The Ten Minute Manicure

manicureHaving grubby nails is simply not beautiful, functional or perfect.

It’s faintly revolting actually. People with dirt under their fingernails, or nails that have been chewed halfway up the finger baffle me.

It really is such a simple thing to get right. They just need to be kept clean, neat and quite short. Long talons are equally hideous, particularly if they’re only on a couple of fingers.

I used to trudge off to the cheap Vietnamese nail salon near my house pretty much every week. But gradually I started to realize that despite putting the polish on beautifully, (which I have never quite mastered – particularly on my right hand while using my left), they really weren’t doing anything that I couldn’t do myself. And the polish never lasted longer than a few days before chipping anyway.

They also never paid a blind bit of attention when I said, “Could you possibly not cut too much off the cuticles please?” or “You really don’t need to buff them, my nails are very thin already.” They would simply smile inanely at me and do as they pleased.

So I concluded I would be responsible for keeping my nails clean myself, and would save myself £12 a week. Not a lot I know, but in a year that’s £624. I could go on a short holiday for that, or buy a beautiful piece of furniture, or an amazing handbag. I was convinced. This was a luxury (a not so enjoyable one) that I was willing to surpass.

I went to my local beauty supplies store and picked up everything I needed. I knew what I needed because I had been watching the Vietnamese ladies glumly do my nails for years and had more or less picked up how to do a manicure.

What you’ll need:

  • A small bowl of warm/hot water
  • Nail cutters
  • A nail file
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Cuticle cutters
  • Multipurpose birchwood sticks for general use, they’re excellent for cleaning under the nails
  • Cuticle oil
  • Hand cream
  • Sanitiser spray to clean your equipment after every use


I wouldn’t scrimp on the equipment. You’ll get more than your money back if you do your own nails even a few times a month rather than having them done at a salon. I tend to buy most of mine from Sally but any beauty supplies store should have everything you need.

The only things I buy elsewhere are the cuticle oil (Dr Hauschka/Butter London) and hand cream (Dr Hauschka/Aveda) because mine are chemical free.

I find some of equipment, the cuticle cutter in particular, strangely addictive. You won’t be able to bear the sight of even the tiniest bit of skin hanging around your finger. You’ll rush to your cuticle cutter and sort it out in moments.

Step 1: Soak your fingers in the warm water for a few minutes until your nails and the skin around them are quite soft. Sometimes it’s easier to do your nails straight after a hot shower or a warm bath as they’ll be nice and soft.

Step 2: Use the nail cutter to cut the nails. When going for a simple neat everyday manicure I tend to do my nails quite short. I cut each nail three times, once on each side and once across the bottom. Not just once across the bottom.

Step 3: Use the nail file to shape them. You can make them round or square. I think round tends to look tidier but it is often best to look at your nail and see whether the cuticle area is more rounded or more square and just mirror it. I tend to mirror the shape of the lunula (the white bit at the top of your nail) when going for a clean neat understated look.

It’s common to buff the nail on the ends to smooth after filing and on top pre polish so it stays on longer. But I find it hurts after a while if you do this too often and makes my nails too thin so I don’t do it. Particularly if I’m not wearing polish.

Step 4: Use one side of the cuticle pusher to gently push back the cuticles and use the other side to clean under the nails and remove any residue from filing. You can also use the birchwood sticks to do this, they sometimes work better as they’re more malleable and pointed at the end.

Step 4: Use the cuticle cutter to gently trim away the raised cuticle that you have already pushed back. Never overcut. You’ll only hurt yourself and may even stimulate more growth.

Step 5: Massage some cuticle oil onto the cuticles and nails. I like to use Dr Haushcka’s Neem Nail Oil. It should soften your cuticles and if you apply it regularly, keep your nails strong and healthy.


Step 6: Moisturise your hands – I use Dr Hauschka’s Hand Cream or Aveda’s Hand Relief.


That’s it! You should now have neat pretty nails.


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