The world of fingernail fashion has progressed significantly in the last century or so. In the early 1900s, short, rounded nails reigned for their convenience and polished finish–and because nail polish hadn’t been invented yet. Soon, polish in shades of pink and red entered the market as an instant hit. In the 1970s and ’80s, acrylic nails revolutionized the modern manicure and gel polish did the same in the early 2010s.
Today, the options you have for styling your nails are virtually endless. Every time you go to the salon–or even stroll down the manicure aisle in your local drug store–you are met with a barrage of choices for shape, color, medium, and more. This infinity of manicure options provides you with plenty of ways to express your own personal style, but it can also feel very overwhelming. If you’re not a fan of electric blue gel polish or find X-long stiletto acrylics hard to handle, there’s nothing wrong with rocking a more natural style. Going natural doesn’t have to be boring. When you style them right, natural nails create a polished, timeless look that won’t ever go out of fashion.
1. Ditch the Metal
Filing your nails for a neat, polished finish is one of the most important parts of achieving a pretty natural nail look. When you file your nails, avoid using a metal file. Metal and coarse-grit files are designed to shape acrylic nails and are too harsh for use on natural nails. Filing with these tools weakens your nails and encourages peeling and breakage. Invest in a glass or fine-grit file instead to shape your natural nails gently without weakening them.
You should also avoid dragging your nail file back and forth across the tops of your nails to file. This sawing motion creates tiny rips and tears that makes your nails more susceptible to breakage over time. Instead, use a gentle hand to file from the corners of your nails toward the center in one direction only. Press lightly to avoid putting unnecessary weakening pressure on your nail beds.
2. Leave Nails Short
When you have natural nails, it’s best to keep them short. Even if you have naturally strong nail beds or maintain a strict strengthening regimen for your nails, long natural nails are extremely susceptible to breakage. It’s also very difficult to even out the length of natural nails when they’re long. That’s why acrylic nails were invented in the first place.
Short, polished natural nails look much better than broken, uneven long ones. If it’s tough for you to part with your long nails, you can manipulate the shape of your short nails to help them appear longer. File your nails into an almond shape to create the illusion of elongated fingers and nail beds. Or, balance out wider nail beds and give them a feminine finish by filing your nails into short ovals.
3. Buff to Shine
Buffing is an extremely underrated care technique for natural nail care. Start buffing your natural nails before you apply a clear coat to them to minimize ridges and achieve a noticeably shinier finish.
While buffing your nails regularly can do wonders for keeping them feeling smooth and looking shiny, it’s important not to over-buff your nails to avoid weakening your nail beds with excessive friction. Buff each of your nails in a single X-shape before moving on to the next nail and avoid buffing more than once per day.
4. Keep Nails Coated
Even if you don’t want to wear colored nail polish, you should still keep your nails coated for protection. A layer of nail polish protects your nails from harsh chemicals in the outside world and adds thickness to your nails to prevent them from breaking.
Keeping your nails perpetually coated in a layer or two of clear nail polish keeps them shiny and strong. Plus, clear polish is virtually invisible when it chips, so you won’t have to worry about replacing it as often as you would touch up colored polish. If your nails are weak or dull, invest in clear nail polish with special strengthening or brightening benefits to help effortlessly repair your nail beds over time.
5. Whiten Your Nail Beds
Many women are hesitant to expose their natural nails due to discoloration. Some chemicals commonly found in mainstream nail polishes and the glue used in acrylic nail application are known to cause yellowing and other uneven coloring. Don’t let nail discoloration deter you from showing off your natural nails.
There are several easy ways to whiten discolored nails to make them presentable without any polish over them. Soak your nails in diluted lemon juice or scrub them with a paste of baking soda and water to naturally brighten and whiten your nail beds with lasting results.
6. Rehab After Acrylics
As any woman who has ever had acrylics is painfully aware, transitioning from acrylic nails to natural nails can be hellish. After you have your acrylic nails removed, your natural nails are extremely thin and weak and often look scratched or discolored. It can be difficult to imagine that your post-acrylic nails will ever look naturally pretty again.
Rehabbing your nails after acrylics takes some time. Your natural nails won’t look completely normal again until after they’ve grown out completely. If you’re determined to get back to healthy natural nails, resist the temptation to reapply acrylics or gel polish. Instead, keep your nails short and rounded to prevent breakage and keep them coated in clear strengthening polish at all times to add thickness to their flimsy foundation.
7. Preserve Your Nails
Make taking good care of your nails a habit to make your natural nails more presentable at all times.
Keep your nail beds and cuticles moisturized with coconut or almond oil. Clip and file your nails regularly to prevent them from getting too long and breaking off. Always wear gloves when dealing with harsh chemicals, such as dish cleaners. Making these easy habits a part of your everyday life helps you feel more confident about showing off your natural nails to the world.
You don’t have to enlist bright-colored polishes or acrylics to make a statement with your nails. Creating a classy, polished finish with your natural nails by pampering your nail beds with quality care to keep them clean, healthy, and bright.