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If you're never quite happy with your at-home manicure, don't blame your skills with the brush. Top manicurist Eugenya Viner, of the Aida Thibiant Salon, in Beverly Hills, California, says that the condition of your nails and cuticles makes all the difference. The most common manicure mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Filing nails in the wrong direction. Sawing back and forth with your emery board and going too deep into the corners can split and weaken nails. The fix: Holding a fine emery board at a slight angle to the nail, file from left corner to center for a few strokes, then from right corner to center. Smooth with a fine metal file.
Mistake #2: Neglecting cuticles. Rough, ragged cuticles can lead to painful hangnails. The fix: Brush cuticles with a rich oil after your morning shower and before bed. Let oil soak in for a minute or two, then rub into cuticle. "Oil penetrates better than hand cream," says Viner.
Mistake #3: Cutting cuticles. Nipping away at your cuticles invites the risk of infection. (Your cuticles act as a barrier against bacteria.) The fix: In the shower, gently push back cuticles with a washcloth (the steamy water helps soften them).
Mistake #4: Skipping base coat. Polish on bare nails can dry out the nail plate; and without a base coat, dark shades can stain nails or leave them yellow. The fix: Brush a moisturizing base coat on clean, dry nails; let the base coat dry for a few seconds before applying polish.
Mistake #5: Leaving polish on too long. This, as well as too many layers of polish, dehydrates nails. And once polish begins to chip, it can peel away a superficial layer of the nail, too. The fix: Remove polish after five days; wash hands to rinse away remover, which can also be drying.
Manicurists agree that beautiful nails start with daily TLC for your cuticles. Here, three products that pamper.
Almay Organic Fluoride Plus Well-Groomed Cuticle Scrub ($7) is a cleansing gel that helps to soften hard, dry cuticles. Tiny jojoba beads in the formula act as gentle skin buffers.
Sally Hansen Get Healthy Nails and Cuticles Multi-Vitamin Creme ($7), with vitamin C, pro vitamin B, and protein, hydrates cuticles and strengthens nails in one step. (Massaging the cream into nails revs up circulation, and is said to help improve rate of nail growth.)
OPI Avoplex Nail and Cuticle Replenishing Oil ($11) is rich with avocado oil, a natural skin smoother; oil seals in moisture.
Photos: Marc Berenson