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7 Holiday Nail Hacks

All thumbs when you’re doing your nails? Try these seven tips for a perfect DIY mani-pedi.

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Festive holiday parties and open-toed evening shoes demand perfect nails. But professional manicures are pricey, and hard to fit into busy days—and most salons use mainstream products that contain harsh chemicals and endocrine disruptors. The best solution: a DIY salon session with toxin-free products. Nail your holiday mani-pedi with these seven simple steps.

Did you know…

Nails can tell you a lot about your health. Pale nails, dark vertical lines on the nail bed, and dry, brittle nails are all signs that you should consult your doctor.

1. Remove old polish.

Most nail polish removers contain acetone, a solvent that can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation when inhaled; it’s also hard on nails, leaving them dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Choose a natural, acetone-free formula to protect nails (and your health). Soak a cotton ball in remover, press firmly against nail for a few seconds, then swipe off. Use a cotton swab dipped in remover to clean old polish from edges of nails and cuticles.

Perfect nail pick: Mineral Fusion Acetone-free Nail Polish Remover

2. Clip and trim.

Use a nail clipper to trim toenails to a length that hits just the tip of your toe, cutting straight across to avoid ingrown nails. For fingernails, use a crystal nail file, not an emery board, which can damage nails. File sides in one direction toward the tip, then finish by filing the tip in one direction; sawing back and forth can split and weaken nails. Finish by buffing gently to smooth surface ridges.

Perfect nail pick: Sow Good Glass File

3. Soak and scrub.

Soak hands and feet in a bowl or tub of warm water for five minutes, then gently rub with a sugar or sea salt exfoliating scrub to remove dead skin. Dry hands and feet, and use a pumice stone or callus remover on heels to smooth away remaining roughness. Massage in or brush on cuticle cream or oil, then gently push back with an orange stick or cuticle pusher. Never clip your cuticles—the cuticle is there to protect nails, and removing it can leave you open to bacteria and fungal infections.

Perfect nail picks: SheaMoisture Argan Oil & Raw Shea Hand & Body Scrub

4. Choose your palette.

Safe, subtle mauves are fine for every day, but for the holidays, go bigger and brighter. Try a bold, shimmery polish, or use a rich jewel tone to make toenails pop in open-toed sandals. Don’t worry about matching fingernail and toenail colors; you may choose a more office-appropriate color for fingernails, with a festive, holiday color on toes. And use only natural, toxin-free colors; mainstream nail polishes contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that are absorbed into the body.

Perfect nail pick: Mineral Fusions Garnet Nail Polish

5. Prep and color.

Dip a cotton ball in witch hazel and swipe nails to remove any oils from scrubbing and soaking. Apply a layer of clear polish to create a smooth, even surface for colors to cling to, and avoid streaking and smearing. Let base coat dry completely, then apply color: starting at the base of each nail, use a light stroke on the right side, then the left, then down the center. Don’t load up the brush; thin coats dry faster and are less likely to bubble or streak. Do your big toe last to avoid smearing. Let the first coat dry completely, then apply the second.

Perfect nail pick: Thayers Witch Hazel Astringent - Original

6. Finish it up.

A top coat is a must, to smooth away minor imperfections and make your mani-pedi last. Brush on a coat of clear polish, or choose one with glittery accents. (A clear coat can also freshen up nails between full treatments.) Let the top coat dry completely, then use a cotton swab dipped in remover to swipe away any bits of polish on cuticles or edges of fingers and toes. After nails are completely dry, finish with a super-rich hand and foot cream to soften and smooth; pay special attention to heels and sides of big toes.

Perfect nail picks: dr. organic Virgin Olive Oil Foot and Heel Cream

7. Nourish nails.

A perfect mani-pedi starts with strong, healthy nails. Keep yours in tip-top shape with natural products that fight common nail conditions. For weak, soft nails, add a scoop of collagen to your morning smoothie, or take a daily supplement that includes nail-strengthening nutrients like horsetail, biotin, copper, and zinc. For nail fungus, try tea tree oil or oregano oil. For brittle nails and problematic cuticles, use a nail strengthener daily and apply cuticle cream every night before bed.

Perfect nail pick: MegaFood Skin, Nails & Hair