- Use a good cuticle oil and make sure to massage it in
I personally cut my cuticles back because I do keep my nails short, but by using a good cuticle oil, you're keeping the cuticle and the area around your nail softer and less likely to end up dried out and flaky because of nail varnish remover damage. I go for the Andrea Fulerton one (available in SuperDrug) or OPI Nail Treatments Avoplex Cuticle Oil To Go. Both are really great and smell lovely. :)
- Go for acetone-free nail polish remover
Acetone damages. It also helps to dry your nails out and make them brittler than 100 year old China plates. Since getting my big plastic talons removed, I will ONLY use acetone-free polish remover. I go for Cutex Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover or Cutex Nourishing Nail Polish Remover which is formulated for nails that are already weak.
- Use a strengthener/nourishment treatment for your nails
I go for QVC Nail Drink, OPI Nail Envy (any one of the brand) or Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Natural. I put it on underneath my base coat so my nails are always having a bit of a treat before I lacquer them up again :) I used to think they were basically a load of crap, but after using them constantly along with the right nail varnish removers and cuticle oil, together it really has made a difference.
- Moisturize your hands!
It's something you wouldn't even think you'd need to do to help your nails, but it does. Plus, there isn't really a downside to it. You get softer hands and nicer nails. :) I like Garnier 7 Days Daily Shea Butter Hand Cream or any of the Jergen's Naturals range.
- Acrylic nails will RUIN your own nails!
I am not even joking. When mine were soaked off and my natural nails began to grow again, there was an actual DENT where the acrylic nails had ended by my nail bed. Imagine that, growing your nails with thick grooves in the middle of them. Your nails get no air at all and the acrylic is a lot of the time too thick and isn't actually meant to be used on human nails. If you want to grow them, seriously, just treat them well and be careful. It isn't worth the ridiculous amount it costs to completely destroy what your mama gave you. This message also goes for gel nails and, depending on who you speak to, hybrid gel nails.
- Don't bite.
Your nails are not food and do not offer nutritional nourishment, so stop biting them. All you're going to do is end up risking infections with the open cut bits of skin on your fingers and lets be honest, overly bitten nails aren't attractive. Chew gum instead or something.
- Short short short.
I've found that by keeping my nails short for a longer time, they actually seem more inclined to grow and stay stronger. I know that's obviously because they aren't long and getting caught in everything, but it actually does help quite a lot to keep them shorter while you're trying to grow them. From my experiences, anyway.
- Your nails will get damage from every day tasks.
Such as right now, I'm typing this on a computer. I touch-type now because I've been typing for so long, but it still causes damage to your nails. Just like washing the dishes, gardening, operating machinery and heavy lifting. It all causes damage. Just be careful, it's all you can do. Lets be honest, you can't walk around with your hands covered in bubble wrap, so if you are nail conscious, pay a little extra care when going about your day.
- I've only just got a manicure and managed to get pen on my nail! GET IT OFF!
I've only done this twice, and because I do my own nails now, I simply re-do the nail when I have chance to. If not, other than nail varnish remover (which you obviously won't want to do if you've just got your nails done) then the other two remedies I've been told work are: hairspray and lemon juice. I personally haven't done either, so I'm reporting the tales of friends here, but apparently, by spraying a little bit of hairspray on to the nail and giving it a few seconds, the pen marks will simply come off if you then wipe your nail with a slightly damp cloth. With the lemon juice, you're supposed to soak it for a little bit longer but I personally don't know how much I'd trust a method that involves soaking your nails in citric acid, it doesn't sound like a great idea to me.
- How do I correctly use a nail pen?
As you'll see in my previous photo of my vampire nails, I have not correctly used a nail pen while doing a previous design. To use a nail pen, make sure you have a solid base-coat on underneath. I know that the pens already advise this, but trust me, they mean it. On my last design (olympics) I used a clear-glitter polish on top of a relatively cheap clear polish base-coat and now I am paying for it. Sadly, this isn't the first time I've done it. Be careful when using a pen, especially if it has a hard nib. If you apply too much pressure, you'll end up pushing your base-coat or polish out of the way and will end up pretty much drawing with nail pen onto your actual nail. This isn't a problem with cheaper nail art pens as they tend to be more liquid-y based and more likely to come off anyway. My Nail Star ones are great for coming off with no effort when you use nail varnish remover. The OPI ones are obviously better quality, but they are the culprits that have stained four of my nails. The stains do eventually come away with more nail varnish remover and daily use of your hands, but it really pissed me off when it first happened because it meant any sort of pale coloured lacquer was off the cards until these bloody stains went away. To avoid that hassle, seriously, just use a good base-coat you can rely on and don't go in too heavy handed. You're decorating a nail, not going hunting.
I hope any of that will be of use to somebody wanting to do their nails any time in the near future. It's just a few points I wish I'd known about before I started doing my own nails quite as frequently as I do. :)