Let’s talk… nails!

Hello ello!

How is everyone doing? Enjoying lockdown 3.0? (Don’t feel you need to answer that one haha…). I know we’re all fed up talking of talking about a certain virus by now, so all I will say is I hope you’re all coping okay, continuing to stick to the rules and managing to not go completely insane! So to keep things positive… I thought it was about time I set myself a challenge… to start a series of posts (“Let’s talk…”) and post one weekly from now until the end of lockdown 3.0! So, hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the next however many weeks! (If I manage to keep my act together, wish home luck…). Soooo, let’s kick this off with a post on all things nails; with everything from nail care to how to remove polish and then I thought I’d explain a bit more about what I now do for work! So, lets go…

Firstly, if you’re a well accustomed, every two weeks have your nails done kinda’ person or are a au naturel kinda’ person, it is well and truly your choice and do whatever you damn well want to, just please do your best to look after them! I do have to say though, I hope this post will (hopefully) not be too biased towards one way or the other. (Well, we can hope anyway with me being a nail tech haha…).

As I’ve said above and on my blog/website many times (and if you’re new here, welcome!) and for if you haven’t noticed… I am a fully qualified nail technician and beauty therapist! I have worked in this industry for the past 5 years on and off, but I. Keep. Coming. Back. Of course I do haha, because its an amazingly lovely and rewarding industry which I am proud to be part of. So, I thought it was about time I spoke about something which I do a lot (in normal circumstances of course): Nails!

So, (little rant here incoming here…) I would like to start by saying that having your nails done WILL VERY RARELY COMPLETELY DAMAGE YOUR NAILS, full stop. Now there is a slight catch with that and that is – it will only not damage your nails if you look after them well and treat them with respect, it’s simple. People will possibly disagree with me (and I mean, each to their own and they’re entitled to their own opinion etc.) but I can guarantee that that person has either done one of the following: Picked off their polish/not soaked off for long enough (which means you’ll need to scrape really hard and potentially damaging the nail), not applied cuticle oil/hand cream on the reg or has gone to a nail bar where they have filed/buffed all life out of your poor nail and so on. Now the last thing I want to do here is offend anyone or be ridiculously negative, but please think about this. There are many reputable (and gentle) nail techs out there who do all they can to ensure they don’t damage your nails (and I may be biased, but I try to always ensure I personally stay in this category as much as possible and I hope my clients agree), because at the end of the day; who says having your nails done should be a trauma?

Another thing worth mentioning is please be wary of cheap gel nail kits (apparently they’re on Lidl’s middle isle at the moment, oh no…) because they can sometimes (‘sometimes’ being the key word here) be really detrimental to the nails due to the chemicals inside, which are normally cheap and many professional brands won’t have in. Now I know everyone has to start somewhere, all brands have some kind of ‘chemicals’ in and many people use them regularly with no problems, but (and I know I am biased) but professional brands are professional brands for a reason. Just do your research please is all I will say!

Okay, rant over haha… lets talk about what you can do to look after your nails:

Moisturise, Moisturise, moisturise

Now this may be fairly obvious (if not, then here you go), but any form of moisturiser will not only work wonders for your face, but your hands and cuticles alike! For any of you that know me or follow me on social media, will know that I am always banging on about the importance of cuticle oil, albeit though, it’s all for good reason I promise! (I would also never, ever recommend something if I didn’t truly believe in it). So, for those of you that are not sure as to why it should be a staple in everyone’s self care routines, let me explain… So there’s an analogy which I always use (please excuse the fact that I am repeating myself from my social media here…) but think of your nails as leaves… (bare with me haha) what are leaves like when they are dry? And what are nails like when they are dry? Despite the colour difference, they are in fact very similar; dry, curled inwards and brittle. Then when you water them (i.e. moisturiser/oil) they become a lot more soft, supple and flexible (in a good way) don’t they? So that ladies and gentleman, is why I love it an always, always, always recommend it!

So I hope that helps to explain it a little bit more! Like I’ve mentioned above, if you are an avid gel polish lover or not, moisturiser will always help and your hands and nails will thank you for it! Also… If you do love your fortnightly dose of gel polish, believe it or not, cuticle oil and a drop of hand cream will actually make your polish last longer (as when your nails are dry, this can make the polish lift an awful lot quicker!). So do them a favour and invest or dig out any form of oil (even if its something you have stashed in your drawer or kitchen cupboard, anything is better than nothing, just maybe keep away from the chilli olive oil or plain vegetable oil…).

I also just wanted to elaborate a little on the above… some may think that cuticle oil may make gel polish lift quicker, when in actual fact, it does the exact opposite. I wanted to point this out as I know it sort of goes against the rules and seems a bit strange if you’re new to it, I get it, but trust me on this one, pleaseeee! Now as it’s an oil, it shouldn’t be confused with the condition: (naturally) oily nails. Now this is why (are you ready for an ‘ah-ha’ moment here?…) I always ask in our initial consultation if you are on any medication (along with a few other things) as some medication can cause oily nails (as does pregnancy sometimes too!). Now you may be thinking, is this a good or bad thing? Oily nails are in fact not that great for gel polish (great for if you like a au naturel look though) as they can cause unwelcome lifting early on with gel polish (although this doesn’t always happen, like anything, everyone is different). Now I know its confusing, but think about it like this… Oily skin (naturally produced) on the face, causes foundation to separate throughout the day doesn’t it? Whereas, if you apply the correct oil (skincare) under your foundation, it can make you GLOW and in fact, make your makeup last longer! And this, is exactly the same principal with nails in correlation to oily nails and cuticle oil. Not many people have this or even know they have it (it’s not even life changing I should point out), but it may be something to bear in mind if gels don’t last the distance on you!

So back to good moisturisers here… some of my personal favourites are:

  • CND Solar oil.
  • Tropic Tamanu balm (this is a multi purpose balm, but is great for dry cuticles or dry patches of skin).
  • Neutrogena concentrated hand cream.
  • CND hand lotion range.

Then we have…


Please don’t be fooled by the title of this, I know it’s just been Christmas, but trimming the turkey is a little thing of the past now, well until later this year of course… I’m talking here about nails and cuticles (funnily enough, with regards to the title of this post, ha!). Firstly, please be careful with cuticle trimming on yourself (especially if you haven’t had any form of nail training, there’s actually a lot more to it than what meets the eye) as its so, so easy to cut yourself or damage the matrix (the brain of the nail) under your nail/cuticle! Cuticle pushing back is fine, just be careful if you have nippers and are wanting to trim your cuticles and if you are adamant in doing your cuticles yourself, then please just be careful! Nobody wants a nail infection or damaged nail do they? (Worst case scenario there, but you can catch my drift…).

Secondly, filing… this is a bit simpler than cuticle trimming lets be honest, but there are still little ways it can be detrimental to the nail. The first thing is: try to only file one way if you can. By this I mean, try not to go back and fourth like a see-saw on the nail, as have you ever had it when after doing this your nail feels a little warm? If yes, then that’s the friction there for you and that can weaken nails over time. So please try your best to keep this minimal, its actually quite hard at first (I used to struggle with this) but once you get used to those long strokes mastered, there will be no stopping you I’m sure ;). The next thing is shape… now this is completely down to preference & trends (at the moment, square nails and french polish seem to be making a comeback, it’s funny how we go round in circles isn’t it haha!) but if you are prone to breakage and your nails are square, it may be worth adopting a more rounded/squoval (squared oval) shape as some say a rounder shape helps with strength! Everyone’s different, but it may just be worth a try.

Another question you may have is… how often should you file? The answer to this is; as often or as little as you like basically! The only thing would be, if you find your nails keep catching and you’re trying to grow them out, try and keep those catchy bits smooth as much as possible. This is so you don’t rip the whole nail off, no one wants that do they? If they do keep catching at the corners and your nails are square, as I’ve mentioned above, it might be worth rounding them off (even just in the corners) for a change to try and avoid it. It’s worth a try right?!

Now lets move onto…


Now this seems to be a hot old topic in these many lockdowns, mainly due to people taking their nails into their hands (no pun intended there…). But I think it’s safe to say, we’ve all been there and bought a strengthener that does literally next to nothing (sadly) haven’t we? BUT, there is one which I have found to actually work and that is: OPI’s nail envy (they do it in clear and a few colours, but personally I love the clear one as you can layer it without looking thick and you can’t see the chips). Pair this with cuticle oil and you have the perfect nail rehab combination. Perfect for lockdown if you ask me and one I always recommend to my clients if they’re having a little break, not to mention any names, but normally this is after a good gel picking off sesh… don’t worry, I’m not judging or name shaming! I should also point out that this is not sponsored by OPI, this one just well and truly stole my heart!

Now lets move onto…

Gel polish removal…

Again, this has been a hot topic during these stay-at-home times hasn’t it! Mainly due to us nail techs applying colour and then leaving you to your own devices (not a choice ours of course) to remove, hopefully properly (otherwise you’ll need to read the last point on strengtheners in a lot more detail ;)) and safety. The best way to do this is by digging out your acetone remover, cotton pads, foil, a file, cuticle pusher & a buffer. And the best way to do this once those gels are ready to come off is something like the following…

(make sure you have a good 45 mins free for this by the way, as this is a process which can’t really be rushed)…

  1. Gently buff off the top layer of polish to remove the shine and remove the top coat. You can do this using a nail file (which isn’t too blunt) or a buffing block.
  2. Then, grab your foil and cut into 10 (or however many fingers you have haha) pieces of about 10cm by 5cm. After this, grab your cotton wool and cut (this is the best way I find to fo it) in half, then each half into 3 (So you are left with 6 pieces). Then pull 4 of the pieces in half and leave the other two as they are… so you have 10 pieces! The reason for this is, you really don’t need much cotton wool per nail and the two which haven’t been split work well for thumbs.
  3. Now you can begin wrapping…
  4. So one-by-one, soak each piece of cotton wool in acetone (any acetone product will work, just beware, if its diluted as a nail polish remover it may be slower to work, but potentially gentler). Then, wrap each finger in a acetone soaked cotton wool piece and secure with a piece of foil as tightly as you can. I like to start with the little fingers first and start working your way up. I like to alternate hands on myself as I go, so you finish with both thumbs last. This way makes a slightly fiddly job, not so bad!
  5. Then leave to soak for 15-25 mins (I always advise longer when DIY’ing it as it makes it a tiny bit more manageable to remove on yourself). You can even add a hot water bottle in at this point to speed up even more! But you can sit back and relax at this point…
  6. Then finger-by-finger remove the foil, starting with the first finger you wrapped. The polish (depending on the brand) should have lifted off a fair bit now, fingers crossed! So, grab your cuticle pusher/orange stick/cocktail stick (whatever is in reach) to gently push off the polish. *making sure here, you only remove one foil at a time and scrape*. Repeat for all fingers. If the polish doesn’t come off nicely, re-wrap and repeat.
  7. Once all off and if you have a buffer (strongly recommended), you can gently buff over the nail to remove any last debris!
  8. And you are off! Here it might be worth applying a strengthener/polish and then (I bet you know what I’m going to say here haha…) cuticle oil! To keep those talons in tip top condition as they may feel a little dry at this point.

Then you are good to go! Now I know it’s a long process, but it’s soooo much better for your nails over picking off. AND it’s not like some of us don’t have time at the moment eh?

(If you find it easier to watch something, head to @ellamaybeauty on instagram for a video on how to remove gel polish!)

Hmm, so as always this has turned into one hefty essay, oopsssss! So well done for getting to here haha. But before I finish I thought I’d elaborate a little more on what I actually do (in case you’re interested and haven’t sussed from my instagram or other areas of my website…). When I returned to beauty in August last year I decided to go mobile with nails and brows only, which has been great (minus the several lockdown interruptions, but anyway) and this will hopefully return soon, AND as well as (drumroll please as this hasn’t been officially announced yet, so here’s a sneaky little insight…) I will be opening a home beauty room alongside my cousin hopefully very, very soon! It’s been great also as I’ve realised that painting a room isn’t actually overly different to nails, just on a much bigger scale (obviously haha). This will be in addition to being mobile, so we have room to wiggle yay! How exciting (maybe just me, but I thought I’d share my excitement with you!). There’s also going to be an expansion on my treatment menu too, which I am equally just as super excited about (as being mobile can be a little limiting!), so watch this space!

Anyway, for the time being whilst we are all still stuck in doors (and always of course), look after those nails! Actually as we’re talking about it, you could go and grab that hand cream/cuticle oil now couldn’t you 😉

Take care everyone & speak to you next week with the next ‘Let’s talk’ and you never know, that post might be shorter than this… (or not… who knows haha).

Lots of love, Ella x

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