My Favorite Nail Care Products & Routine

October 18, 2013

I get asked a lot about my nail care routine and what products I use to maintain my nails and manicures, so I decided it's a good time as any to dedicate a post to this matter.
If you would like to know which are my favorite nail care products and how I take care of my nails, please keep reading.

My nail obsession started a bit less than two years ago, but I think I have come a long way since then and I learned so much about nail polish and nail care from other amazing bloggers. I once used to think I could never get gorgeous nails, or do a perfect manicure, but as all things in life, this just requires practice and patience. So if you are feeling frustrated that you can't get it right at first, and you are struggling to get your nails in a good shape - I say, don't give up! There are so many products out there that I believe everyone could find something that will work best for them, and there is so much inspiration and knowledge to be shared.
I'm happy to share with you my knowledge and some tips, hopefully you will find it useful and apply it to your nail care routine.

I have to admit I have never got a professional manicure, but I just learned what works best for me and how to maintain my nails in a good and healthy shape.
One of the questions I get asked very often is what do I do to prevent my nails from breaking and keeping them so long. Well, I think that my answer might disappoint you a bit - I guess you could say I have good genes; my nails are very strong, they rarely break and they grow very fast. I was blessed with great natural nails, so I do my best to take care of them and keep them in good shape.

My nail care routine
- I start my manicure with filing the nails. I don't own a fancy file, just whatever I find that is cheap and accessible. I do like to use a file with different grits, but basically I can work with two grits only.
As for buffing, I used to think for a long time that this is something I would never do, since I thought it can weaken the nail and damage it (which is true), but I decided I will do this only once in a month (if needed at all) to help remove staining (but you need to know how to prevent staining in the first place to avoid this step). When I buff my nails, I do this with a light pressure and use the finest grit to prevent damage.

- I find it important to keep my cuticles in a good shape to make my manicures look better. Once a month or so I use a cuticle remover and push them back a bit. I do not cut my cuticles, I only trim excess skin around the nails if there is any, but never cut my cuticles. This is something that many people do, but I don't see the need in this step as I like my cuticles shape and look.

- As for the nail polish application, I always apply a base coat to prevent staining (unless I am swatchig and removing the polish shortly after that), then apply the desired nail color (mostly I use two coats for regular color to get a strong and crisp color) and top it off with my favorite top coat, and make sure to wrap my tips to make the manicure last longer. I wait about 3-5 minutes between coats, but this may vary depending on the nail polish formula. I always check to see if it's dry enough before I apply the next coat (I dab my finger lightly on the nail and if it doesn't leave a mark, I apply the next coat).
To get the crisp lines of a perfect manicure I always clean my cuticles and around the nail (if necessary) with acetone and a flat nail art brush. I find that this trick makes the manicures look professional and flawless, and I rarely skip this step.

- After my manicure is done, I always moisturize my cuticles with cuticle oil. I also use cuticle cream each night before bed, this way I get nice and soft cuticles in the morning. I like to use cuticle oil several times during the day as well, since it is less oily and absorbs faster than cuticle cream, though either will be good.
In the winter my skin tends to dry, so of course I use hand creams and lotions (nothing particular, I like trying new things, so I don't have any specific product to recommend here), but this doesn't replace the cuticle cream for me, and I would still apply it once I go to bed.

- When I am ready to remove the nail polish, I soak a cotton pad in acetone-free nail polish remover, and place it on the nails for a minute or so. If I am wearing hard to remove polish such as glitter or stubborn flakes, I will soak the cotton pad and wear nail soakers for about ten minutes, then it will come off easily. I do not like to use pure acetone for nail polish removal, I find that it dries the skin badly and I just don't like the smell. I don't think that nail polish remover that contains acetone is bad tho, but I personally prefer the acetone free-version and I get along with it just fine.
After I removed the nail polish, I clean my nails with warm water and soap, using a small cleaning brush for nails. Then of course I moisturize my hands and nails.

So this is basically my nail care routine. For the time I have been blogging and taking care of my nails, I have tried several products that were recommended by other, and I finally found the ones that work best for me, so I am happy to share them with you.

Cuticle oils and cremes
Burt's Bees Cuticle Cream - This is one of the first cuticle moisturizing products I've tried, and I knew I will stick with it. It actually does a great job, has a fresh lemony scent and leaves the cuticles soft and smooth. I mostly use it before bed because it's quite oily and absorbs slowly, but I think this is a good thing that helps to keep the cuticles moisturized for a longer time.
OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil - To be honest, I probably wouldn't have bought this product myself because I find it to be a bit pricy, but I was glad to get it as a gift and to find out that it was doing a great job and was actually worth the try. I have been using this cuticle oil a lot for the past few months, and it just looks like it's brand new. Sometimes I think it will last forever! I mostly use it during the day and before I take photos of my manicures and swatches. I only use a bit on each nail, then rub it in gently. It feels a bit too oily at first but it is much lighter and absorbs faster that Burt's Bees cuticle cream.
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil - I find this cuticle oil to be very similar to OPI's, I purchased it recently and from what I can tell it is also doing a good job. I was tempted to get it because of it's smell, but was a bit disappointed. I was expecting a natural fruity scent, but instead it feels to me like something very soapy. I could have probably spare this purchase because I feel that these two products are quite the same, and I do prefer OPI's scent over Essie's. In case OPI's product isn't available to you, this might be a good alternative.

Cuticle Remover
Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover - I have been using this product for about two years, once a month or so. I am very happy with it, I feel it does a great job with removing excess skin and cuticles from the nail bed. I am always being very careful and quick while using it because it contains chemicals that are basically dissolving the skin (be sure to follow the instructions of this product to prevent harm to your nails and skin). As you can see, this is also one of these products that seems like they will last forever, I am not nearly close to finish it after all this time and uses (I even share this with my mom and it just doesn't end!).
This is the only cuticle remover product I have tried, though I don't feel the need to try something else because this one works great for me.

Base and Top Coats 
Duri Rejovacote Base Coat - At first I was using a cheap base coat, it might have been just clear nail polish as far as I know. Then after a while, my nails started to get yellow from nail polish staining, and I decided I need something that can protect them and hopefully prevent staining. I have heard so many good things about this miraculous Duri Rejuvacote; that it makes the nails grow faster, stronger, and leaves them stain free. Tho I wasn't tempted by it's other promises, I decided to give it a try and see if it prevents staining for me - and I wasn't disappointed!
My nails indeed got whiter over time, but I couldn't tell if it actually made my nails stronger and grow faster, because my nails have been this way to begin with. I can tell you that I read a lot about how this base coat was a life changer for so many nail polish addicts, but I guess you will just need to try for yourself and see if it works for you or not.
I can honestly tell you that as far as I'm considered, I am sticking with this product forever and I can't see myself replacing it for something else (so far). I have already finished one bottle and I am half way to finish the second one. I really love this product and I do recommend this as I think this is a great base coat.
Seche Vite Top Coat - I guess I should say, there's a life before I used a fast drying top coat - and after. This was the first fast drying top coat I have tried, also due to many recommendations, and I was just amazed by how glossy it was and how fast it dried the entire manicure. I just had one problem with Seche Vite - the next day I had some shrinkage at the tips and at the cuticles, which I didn't like. Though I've read that this didn't happen to everyone, I was certainly not the only one.
Poshe Top Coat - When I was looking for a new fast drying top coat that will not have shrinkage issues like Seche Vite had for me, I found Poshe which had the same great qualities minus the shrinkage. Now Poshe is defiantly my favorite, though I still use Seche Vite a lot when I apply a thirsty glitter polish that "drinks" the top coat, since I find Seche Vite to be a bit thicker than Poshe.
Revlon Matte Top Coat - This matte top coat made me go "wow" when I first used it, and I know there are a lot of matte finish top coats, but for me this is the one. I have tried another brand which I thought was great at the time, but only when I used Revlon's matte top for the first time, I realized how this should work. This one dries fast and has a gorgeous non-streaky velvety finish. I was really impressed with it and though I mostly prefer glossy finishes, this is a keeper for me.

I think this must be the longest post I have ever made, I hope those of you who read it, found it useful and learned something new. In any case, I enjoyed sharing my nail care routine and my favorite nail care products with you.
I know you probably have questions and things you would like to know that I didn't reffer to in this post, so please feel free to ask me anything about my nail care routine and the products in this post, and I will do my best to reply.
Thanks for reading (really, thanks)!

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  1. I'm also considering to get Duri Rejovacote Base Coat so it's great to hear your thoughts about it!

    1. I hope you will try it and like it as much as I did :)

  2. I love Duri Rejuvacote, it is awesome and I am also on my second bottle. Seche is my go to top coat and I found that if you apply it right after you finish your last coat of colour you do not get the shrinkage, it is also great for not smudging stamping, which I love. I have the Revlon and I loved it, until I got the OPI version, it is amazing and my go to matte.

    1. Thanks for the tip, I might need to try this.

  3. I started duri 4 days ago and I've seen results! I had a bad break and I was desperate! In a week they be full lenght again if the growing rithm keeps up! Props for Duri
    Sally hans is always my favorite cuti remover but I heard that the nubar one is also amazing!
    for top coat I found one better than seche and poshe together! Its called kwik kote and dries almost in the moment! I'm on my 4th bottle with 3 backups!

    I love this posts! :D

    1. Sounds great! Wish you luck with Duri :)
      I have also heard many good things about Nfu Oh cuticle remover but it was a bit too pricy for me.
      I am going to check about 'kwik kote' now! :) Thanks

  4. Everybody loves Duri Rejovacote, so Ihave to get it! My nails are often peeling, so I definitely need some good base coat! :) I also use Sally Hansen cuticle remover, it's a great product! :)

    1. I hope that Duri will work for you and help you get your nails in a better shape. Good luck!

  5. I've been looking for a great base coat, and the one I'm using is actually drying and peeling my nails. I'm glad to learn about your experience with Duri Rejovacote, I think I may give it a try.

  6. Thanks for sharing your nail care routine, I love these kind of posts!

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad I could share my faves and routine, hope you found it useful ;)

  7. I love reading other people's nail care routines! I've never had a professional manicure either, but I don't really want one! I have heard so much good stuff about the Sally Hansen cuticle Remover, I'll have to try it at some point.

    1. Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover is really great for me, I highly recommend it :)

  8. This was a really fun post to read :) I love the Revlon Matte Top Coat as well! I think I need to try out the Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover though, I've tried some other ones and they didn't work at all!

  9. Thanks for sharing! :-) Your hands, fingers and nails look really beautiful, it is clear that you take a good care of them! :-)