Show of hands

Are you plagued by streaky polish or harangued by hangnails? Read on for our hottest tips, tools and colour trends

It’s the season for great-looking nails! Polish yours to perfection with our expert tips, must-have tools and sexy shades.

Tip-top shape
I asked Charmaine Stephens, an esthetician at Concepts Day Spa Salon in Toronto, to share some of her nail care secrets.

Q: When I get a manicure, I love how soft and neat my cuticles are. How can I keep them looking so good?
A: Professionals use cuticle nippers – available at drugstores across Canada – to remove the dead skin that builds up around the nail. While you should never cut the cuticle or use cuticle scissors, nippers are relatively safe because they remove just the surface skin. Still, when using cuticle nippers, proceed with caution! They come in different sizes, but the smaller the tool, the more control you’ll have. Go slowly, lightly trimming hangnails and the built-up skin around your nails. Trim as little as possible – too much can cause splitting, which can lead to infection. And remember, once you start trimming, you have to do it on a continuous basis, so make sure you’re ready for the commitment.

Q: Why is sheer polish so difficult to apply?
A: When you’re using sheer polish, you have to prep the nail first. Buffing helps smooth the nail bed, but a ridge-filling polish is also necessary to create an even surface. After you’ve applied a thin coat of ridge filler, add the sheer colour. When applying the nail colour, swirl the brush in the bottle and then smooth-out the brush on one side of the bottle neck so you get a drop of polish on one side of the brush only. This will prevent any bubbles from forming as the polish dries. The number of strokes is also important: cover the nail in a maximum of four swipes. TRY: Avon Nail Experts Smooth Beginnings Base Coat, 12 mL, $7.

Q: Chipped polish is inevitable, but can I help prevent it and fix nicks when they occur?
A: A good quality topcoat is essential to preventing chips. Applying a topcoat every day or two maintains your polish. I like to swipe it horizontally across to seal the nail tip, which is where most chips happen. Mask nicks by gently smoothing the area with a buffing block. Then dab some polish onto the chip and allow it to dry. If necessary, add another small dab of polish. Once dry, paint over the entire nail.

Q: How can I create a spa-like hand treatment at home?
A: There are a couple of things you can try for at-home pampering. To make a hand scrub, mix equal parts sugar and oil (such as olive oil or vitamin E). Once you’ve mixed them into a paste, massage it all over your hands and into your cuticles and nails for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and your hands will feel and look like new. I also have a great deep-conditioning treatment that works while you’re washing the dishes: apply oil to your hands, then slip on cotton gloves, then rubber gloves overtop. As you’re washing up, the heat from the water will help the oil penetrate your skin. When the dishes are done, simply rinse off your hands and they’ll be super-soft.

Q: How can I get rid of the yellow cast on my nails?
A: The quickest way to brighten yellowing nails, the result of prolonged use of dark nail colours, is to soak them in a half-and-half mixture of water and three per cent hydrogen peroxide. Simply dip your nails in the solution for three to five minutes and then rinse thoroughly with water. This treatment is for emergencies only and should only be used two or three times a year.