Our hands are one of the first body parts to give away our age. This isn’t because our hands age faster than the rest of us; its simply because we don’t take care of them as well as we should and we use them A LOT.
Yes, you should be wearing sunscreen and moisturising often, but here’s an anti-ageing cheat: book a manicure. You can choose a straight-forward buff and polish, or you can go all in with gel or acrylic overlays. Whatever mani you prefer, here are a few things to keep in mind for Instagram-worthy nails.
Our guide to Instagram-worthy nails:
What to do when booking an appointment:
Yes, there are some ambidextrous super beings who can easily paint all 10 fingernails. But if you don’t possess the same power, then it might be best to get someone else to do it.
1. Make sure the place is reputable and clean! We all love a bargain but if your nail bar is messy, has dust on every surface and has open bins everywhere, be sure to make a swift exit at the front door.
2. Call in advance to make a booking. Many salons will do what they can to accommodate walk-ins, but it is so much more polite to call and make an appointment with a nail technician. This will allow the salon to provide you with a much more professional service as they will have been expecting you. Plus, this is an easy and reliable way to keep booking the nail technician you like.
3. When you make your appointment, be sure to find out what services are offered at the salon. No point showing up for a French ombre only to find out that none of the technicians can do an ombre.
4. Also, don’t forget to ask about the prices of additional services such as a soak-off, nail repairs or even nail art. That way, you can budget accordingly and avoid nasty surprises when it’s time to pay. The safest bet would be to have a bigger budget for any unexpected extras.
What to do before the appointment:
You may think you are being super helpful by ‘prepping’ your nails beforehand but you are actually just creating more work for your nail technician if you mess things up.
1. DO find a picture of the style, colour and shape you like and send it to your nail technician if you can, otherwise take it along with you to your appointment.
2. DON’T fidget with your nails. That means no buffing, clipping or shaping of any kind. Nail technicians do all that professionally, so let them do their job which is to make sure your hands look their best.
3. DO check your nails to make sure they are in a suitable condition for a manicure. The last thing a manicurist wants is for you to show up with cracked cuticles or bleeding nail beds. Not only is this best practice when it comes to hygiene, but it’s probably going to be aggravated by the acetone or emery boards.
What to do on the day of the appointment:
Even if you are regular at a nail bar, the prospect of a fresh set and a little pamper session is enough to get anyone giddy with excitement.
1. DO wash your hands. Especially if you’ve just had lunch or touched something grimy. It’s just good manners.
2. DON’T be late. In fact, show up 10 minutes early. This will allow you to pay in advance (which will save you from digging around in your wallet with fresh nails), choose a colour and even get a jump-start on a soak-off if you’re in luck.
3. DO allow enough time for your treatment – typically most standard manicures (especially if you’re going for a gel or acrylic overlay) is not an in-and-out job so set aside at least an hour to be safe. If you know you need a soak off, add an extra 20 minutes to your appointment. And if you are in a hurry, let you manicurist know at the start of the appointment so she can work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
4. DON’T be too chatty. Most manicurists don’t mind a little small talk (unless they thrive off uncomfortable silences), but too much talking can be a distraction, especially when they’re concentrating on shaping nails or doing nail art.
5. DO take some time when selecting a nail colour. Most nail bars will have colour wheels; individual fake nails are painted in different colours so you can hold them against your hand to see which colour suits your skin tone best. It’s better to take your time when choosing and try a few at the start of the appointment than walk out disappointed at the end.
6. DO bring your own tools. Have you ever thought about just how many clients a nail bar can see every day? Would you want to share a nail file with a random stranger? Probably not. Salons will most likely sterilise metal tools in between clients, and most salons spray disinfectant on nail files and nail clippers before using them on someone new, but that might not be enough assurance for everybody. Keep tools in your handbag and you won’t need to worry.
Read more: How to get a long-lasting manicure at home
A short breakdown on the types of treatments:
The most common nail treatments you’ll find around South Africa:
• A simple manicure with polish on natural nails. This is ideal for someone who is relatively low maintenance, but still appreciates how put-together painted nails can make you feel.
• Gel overlay is more permanent than polish. It requires a UV lamp to set but it lasts for up to 2 weeks without any chips. This is ideal for natural nails that are short and round, but for women who don’t mind sticking with one (often neutral) shade for weeks at a time.
• Acrylic overlay is the process that takes the longest and it can be done as an overlay on your own nails or on tips. It will make your nails super strong and is usually recommended for long nails, particularly for coffin and stiletto shapes. Definitely not for the faint-hearted as simple tasks, like typing out a WhatsApp message, can get tricky depending on the length.
A quick word on technique:
• Keep an eye on the type of nail file being used – a fine grit is best for natural nails while a more coarse texture should be used on tips or acrylic. If the filing or buffing is too hard, and you feel a burning sensation underneath your nails, simply pull your hand away and politely ask your nail tech to be more gentle.
• Make sure your manicurist files from the outside toward the centre of the nail, as filing side to side causes micro tears and will lead to weak nails and a higher probability of chipped polish.
• Nails should not be filed on top in order to prep them for polish. This just makes them weak and more prone to breaking.
• Polish should be applied to clean, dry nails in order for it to adhere properly.
• The golden rule: you should never feel any pain, ever. If something hurts, there’s a problem.
What to do after the appointment:
1. DO give nail polish a chance to dry. If you haven’t done gel or acrylic, wait 15 minutes before leaving the salon to ensure that your polish is completely dry.
2. DO tip generously. This is entirely up to you and your personal experience but a general rule of thumb, if you’re satisfied with the service, is around 25%.
3. DON’T do anything that requires too much effort with your hands for the rest of the day like cooking with your hands or washing dishes.
4. DO be careful of how you open soft drink cans, type on your computer keyboard and press elevator buttons – the last thing you want are chips on fresh paint or broken nails.
5. DO apply cuticle oil every night. Try not to go overboard, but gently massaging in a drop of oil before bed each night will really nourish and strengthen your nails in the long run.