Earlier this month, I meet a gentleman who does his 8 year old daughter’s nails. We got to talking a little bit and I mentioned my blog (which of course he looked up during lunch) as well as a handful of tips and tricks for painting nails. I’ve been meaning to get out a list of the tools I use to take care of my nails and make them perfect, knowing there’s a lot of information I dropped during our conversation (also knowing I have a new follower!) I figured this would be a great opportunity to get that list out there.
While I’m not very good at sticking to a routine, these are the products I use on a consistent basis and recommend these products to anyone who does their nails regularly.
- Acetone & Acetone Additive – pure acetone is the best way to get any and all polish off. I make almost all of my acetone purchases from Target since their store brand, Up & Up makes a bottle big enough to last me a month or two. The downside of pure acetone is that it is incredibly drying and harsh on nails and cuticles, especially when it’s used a lot (and boy do I use it a lot!). That’s where the acetone additive comes into play – it makes the acetone moisturizing (and scented!) while still keeping the acetone’s strength at polish removal. Currently, I’m using Stardust Polish Rainforest Sugarcane, which I got in the For the Love of Indies box. It’s a really lovely, fresh scent that I much prefer over straight up acetone.
- Scrubs – usually these are sugar scrubs with moisturizing extracts that slough off dead skin, make hands smooth, and also moisturize. Currently, I have a Digital Nails scrub called Sweet Citrus (a Beauty Quartet Box exclusive that’s sadly almost gone!) and DazzleGlaze Lacquers pre-GLAMMING Luxe Sugar Scrub in Sweet Harmony that was in the For the Love of Indies box. Both smell great and work great on my hands, but I cannot wait to try more DazzleGlaze products. The scrub’s texture is really smooth, it smells really great, and it goes a long way. I leave these in the shower and use them once or twice a week.
- Nail Clippers & Crystal Nail File – picking, peeling, and biting nails is very bad for nail/cuticle health, so clipping them it is! I honestly have no idea where I got these clippers, but they work great. I prefer to use the large ones because I feel like they give me more control. While clipping is good for trimming nails down and getting the basic shape, a nail file is always a must! Crystal or glass nail files are actually better for your nails and tend to have a longer life span than your average emory board. I use the Crystal Glass Nail File from SweetBabybyDonna – I also have a mini one that I keep in my purse just in case I break a nail or get random snags during the day. I love it!
- Nail Block – I like this tool to keep my nails smooth and even – it makes my naked nails look nice and shiny. This particular nail block I got from The Body Shop.
- Nail Brush – Another favorite from The Body Shop, I use this on an almost daily basis to make sure I get all of the dirt out from under my nails. I leave this in my shower and use whatever body wash I have in there to really clean under my nails.
- Mani Shots/Fizzes/Bombs – These are a nice treat to pamper yourself with every few weeks. Not only is the warm water you use the product in soothing, the scents act like an aromatherapy and have moisturizing components that leave hands refreshed. I really love the KBShimmer Mani Shots (see my review here) as well as Forever Polished Mani Bomb in Mango Papaya and I can’t wait to try Love, Angeline Mani Crush Fizzies in Black Raspberry & Vanilla. Both the Love, Angeline and Forever Polished mani bomb/fizzies came from the For the Love of Indies Box.
- pH Balancing Treatment – specifically, I use KBShimmer Nail Prep pH Balancing Pre-Polish Nail Treatment before each manicure to help make sure the base coat bonds to the nail. It’s a nice cleanse after using acetone and I feel that it makes my mani last longer.
- Base Coat – I covered this in my All About That Base post, but I will repeat myself here because base coats are super important and there are a whole bunch of different types out there to fit your needs. For everyday use, a regular base coat to prevent staining as well as a strong bond to the polish to keep it on you nail, I would recommend KBShimmer Basic Training Nail Polish Base Coat or Dream Polish Gem Stick Base Coat. For nails that need some extra help and support, I’m all about Dream Polish Smooth Gem Base Coat which is a strengthening base coat – as you can see from the fill line in the photo, it’s one of my favorites. Then, there’s the perfect base coat for when you want easy glitter removal – I use Dainty Digits Glitter Be Gone and it works like a charm every time; there’s enough bonding to keep the polish on for everyday wear, but when I want the glitter gone, I just peel it off!
- Top Coat – I’ve made it clear that my preference for a top coat is one that dries quickly (see Patience is not a Castagna Virtue). Like the base coats, I really like KBShimmer Clearly On Top Quick Dry Top Coat and Dream Polish Gem Glam Top Coat. While not necessarily important, there are top coats that can also be used to change the appearance of your polish, like making it matte or waxy. For example I have Orly Matte Top Coat and Dream Polish Ultra Wax Top Coat.
- Dream Polish is definitely unique – all of their products come scented (or unscented if you so choose). Many of them are very delicious and will make you want to eat your fingers. Probably one of the most interesting facets of their products is the ability to mix and match scents between the base and top coat. The LE (limited edition) Maple Apple paired with Pink Sugar is one such amazing combination. Like with anything limited edition, I would always recommend checking out their LE/seasonal scents because they are always awesome and go away too quickly.
- Clean-up Brush – this was my first purchase in the indie world that was not polish and it was the best investment I’ve made as an amateur nail artist. This is a must for anyone looking to have a cleaner manicure or for venturing into messy nail art techniques. This brush is from Jolie Polish and I can’t wait for a restock so I can get another! It’s important to keep this brush in tip top shape for the cleanest lines, which means washing the brush after use and conditioning the bristles with cuticle oil or balm.
- Hand Creme & Cuticle Oil – It is so, so, so important to keep hands hydrated and healthy, especially during the cold months. As someone who constantly paints their nails, uses their hands, and washes them, my hands and cuticles get dry, feel rough, and sometimes crack. I use cuticle oils from KBShimmer, SweetBabybyDonna, and Northern Star Polish (one at home, one in my office, one in my purse) to make sure my cuticles stay hydrated. I like to use Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter by Lush when I have the time to let my hands be greasy but really need the moisture. It’s primarily for cuticles, but I love the way it smells so I slather it on both hands to get the most scent and benefit from it all. I keep The Body Shop Absinthe Purifying Hand Butter by my bed and I put it on before bed every night. They all work in concert to keep my hands in admittedly okay shape. (I really need to be more diligent about lotion/creme application once this winter comes in full force!).
These are some of my favorite products and items that I have found (all thanks to the many wonderful indie boxes out there!). I’m still working on perfecting my routine and figuring out how to keep my hands and cuticles hydrated and healthy, especially during the brutal winter months. I really like the wide variety of products and brands that I have in my arsenal because it allows a for a lot of flexibility and creativity. I’m always looking for new and different products and you never know what you’re going to find on Instagram, Facebook groups, and indie boxes!