Do a “Nail Cleanse” With This No Polish Manicure

Woman filing her nails at a table

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Similar to the way that giving up certain foods and "eating clean" can help detox your body, taking a break from polish can have a similar healthy effect on your nails. This is especially true when you're prepping for a wedding.

"Taking a two- to four-week nail cleanse before your big day is ideal," says New York manicurist Jin Soon Choi. "Your nails will grow and rejuvenate more efficiently. Polish also lasts longer when your nails are healthy." So, put down the varnish and opt for polish-free manicures from this moment forward. You'll be thanking us when you're sporting long, healthy, beautiful nails on your big day.

Meet the Expert

Jin Soon Choi is one of the most influential nail artists in the beauty industry, having built her reputation and brand since the early '90s. She is the owner of Jin Soon Hand and Foot Spa and the creator of her very own eponymous line of nail polishes.

Alas, bare nails aren't nearly as effortless as one would think. You've got to maintain them! Aim to do this no-polish manicure about once a week or once every other week, depending on how quickly your nails grow. If you're a regular at the nail salon, you're probably already familiar with this circuit.

If you don't want to shell out the time or money to go to the salon, here are Choi's recommended steps for achieving the perfect no-polish manicure at home.

File Your Nails

After clipping any hangnails or extra length with a nail clipper, the first step in any manicure is filing your nails to even out the edges and create your desired shape. Choi uses her Diamond Nail File, but any will do. If you choose a file with a slightly coarse texture, file in one direction, since the rough grit can damage your nails, she says. If you use a file with a fine grit, it's okay to file back and forth in both directions.

File your nails to a round shape to eliminate sharp corners and reduce the risk of breakage and chipping.

Apply Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil is pertinent to moisturized nail beds that don't peel or flake. It also makes it easier to push your cuticles back so you can take care of your nails. Choi recommends using one that's enriched with vitamins and rubbing it into both the cuticles and nail beds. Try Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil, or for an all-natural option, try olive or sweet almond oil.

Soak

This step might be new to you if you're used to soaking your hands in warm water at the salon. Place your fingers in a bowl of warm, whole milk (full-fat milk is the most moisturizing, she says) for three to five minutes. (For those vegans out there, try coconut milk). For even better results, add a few drops of nourishing vitamin E oil to the milk. Consider treating your nails, cuticles, and nail beds the same way that you would your face, hair (nails and hair are both made up of keratin), and body—with tons of restorative and enriching hydration.

Push Back Cuticles

Pushing back your cuticles is important to keep them from overgrowing onto your nails. It also makes for a cleaner look, even when you aren't applying colored polish. First, remove any stray pieces of skin or cuticle with a nail tweezer. Then, apply another helping of cuticle oil and gently push them back with a tool like Tweezerman's Cuticle Pusher and Nail Cleaner (it's Choi's fave!).

Clean

This step will ensure your nails are clean and ready to go before buffing. Saturate a cotton ball with non-acetone nail polish remover and use it to remove any remaining oil and grease from your nails.

Use only non-acetone polish remover, as formulas containing acetone will dry out and weaken your nails and irritate the skin around them.

Buff

To get that shiny, top-coat-like look, take a two-way buffer—they're gentler, so you won't harm the nail bed—and softly rub the coarse side against your nails to even out the surface. Then, flip it over to the smooth side for that reflective finish. Choi likes Revlon's Crazy Shine Nail Buffer, but unfortunately, it's no longer in stock. Instead, we recommend Deborah Lippman's Smooth Operator Buffer Nail File.

Moisturize

This may be the last step, but it's one of the most important! Keeping your hands moisturized is key to keeping your nails looking healthy and nourished. Finish your no-polish manicure with a generous dollop of your favorite hand cream. We love Avène Cicalfate Restorative Hand Cream.

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