My Current Nail Care Routine & Essentials

my nail care routine & essentials for natural bare nails 8

Back in the early days of my blog, I was painting my nails every week, in almost every color under the sun – from a bright golden yellows and multi-dimensional corals to edgy navy and blacks.  These past few months though, I’ve been sporting bare nails the majority of the time, with the occasional nude polish thrown into the mix.  Perhaps my routine changed out of a subconscious desire to live more minimally (I have been slowing scaling down my polish collection, and opting for cleaner, lower maintenance looks lately).  Or maybe it’s due to laziness.  I like to think it’s a combination of the two. 🙂  Either way, here’s a look at my most current nail care routine…

Julep Vanish review

Step 1:  Clean ’em up 

The first step is to prep the nails, starting with a quick clean-up of the cuticles.  I’ll grab my favorite cuticle softener/remover – Julep’s Vanish – add a drop on each nail, massage the drops in and then gently push back the cuticles using my own nails (I feel like that gives me the most control versus all the tools they have out there).  It instantly dissolves any skin that’s grow up on my nail and makes the rest softer and easier to push back. Because it is super strong though, you don’t want to leave this on past 1-2 minutes. To finish up, I’ll rinse off my nails with soap and water. I don’t typically cut them since the cuticles are there for a reason – to protect your nails and reduce the risk of infections – however I will trim any loose skin around the sides with tiny scissors.

Step 2: Trim & file

Next, I’ll do the ushe – a good trim with my favorite nail clippers that I picked up on Amazon.  Boy do they beat out all the ones I’ve ever bought from a drugstore.  They feel solid, the top knobby thing doesn’t detached every time I take them out, and the cutters are straight, sharp and cut cleanly with little force.  Yes, a new pair of cutters can be life changing (at least during our manis). 😛

To smooth out the edges, I’ll use one of the best gifts my G-ma ever gifted me, in terms of what I ended up using the most – a diamond nail file.  Before, I used to use those cheaper, rougher files that felt like sandpaper.  They’d tug and pull on my nail and never quite give me a smooth edge.  The diamond file on the other hand, files super finely, smooths in seconds, plus they seem to last forever (I’d had mine for 7+ years).

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Step 3: Buff

I never used to buff my nails until I was sheepishly drawn in by one of those salespeople at those mall stands selling hand & body care kits. They took my hand and after about 30 long seconds of them rubbing some magic block on my nails, they had me inspect them and I was slightly wowed – they were super smooth and glossy.  I ended up grabbing a buffing stick for myself, and now I use it before every mani (i.e. about one a month, not too often – you don’t want to over file your nails, only smooth out the ridges a bit).  Supposedly this helps your nail polish last longer.  And of course, a smooth surface and a little extra shine helps elevate the look of bare nails.

NCLA So Rich Vitamin E-Infused Cuticle Oil review

Step 4: Moisturize

Next, I’ll moisturize the nails using NCLA’s So Rich Vitamin E-Infused Cuticle Oil, which smells amazing – very warm and comforting and works instantly to soften my cuticles and re-hydrate the entire nail area.  For the hands, any old moisturizer does the trick.  I have about 5 tubes lying all around my apartment at the moment (thanks Winter!) so I’ll grab whatever is nearest to my ever changing manicure station – my workdesk, living room coffee table, bedroom nightstand – they’re all stocked.  Once the hands are lotion-ed up, I’ll relax for a few minutes and give everything some time to soak in.  Then before moving onto the next step, I’ll wipe my nails with a little polish remover.  (For quick treatments between manis to keep my nails and cuticles moisturized, I’ll apply a touch of Julep’s Nail & Cuticle Serum before bed.)

Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat review, before & after

Step 5: Treatment & (Maybe) Polish

Finally, I’ll make the decision on whether to go completely bare or add some polish. If I go bare, I’ll add a quick coat of Perfect Formula’s Pink Gel Coat.  I got this in a Glossybox last year, and every time I reach for it, I’m always impressed by how well it manages to brighten and whiten my nails.  To top it off, it also smooths everything out and adds a glossy gel-like finish.  It’s like a mini mani in a bottle (and works great as a base coat too)!  Here’s a little before & after, using just one thin coat…

Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat before and after

Perfect Formula’s Pink Gel Coat before (right) & after (left)

If I’m in the polish mood, I’ll grab a shade from my little collection of Salon Perfect’s Naked Nutrients.  I just discovered Salon Perfect last year and have been incredibly impressed by their formulas.  They apply smoothly and evenly with virtually no striking, they’re incredibly pigmented (even with the light colors/nudes, I only need to use 1 to 2 coats max), and they last a good week on me without chipping (assuming I’m not hand-washing loads of dishes and ‘acting like a lady’ for 7 days straight – no mountain biking or putting IKEA shelves together).  My go-to shades from their Naked Nutrients collection include Whipped Cream Kisses and Sea Shell Sweetie (the one I’m wearing here). They seem to only sell these in stores at Walmart, so they’re a bit difficult to find. However, if you ever do come across them, I recommend grabbing a few!

my nail care routine & essentials 1 my nail care routine & essentials

So that’s my nail care routine!  Sounds a bit lengthy, I know, but it typically only takes me 15 minutes, and leaves me a little less self-conscious about showing my nails in my blog and Instagram photos. 😛

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Bracelet from Gorjana, rings from Baublebar


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What does your nail care routine look like?  Have any long-time product favorites?

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  • I need to start doing my nails more often. I rarely ever touch them lol

  • Asmaa El Borki

    You are so talented, I spend about 50$ a month on acrylics nails and never utilize my beautiful natural nails. Imma bookmark this one. The step by step process is so well presented and gosh you have pretty hands!

  • Shaylyn Rae

    i have had gels for so long! i need to try this and give my natural nails a shot!

  • AdventuresAbroad

    I needed to read this! My nails haven’t been in the best shape lately but I feel like this can help get them back on track.