Is it just me or do our nails take an extra beating in the winter? Dry cuticles, ridges, broken nails…the list goes on. My nails have definitely had a rough few weeks and I’m blaming the dry winter weather.

You already know that I’ve got a serious thing for nail polish, I could talk to you about it for hours (Hi, my name is Alex and I’m a nailaholic). But as well versed as I am in lacquer, I still have a lot of questions when it comes to nail care, especially since mine keep breaking and I chip every manicure after two hours.

So what’s a girl to do? I called up Nadine, she is one of the owners of the nail salon tenoverten (it’s where I go when I’m not doing the at-home mani/pedi) and she happens to be just as enthusiastic as I am when it comes to nails. She’s breaking down everything you need to do to rehab your nails, keep them healthy AND make that manicure last.

Take notes, this is good.

What are some of the nail care basics?

When it comes to basics of nail care, you always have to keep your nails really hydrated. We see a lot of people with dry cuticles, they aren’t taking care of them. I don’t think everyone has to have a manicure every week to have healthy nails.

What can you be doing at home?

Apply cuticle oil by massaging it into your cuticles just before bedtime so that you have it doing the work while you sleep, without the interruption of busy hands. Massaging the oil is key since it increases the blood circulation and helps nail growth while hydrating.

People have the wrong impression that you are supposed to cut your cuticles. It’s so much better for your nail health to hydrate them and push them back. Save heavy cuticle care for when you have a manicure.

If you’re washing your hands a lot, make sure you are moisturizing afterwards, thats a big piece of it as well. Keeping your nails filed is also important.

Do you need to give your nails a break?

People talk a lot about letting your nails breathe. Putting lacquer on your nails endlessly is not always a good idea. I like to get a manicure every week and a half or so and for me that works really well. Give them a break every once in a while. The moisturizing is really important to do in-between your manicures.

The problem is when you see people that had a manicure and 14 days later they still haven’t taken off the polish. It’s when the polish gets old that it causes damage to your nail and that is when your nails start to yellow. If you’ve had a manicure and you know you aren’t going to go for another two weeks take your polish off at home when they start to chip or grow out.

If your nails are really damaged, how much time should you give them to rebuild?

If you’re using good products, it’s okay to continue manicures once a week. I wouldn’t really do manicures with cuticle more than once a week. If you can wait a couple weeks in between just to give your nails some time then it’s a good idea. Apply a strengthening base coat at home every 4-5 days. Nail products work from the top down, so whatever you use for your base coat is going help your nail health.

How can you deal with brittle nails or ridges?

If you do have brittle nails or weaker nails, really finding a product that helps with the health of your nails is key. A strengthening base coat is really important. People sort of go in and use whatever base coat is in the salon but you should go to the drugstore, spend the $10 and find a base coat that works for your type of nails and take it with you. That is the most important product in the manicure.

We use a product from Duri called Rejuvacote that really helps in strengthening and in long-term nail health.

What about buffing your nails?

A nail buffer shouldn’t be used too often as it can weaken the nail. Always use a fine grit buffer and use it in an ‘X’ shape stroke, raising the buffer away from the nail in between strokes.

How do you get rid of discoloration?

Let them breathe. Don’t put anything on them. I think a lot of people try to buff the color out of their nail but if you over buff your nails you can damage them.

How can you make your at home manicure last?

First, clean your nail bed really well before you apply your base coat. Use a piece of paper towel instead of cotton and a non-acetone remover. Really go through all the crevices of your nails and clean your nail beds really well. This helps to clean the nail of any natural oils or oils collected on the nail from lotions. You don’t need to wash your hands after removing polish.

Sealing the polish is also really important. So when you get to the edge of your nail go across the tip of your nail with the brush and that really seals the color in and prevents chipping from happening as quickly.

What is the best way to do the clear look? Use a topcoat?

Just using a top coat isn’t ideal for a clear polish look because you don’t get the benefits from wearing a nail protective base coat. The tenoverten Foundation base coat was designed specifically for people in mind who want a buffed nail look but don’t want to wear down their nails with continuous buffing. It is a nail strengthening base coat that has a slight pink tint and high shine so it won’t dull like other typical base coats would after one coat.

Do products labeled “quick dry” really work?

Quick dry drops and top coats absolutely work. I am not so enthusiastic about the sprays however. We love Qtica Half Time Polish Accelerator drops.

And a question from Garance, what about gels?

I am so against gel manicures from a health perspective. The chemicals laden in most of them are scary and they also leave an area for fungus to build if not applied correctly. In my mind, they leave too much room for mistake if not applied and removed properly. Also the wear and tear over the long term just doesn’t seem worth the benefits.