Tended talons

It can be a marvellous spectacle to watch a woman with very long painted nails at work, using a telephone, taking notes. But for the ordinary woman, it can be troublesome enough just trying to keep her nails healthy and respectable looking. The key?

Regular basic manicures, according to Pimonrat Trirattanakittikul, owner and general manager of nail salon Nail Intensive Care (NIC). "Nails complete a person’s total look, and a basic manicure is the foundation for all other nail services," she says. "Every nail salon needs to be good at a basic manicure."

But getting a manicure isn’t just about beautiful nails. Yupin Macleod, manager of The Best salons, points out that more than just beauty is at stake. "Over time, cuticles can become hard, and nails can start to become ingrown. This can lead to a lot of bacteria getting caught in the nails, or to fungi developing – remember, we use our hands for everything, all day. A manicure can help prevent this build up."

The relaxation aspect is important too, says Pimonrat. "Having a manicure allows you to enjoy some personal attention by a professional." And if you tend to bite your nails, having such a treatment can also encourage you to stop.

According to Pimonrat, the typical salon manicure will involve these steps:
· Removal of old polish;
· Nail cleaning with a soft brush and soap;
· Soaking hands in warm water for around ten minutes;
· Pushing back cuticles with an orangewood stick;
· Filing nails into shape. Filing should happen in one direction only, from the edge to the centre;
· Trimming of excess skin from the cuticles and getting rid of hangnails; and
· Cleaning with alcohol again.

If no nail polish is being applied, the next-to-final step is to massage cuticle oil into the fingertips, followed by an application of hand lotion. But if colour is being added, a base coat should first be applied, and after being left properly to dry, two coats of nail polish should be added, followed by a top coat. Next up comes a cuticle oil massage around the cuticle area, and finally, a massage with hand lotion.

A one-hour manicure at NIC costs Bt250; the Best also charged Bt250 and their manicures are usually done in conjunction with other salon services, such as a shampoo and blowdry.

As for the latest in nail fashion, Pimonrat says that gold has been the most popular colour over the past year, while bright purple and pink is hot this month. "And in America, filing nails into an oval shape is most popular, while Thai people love square nails," she adds.

If you can’t get to a salon, Pimonrat recommends treating yourself at home. It’s a good opportunity to relax a little; play some music, grab some magazines to browse through while waiting for your nails to dry.

These are Pimonrat’s recommended steps for a home manicure:
· Wash your nails using a soft brush and soap;
· Soak your hands in plain warm water for ten minutes;
· Use a cotton bud to gently push back your nail base;
· Use a cuticle cutter to trim away excess skin from your cuticles and hangnails, but don’t cut too much off or they will grow out hard;
· Massage cuticle oil around the cuticles and over the nail’s surface;
· To strengthen the nails, add a top coat.

"Don’t use a nail buffer, as this can dehydrate and weaken nails," Pimonrat warns. "Professionals can use a buffer in the salon, but you shouldn’t use one yourself at home."

Heading to a salon or pulling out your own equipment to give yourself a manicure once every two weeks should be enough to keep your nails looking healthy. "I sometimes do my nails myself," says Pimonrat, waving her elegant talons around. "But it’s more difficult. Plus it’s more relaxing when a nail technician does them."