Cuticle Bootcamp : Manicure Tips



I am a very girly girl who has always loved clothes and style and shoes and accessories and handbags and hats and hair accessories and jewellery and makeup and skincare and perfume and all the other lovely lady accoutrements.  Well, with the exception of nails.  Nails and I have never been BFFs.

Nails are almost the ultimate girly girl thing, so what’s up with that?  After years of nail biting and nail-weakening anti-inflammatory medication, i just have really crap nails.  I’ve tried various forms of nail services over the years, from fake nails which required weekly infills to the latest and greatest shellac, which I loved for a while until I realised how much it was weakening my nails even further.  Even professional manicures would last only hours, a day or two if I was lucky.  I always, always have pedicured toes though – and they last for weeks on end.  I’m not a complete nail novice!

Late last year, I was inspired by this Perfect Manicure post by Tamsin Howse at KiKi and Tea and this Shop Me Chic Happy Hands post about nail products, and decided to up my girly girl ante and maintain prettily polished nails.

I discovered how important buffing was to the longevity of the manicure and learnt to worship at the altar of OPI Chip Skip, a truly revolutionary base product.  I was getting my lacquer jobs to last nearly a week – this was impressive for a girl who could chip a professional manicure in hours.

But … I just couldn’t get my nails to look right.  I finally figured out that it was all down to my manky cuticles.  I invested in various cuticle trimmers and nippers and potions and lotions to soften and remove my cuticles, but they were still always yukky.

After an Instagram discussion with Christina from Nail Romance and Heather from Hello Darling, I learnt about Heather’s fabulous macadamia oil DIY treatment, and that I was going about this cuticle thing all wrong.  Click here for Christina’s instructions and say hello to beautiful hands!


Christina’s absolutely beautiful manicure featuring Hello Darling (image from

So, I invented CUTICLE BOOTCAMP!  Yup, I had to go cold turkey on cutting my cuticles off – a huge no no.  My thanks to Heather from Hello Darling for this insight.  Yes, it seems obvious in hindsight, but I thought I was doing the right thing by chopping them off.  What I was actually doing was making them inflamed, hard and extremely unattractive.  Instead, I had to embark on a campaign of softening by soaking, then gently pushing them back with a quality orange stick, plus regular applications of hand cream, cuticle oil and cuticle cream.  Who knew?  Everyone except me!



It’s only taken a couple of weeks but now my cuticles look so much better.  I had a mani-pedi recently at a local chop shop nail spa, and the manicurist, under strict instructions not to cut my cuticles, said she didn’t even need to touch my cuticles as they were perfect.  I think perfect might be stretching it, but they’re certainly looking loads better!


Cuticle Bootcamp : Manicure Tips

  • Always, always use gloves when washing up.  Apply some cuticle oil before putting on your gloves.  The hot water will activate the cuticle oil and you can pretend you’re in a spa instead of chained to the kitchen sink.
  • Wear gardening gloves – dirt and pretty nails aren’t BFFs.
  • Never, ever, under any circumstances cut your cuticles.
  • Apply a quality hand cream throughout the day.  Whenever you wash your hands is a good idea.
  • Rub a little cuticle cream into your cuticles when you’ve got a spare moment – on the bus, waiting for an appointment, watching TV.
  • Before bedtime, apply a quality cuticle oil and massage it in, then apply some cuticle cream and massage that it in.  Top it by a thick hand cream.  You’ll have baby soft hands by morning time. A pair of cotton gloves over the top can help too.
  • Buy quality implements – like orange sticks, nail files and buffing blocks.  Gently using the buffing block all over my finger tips eliminates those little dry bits of skin that sometimes appear.
  • Nail polish isn’t essential for pretty nails – but it does help.  A well groomed nail in a squoval (square oval) shape (I’m more of a traditional oval girl myself), with neat cuticles and nicely filed looks infinitely better than a scraggly nail with beautifully coloured polish.
  • You don’t need long nails to have pretty nails.  In fact, I much prefer a shorter nail.  I think they’re chic and modern.
  • Be kind to yourself.  One of the reasons I used to avoid manicures was because I have scars on my hands and swollen joints from chronic illness.  I figured that my hands were never going to be pretty so why bother with pretty nails?  Taking the time to look after myself by doing something as fluffy as manicuring my nails makes me feel infinitely better about myself.  I fully admit to being deeply shallow but I subscribe to the notion that if  looking better on the outside makes us feel better on the inside, then that’s got to be a good thing.

Cuticle bootcamp wasn’t as much hard work as exercise bootcamp – no one dressed in far too much lycra yelled at me in public, for example.  But it did take regular action – only a few minutes per day – and consistency.  But I think I’m worth it!



Now that I have pretty nails, does this make me a fully fledged girly girl?  I’m expecting my membership card, tiara and sash any moment now.  I’m keeping an eye out for the courier doves.

Do you have cuticle issues that could benefit from Cuticle Bootcamp?  I promise not to wear lycra and yell at you in public.  Unless you ask really, really nicely.


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