Pretty nails! How much effort do you put into them?

by Sylvia

How to get pretty nails

I find that grooming can be quite a challenge as you get older. At least it is for me. Or it just gets very expensive.

Take nails for example. How much time, effort and money do you put into them?

You may have noticed, for example, that I had red nails not too long ago. Since I was attending a few functions, I decided it was worth it going to a salson and have both my hands and feet done at the same time. Of course after a week or so, much of the red nail polish had chipped off so then it was time to decide if I wanted to repeat the process, and if yes, if I would do it yourself or go the a beauty store.

This second time I chose to do it myself in an attempt to save money and time. I went off to the local chemist and bought some nail polish. I carefully cleaned my nails and started the whole process of applying nail polish to them. Not an easy process I tell you. My flexibility is not what it used to be so just reaching my toe nails poses a challenge. At least I could use my right hand to apply the polish, which made the whole end result semi-decent.

That is not the case for finger nails of course. Applying nail polish in a straight line of my right hand proved too much.

In the end I ended up with nails that looked messy and a far cry from the well-groomed look that I was after. It did not save me any time either and it was a time-consuming process, which requires a lot of patience. I dread doing it ever again! I’d much rather get into a meditative state at the beauty salon and just sit back and relax! But to do that every week would be rather expensive!

Another option is to keep the grooming super simple. To this effect I bought a nail grooming set a while ago for natural looking nails. It’s a file block that allows you to polish your nails with 3 different sides and in the end you end up with very shiny but natural looking nails indeed. Although the end result is very nice (satin shiny nails),  of course it can’t quite compare to well-manicured nails in the latest colour.

I’m also very tempted by all the latest nail art and want to give that a go. However, I find that keeping natural looking nails, combined with polishing them in bright colours every now and then, don’t really mix. The nail polish often leaves the nails with little marks, so it seems that you either have to go with the natural nails solution or the polished nails option.

So what to do? I’m still pondering it over for myself, but I would love to hear from you? How important do you feel nail care is for your personal style? Do you like your nails natural or polished?

Photo credit:


1 Suzanne

I truly believe that the older you get the more “well groomed” you need to be to look your best. You no longer have that bloom of youth that makes up for so much. I can remember living on 3 hours of sleep and coffee and pizza in college but I woke up with a fresh face and shiny hair. And when I wore make-up or nail polish it was for the color and “wow effect” because there was nothing to “hide”. But those days are long gone. (I was on my son’s campus again yesterday which made me think of this – the girls are so fresh and naturally pretty!) Now it takes a lot of thought and effort to look groomed (forget the fresh!) but I do think that it does contribute to a more youthful appearance. Keeping your hair colored and in an updated style helps and keeping legs smooth and moisturized and using a good skin care routine for your face is a necessity. Hands and feet must be kept up too. Just listing all of this is exhausting! 🙂 I have found a new girl (young!) to do my hair and I am religious about seeing her every 4 weeks. She is a master cutter in my book and the first time she cut my hair my hubby went crazy over it so I knew I had a winner. I do my own facials and use good products every morning and night – including a sunscreen. I am pretty good at doing my own pedicures and try to do that once a week but I am hopeless with my fingernails and hardly ever polish them. But I keep them trimmed and I have one of those blocks to shine mine too and that does at least make them look like they have some care. Most of my friends spend a fortune on getting professional mani/pedis every two weeks but I have neither the time nor budget for that. And I do way too much cleaning to keep the polish on my nails anyway. My hands are constantly in water. I will get my nails done at a salon and have my hair blown out for special occasions (the last time was my daughter’s graduation in May) but for the most part I try to keep things up myself. And getting lots of sleep and eating healthy foods is the best thing you can do. Healthy looks good!

2 Sylvia

You are very right Suzanne. I think it gets more important too. I like the solution you have come to. Do your own toes (I can do that) and then keep your nails well cared for but don’t polish them, unless for a special occasion. That sounds like a plan!

3 Heather Fonseca

Oh, I could write a book on this subject Sylvia! I’ve decided recently that pretty painted nails and toes are a must, so I have them done once a month. In between I just do upkeep, on my toes that means touch ups on the polish if it chips and keeping the callouses to a minimum, and the hands that means refreshing my polish once a week. With practice I’ve gotten very good at painting my one nails. Practice makes perfect! It really does I. This instance. Use a good quality base coat,polish and top coat. I love love love wet & wild nail polish but I don’t know if they sell it where you are. Essie is also good. Choose a pale color at first as it will show the mistakes less, and opt for a slow drying top coat for the longest lasting polish. Sit down at a table with good light to paint your nails. I like doing it in the evening after dinner when ther isn’t much to do so I have time for it to dry.

As you can see I’m into it! I never used to care, but now that im older all the little details are so important.

4 Sylvia

Thanks for all your tips Heather. You are definitely an expert when it comes to makeup and grooming. I think I will follow your strategy for my toes and then keep my hands mostly natural. (unless I have lots of fabulous events!)

5 Sam

I would agree with Heather in that practice does make perfect when it comes to painting your fingernails yourself. It does take time to get a steady hand! As Heather suggests, try lighter colours, as they don’t show mistakes quite so much.

I would also invest in a nail polish remover pen, which is like a thick felt tip pen you can use around the edges of your nails to tidy things up a bit once your polish has dried. Or a tip that I was given last time I had a professional pedicure was to use a wooden cocktail stick dipped in polish remover to achieve the same result.

6 Sylvia

Some great tips Sam! Starting of with a dark colour was certainly a bad idea. I like the idea of a nail polish remover pen.

7 Kim West

I also love doing my nails. It is one essential part of me that I think would be very hard to let go. You should check out Essie Pink line which is a good way to support the breast cancer awareness month. It looks totally yummy on the nails as well!

8 Sylvia

Great idea Kim. I will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for your first comment at 40+ Style!

9 Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

Sylvia, nails are my thing! I love painting my nails as I think of it the same way as I do makeup – creating a mini work of art every day on me. You mentioned that painting them doesn’t do the condition any good… after many years of painting nails, I’ve found that my nails stay in better condition if I keep them painted – the polish protects them!

But oe of the secrets to their good condition is to keep the cuticles healthy. My (rather lengthy and indepth) tips would be:
1. Rub in hand cream every time after washing your hands.
2. Apply a good cuticle remover (liquid/paste, don’t cut them).
3. Push the cuticles back gently with a wooden or plastic cuticle stick, never metal.
4. Buff them using the 3-sided buffer you mentioned.
5. Rub in loads of cuticle cream.
6. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use a good base coat under nail polish.
7. When painting, don’t allow the polish to touch or seep into the cuticles. A tiny gap between polish and your cuticles is neater and allows the nail to breathe.
8. Use a nail polish spray to dry them more quickly – or plunge into a bowl of very cold water.
9. Forget French manicures (too fiddly!) and choose a really neutral, almost skin-like colour, it’ll hide a multitude of painting sins and look modern (Revlon’s Elegant is perfect).
10. Use a cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover to remove excess polish. Or better still, a small, round, flat artist’s brush perfects the edges beautifully. I personally find the pens get too loaded with polish too quickly.
11. Apply a clear top coat and then another every other day to keep it from chipping.
12. Remove the nail polish after 4-5 days maximum, and let the nails breathe at least overnight before painting again.
13. Buff them straight after removing the polish and apply the hand and cuticle cream again. Even if you don’t paint them a colour, I’d recommend always keeping a clear base/strengthening coat on them to protect the nail from general bashes, stops them splitting too!

I know this seems like an awful lot of work, but I guarantee it’ll improve the condition of your nails, even when wearing polish all the time! When I hit my 30s I decided I wanted to look “polished” rather than the rough n ready girl I’d been up till then; I’d always been a make up girl but decided to be a hair and nails girl too. There’s something about having beautifully done nails that makes me feel elegant, somehow – I find myself being more expressive with my hands. Plus, I bit them as a kid so the polish stops the bad old habit of putting them in my mouth!

As for time: painting my nails is my little ritual during my lunch hour at work. And I do spend a lot on nail polish, but I see them as accessories like jewellery or watches. To get them neat is simply down to doing them on a flat surface, holding your breath briefly and lots of practice!

An extremely long comment… sorry. Hope it gives everyone some tips, though!

Catherine x

P.S. Knew I’d forget something… I use a glass file to file them – never cut with scissors or clippers. When I stopped cutting them the condition improved enormously!

10 Sylvia

Wow Catherine. Some amazing tips here! I have renewed enthusiasm again to do my nails. Since I’ve been getting so much great feedback from you and other readers and not everyone is reading the comments, I’m actually thinking of adding it to a separate blog post. Would that be ok with you? Of course I will fully credit you!

11 Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

Of course, Sylvia, that’s absolutely fine! I’m very flattered! x

12 Reeda

I agree with Suzanne that being well-groomed becomes more important as we age. But my nails are atrocious, sorry to say. I like the look of nail polish, but every time I paint my nails, the polish chips in a day or two and then it looks even worse. So most of the time I don’t bother. I’ve been researching that gel polish that is popular now. However, I am concerned about what it would do to my nails and how much it would cost to keep up.

13 Sylvia

I have read some reviews of gel polish that were not so favourable, so not sure about that. Have a look at Catherine’s comment above. Some great tips there! I’m going to try them.

14 Rita

I’m a LOW maintenance gal…always have been, and I’m not letting a few years under my belt change that. I do my own nails and hair, and rarely, if ever, wear makeup. I totally agree that nails (fingers and toes) should be clean, neat, and trimmed to a modest length. I do this myself with clippers and a nail file (and my reading glasses so I can see what I’m doing!). I used to polish but fear the chemicals so I gave it up. As for my hair, I’ve more gray than brown these days, though it is white gray and looks rather blonde (most people think I’m coloring it…nope…it’s this crazy color by itself). I’ve chosen not to color it…too much upkeep for me. I just keep it a bit above shoulder length and the same length all around, and trim it myself. I ask my husband if it’s straight in back…hopefully he’s telling me the truth…LOL!!! I’m way too fidgetty to sit in a salon and be worked on…I’d rather be outside playing! Plus, I love the money I save that I can put towards shoes or something else that will last longer. 🙂 I guess overall, I focus on being active and healthy and don’t worry about the rest. I like what Suzanne said…”Healthy looks good)!

15 Sylvia

Very valid points Rita. I’ve always been like that as well, but also agree with others that grooming and a bit of colour is even more important now than it was before. I’ve decided that I’m going to try some of the tips given by my readers through their comments. This topic will be continued……

16 Rita

…and you should post photos of your pretty nails. 🙂

17 Sylvia

Yes, only problem with that is, that my hands show up in the picture too and the blue vains… Not so pretty… But I will do my best. I’m going on another trip and am thinking of something really wild! Will post a picture on Monday!

18 Rita

I’m veiny, too, especially if my hands are warm (like after I’ve had a work out). Hold your hands in the air for a few minutes, then bring them down and snap the photo quickly. Or, place them in ice water for a few minutes. 🙂 I’ll look forward to some wild and crazy nails next week. Have fun!!

19 Greetje

I have very sensitive nails. By trial and error I found out that my nails are OK when I do not use nail polish. If I do, all my nails split and break within 5 days. And I have to wait until they have grown back from the cuticle to the end of my finger before the splitting stops.
Gel nails were the solution. So for at least 10 years I went to the nail stylist who “did” my nails every three weeks. Bright red, of course. Beautiful. After a week I “filled” them a little with nail polish. (Practice does make perfect.)
Then I got very susceptible to a bacteria (staphylococcus) around my fingernails and I was forbidden to do anything that could provoke the bacteria to attack me. End of gel nails. Have to say that I never had the bacteria problem after that. Fortunately, as it can be quite lethal. Now I make do with polishing and filing my finger nails.
Doing my toe nails gets more difficult with age. I cannot see them that clearly and I cannot bend that well anymore (pffff). The pedicure does my feet and in summer I do the nail polish on my toe nails. It stays on for weeks. Unlike nail polish on your finger nails.

20 Rita

Oh my, Greetje! I’m glad you got those infections to clear up. That sounds terrible!

21 Greetje

Actually Rita, there was a funny aspect to it. The infection was tiny, you needed a magnifying glass to see it. But it hurt like hell. The doctor took one look at it and said: “Oh you have not come a minute too early. I will give you antibiotic and you have to wear your arm in a sling for a fortnight” . I burst out laughing, thought he was pulling my leg. But no, he was serious! Oh well, the medicine helped and it is all in the past. The only sad thing is, I had to say goodbye to my pretty nails.

22 Rita

Wow…a sling?? I would have laughed at the idea, too. I’m glad it’s all cleared up! I’m sure your hands look beautiful even without the fancy nails. 🙂

23 Sylvia

Yes, it seems to be a good idea to do toe nails here professionally as they are permanently displayed. Then I will just take care of my finger nails myself. I’m going to use some of the tips Catherine provided!

24 lissy

I love having nicely manicured nails and toes. I’m not very good at doing them myself and I agree with you, I much prefer the relaxation of having someone else do them. Lucky enough, there are some relatively inexpensive places in Boston so I tend to go every week or so for my nails and every few weeks for toes.

25 Sylvia

Yes I could do that too. Just look for a cheap place here. I’m sure there are plenty….

26 Kim B

I also agree about the well grooming as you age. I keep my nails short and like to get my toes done at least every 3weeks, of course the cost has to be considered.
Also good products for your face too, my youthful glow seems to have left me…

27 Sylvia

I know Kim. The face is so important too. Keeping the skin as healthy as possible is always a priority for me. Thanks for sending in your feedback!

28 Sally

I use to get my mani-pedi religiously until one day I came home with a nasty toe nail fungus (the aftermath which is a story in its self). Still working on getting rid of it and it is nearly two years. So, no more professionals for me.

I am doing my own now. Like Suzanne, natural on my nails and sometimes color in my toes. I only use like nearly nude colors as I think they are youthful without looking like you are trying too hard.

To keep or get your nails strong, I would recommend a product called nailtiques (formula 2 plus). Follow the instructions for stronger, longer nails that don’t split. It is shiny but colorless. Love it.

29 Sylvia

Ay, that sounds nasty. Did not realise that fungus could be that bad! Thanks for the recommendation of the product Sally!

30 Elizabeth

Gel nail polish!

These usually cost about 15-20 bucks more than a traditional pedicure but I swear they will last for a minimum of 2 weeks (mine usually lasts 3-4 but I trim my nails so the coloured bit gets shorter and shorter, looks odd, lol). No scratches or dents. It dries quickly you can wash your hands immediately after your session. I know this sounds like an ad, haha but it’s not but here’s what I think:

– Lasts longer (is more expensive but considering the lasting effect, worth the price)
– No scratches or dents, you can almost ignore it. No need to be careful not to scratch it when doing housework, etc.
– Shorter pedicure time
– Retains shine and colour throughout

– Uses UV/Led lamps to cure so for those who are worried about its effects on your hands, this will be a concern
– Limited colour range (probably improving but the salons here are slow)
– Inconvenient to remove. Salons usually soak or wrap nail individually with solution. I’ve found that I can do the same by wrapping cotton pads soaked with the usual nail varnish remover

I think that if you have no time or are unwilling to splurge on nails, just focus on the cuticles and removing the dead skin. I find this instantly elongates the fingers and makes them look much healthier and ‘younger’!

31 Sylvia

Great feedback Elizabeth! Thanks so much. I have never tried this, so must do sometime in the future.

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