to be super-gentle and patient: use a wooden orange stick instead of metal to scrape away each layer after soaking with cotton pads and foil, and rewrap if needed, until the polish pretty much lifts off itself. Gently buff away any residue with a white block or gentle file, then pop on some of that balm for a quick nail mask while you tend to the cuticles.
Margaret Dabbs London
I always tend to my cuticles before any filing or cutting, so I can see the entire nail shape properly. You can use a thick hand cream or balm, but I find a dedicated cuticle remover works best for softening stubborn patches – Peacci’s vegan oil-based one is so good, it’s often out of stock. Push them back gently with a metal pusher (I love the one in Margaret Dabbs’ leather kit), and I advise leaving any cutting to the pros to avoid mishaps. When it comes to filing, try to imagine the whole shape of the nail rather than just the white tips – this will give you the most even edges. Small, short strokes in one direction give better control and prevent the edges splitting later on. Lastly, finish off with Margaret Dabbs’ Super Shiner Buffer from the kit, for smoothness and boosted blood flow to the nail bed.
Yves Saint Laurent
I have so many favourite brands for different reasons. First up is Nailberry, with its vegan toxin-free formulas and amazing array of neutrals, greys, reds and muted ocean colours that you just won’t find anywhere else. Peacci’s vegan line-up of brights and pastels are a spring and summer must. The bottles of Smith & Cult look so beautiful on any dresser, with the most decadent wine shades – as do YSL’s sleek golden caps, seen on my ultimate cherry-red shade, Rouge Pop Art. J. Hannah’s soft earth tones are so unique, while vegan indie brand Télle Moi boasts the most sumptuous neutral shades for every skin tone. When it comes to gel, most brands are for professional use only and need a licence to buy (although I do have a few CND shellac shades and find them the easiest to apply and take off), but I’ve recently discovered Canadian brand Gelcare – one of the first brands made with non-pro gel users in mind, with a 10-chemical-free formula. From understated versions of shades you thought you’d never pull off (like khaki green and butter yellow) to punchy pinks and aubergine purples, their shade range is incredible.
The chemicals in most nail polishes burn through to the nail plate in just three days, causing gradual damage and discolouration, so it’s essential to add a protective layer to slow this down. Manucurist‘s base coat is made from potato and corn starch to protect and nourish the nail, it dries really quickly, plus you can currently get 15% off with the code MANUCURISTICONS15 at checkout… What’s not to love? Once you’ve laid down that clear foundation, any colour you paint on top will spread more easily and follow the outer perimeters of the base rather than splashing over on to cuticles. When it comes to top coat, nothing is as instrumental for keeping your manicure perfect for as long as possible. I’ve used Essie’s Gel Couture Top Coat for years, as it keeps even my most chip-prone colours intact for up to two weeks (seriously) with a shine that doesn’t fade. Swipe a thin layer across the tip of the nail to seal the edge, then paint along the top of the nail for the perfect finish. Always finish with cuticle oil (OPI’s Pro Spa is the best) and a rejuvenating hand cream, like Aurelia’s Aromatic Repair and Brighten, which has an uplifting herbal scent.
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