Ask Jean: Prettier, Healthier Nails?

Ask Jean: Prettier, Healthier Nails?

Dear Jean, My nails never seem to get into good shape! I get a manicure once a week (or every two weeks), but the nail technicians and I are always fighting with my cuticles. They get dry, messy, and I get hangnails, too. It almost seems like regular manicures are making them worse. How can I get this under control? —Marie T.

Dear Marie, Regular manicures—depending on who’s doing them, what they’re using, and your particular skin—usually help control cuticles, but sometimes do the opposite, especially if the manicure style is more attack (dousing with alcohol, acetone, formaldehyde, et al., as well as cutting aggressively) than a caring treatment. The appeal of a manicure—to experience or to look at—is about being well cared-for, no? So assess the whole manicure experience you’re getting, for one, both in terms of potential toxins and in terms of over-clipping/cutting. (Cutting cuticles also opens you up to infections, so there’s that, too.) Err on the side of over-caring and over-coddling instead.

When I first encountered this cuticle oil from French Girl at the checkout counter at the uptown Valley spa in New York, I was feeling immensely well cared-for: I had just had the salon’s signature waterless pedicure, one of the more relaxing pedicures in existence. Everything in that place is cool—all the clients are cool, all the staffers are cool—you just want to be like everyone you see there. In my relaxed, aspirational haze, the little vial of oil on the counter, labeled Alice-in-Wonderland-like, French Girl, was irresistible. (What woman, man, or even child would not snatch at a bottle of French Girl even quicker than drink me?)

Inside, an easy rollerball dispenses a citrusy-rose-scented mix of seriously healing oils (tamanu, sea buckthorn, argan, evening primrose). It’s about the size of a lipstick—easy to carry in your bag, but I recommend instead bringing it to work and putting it on your desk. Even the most absorbing work (for me, anyway) is tedious in some way: I need to chat, chew on something, tap something, distract myself in some way in order to get through it, and there is no more glamorous distraction than quickly rolling gorgeous-smelling oil onto all ten nails. It takes a second, gives you a serious aromatherapeutic moment that refreshes both mind and spirit, doesn’t drip all over the place, and, done regularly (which you will at work and won’t if you’re carrying it around or leaving it at home in your bathroom), will vastly improve not just your cuticles, but your overall nail health. Even your polish will last longer. And you and your office will smell faintly French Girl-esque—heaven.

Related: Easy At-Home Manicure