Hard as Nails

The older I get and the longer I write a style blog, the more I hone my grooming skills. I mean, it’s not like I was wandering the streets streaked with dirt and sporting a giant rat’s nest atop my head, but I didn’t know how to apply mascara in 2008, didn’t know how to wear blush in 2009, and just recently learned how toย flat-iron my hair. I still can’t do a proper smoky eye and am stymied by actual lipstick (I’m a gloss girl), but I’m learning. Slowly.

I will tell you, though, that I am still baffled by the “rules” that seem to surround fashionable nails. Truly and completely baffled, friends. I have decent nails that get bright white tips naturally, and I generally just swipe some clear polish on them. But I heard recently that French manicures are so passรฉ, and I generally look like I’ve just gotten one. AND. According to the various and sundry magazines I read, it is also frowned-upon to match your manicure and pedicure. Not only that, but my field research leads me to believe that stylish women are expected to coordinate their polish colors to their outfits. For years I wasย perfectly happy with my hot pink toes from May to September, but apparently I wasย a laughingstock for my relentlessly boring choices.

I am giving myself a migraine as I type this …

Now you all know, I’m no stickler for style rules. They are merely guidelines and should be ignored and subverted at will. So I will not succumb to nail-related pressures for many reasons. And they are as follows.

  • I cannot afford regular professional mani-pedis. (Also I have paid for several and NEVER gotten a good one.)
  • Since I have to do my own nails, they generally look like this:

  • I do not have the time, money, or inclination to swap out polish colors on a daily basis.
  • As a dyed-in-the-wool matchy-matchy gal, the prospect of coordinating finger and toenails that “go, but don’t match” makes me feel all twitchy-like.

I suspect that this expectation of neat, color-coordinated nails is not a new one. It’s new to me because it evaded my radar until now, but highly possible that the majority of fashion-conscious people have considered this gospel for decades. And although I don’t want to veer off into Tirade Town for too long, I do feel like this is yet another way to subtly reinforce the idea that wild, unkempt women – ya know, women with giant curly hair or unpolished nails or dog hair on their sweaters – are to be scolded and shamed. That women must be tidy, pretty, and pleasing to look at in ways that have been socially sanctioned.

So I’ve taken to doing bare nails as a minor rebellion. I keep them very short and very clean, but free of polish. No one but me (and now, you) knows this is not sheer laziness, and I’m fine with that. And my choice will undoubtedly have virtually no impact on nail polish norms, and I’m fine with that, too. There are an awful lot of things that women are “supposed” to do to keep their bodies “acceptably” groomed, and I embrace most of them, from shaving my legs to plucking my eyebrows. But I don’t like nail polish, don’t enjoy polishing my nails, and resent the pressure of polish-based expectations. And if you feel the same way,* I’d encourage you to shirk this expectation right along with me.

*Having brought this up a few times amongst a few groups, I get the impression that most people feel FAR less strongly than I do. But just in case anyone else is equally put-out…

Top image courtesy The Nailasaurus. Who has truly amazing nail-polishing skills. Middle image via weknowmemes.com.

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  • Ooh, this is a tough one, because I’m not a typical nail polish wearer. I haven’t worn any nail polish on my hands in over five years, although I used to every once in a while – I eventually learned how to do my right hand, although I was pretty shaky for a while! I never coordinated with my outfit: just whatever color I liked and I would wear it until it started to chip off. With my toes? I tend to just wear polish during sandal season (although I haven’t this year!) and I rarely match with my nails (or at least I didn’t when I wore polish on my nails) because I used to like being a little bolder with my toenails: purple, blue, etc. Now my usual go-to is just a nice red for my toes and I leave it at that for months. So I personally wouldn’t match my hands to my toes, but I would never think anything was wrong with it. Also: matching to the outfit? I would NEVER notice that on someone else!

    PS – I think French manicures always look awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Miriana

    It’s only this complex in women’s magazines. No one else cares. I loved the picture. I’ve never really painted my fingernails – they chip as soon as I do the washing up.

  • ParisGrrl

    I love nail polish, and I don’t think there are really any rules, just whatever works best for you. But I love how the French women generally do their nails…French manicure on the hands (often just some whitening pencil under the tips and a gentle buff on top, and whatever color you like on the toes. Most of us are harder on manicures so it makes sense to use colors or techniques there that can conceal a bit of wear. If I’m going to a formal event or performing, I will often wear matching colored polish on fingers and toes, and make sure that it coordinates well with my outfit. Otherwise, I look at the color like shoes–it can be neutral or provide some pop, as long as it makes me smile it’s all good!

  • Stephanie

    I have had the same pink on my toes since summer started. I just keep freshening it up with a new coat on top every few weeks. Finger nails are harder to maintain and I usually do those a few times a year.

  • You know we don’t need no steenkin’ rules! Just wear it the way you like to wear it, or don’t wear it at all and keep your natural french manicure going strong. Honestly, I never notice-notice people’s nails unless they’ve got some kind of outrageous glittery junk stuck on there, or super-long talons or something.

    I don’t abide the nail rules at all and I don’t ever even think about it, and I’m pretty sure none of the people I come into contact with daily do either. I make my living by writing (basically, although I do other things too, none of which are facilitated by long nails) which implies typing, and I find the click click of even slightly long nails on the keyboard as I work very irritating. My nail rule = always keep that clipper handy. If anyone tried to give me a hard time because I choose not to laboriously maintain paint on my fingers and toes (who has time for this?) I would laugh at them.

  • Heather Harrell

    I really doubt a natural looking french manicure will ever go out of style. I think the clunky fake looking acrylic versions are going out because the technology is making them obsolete.
    I assure you Sal- I’m not too far behind you. I rarely paint my nails at all.

  • Heather

    I love pops of color on my toes but tend to wear clear,nude or very sheer colors on my fingers. For me, I lever really liked colored fingernails. I also despise when,once it starts to chip, people pick at the nail polish. That is a huge pet peeve.

  • Pranita

    Woah, easy there!! Does anyone actually change their nail polish daily? Those rules aren’t really rules to me. I think as long as the polish isn’t toooo chipped, it’s fine. Personally, though I love the bolder colours and have learnt to accept my short nails, I don’t wear polish as much as I’d like to. I suppose it’s because it chips too quickly off my fingers (no problem with the toes) and I can’t be bothered to change it that frequently. But yay for the new happy colours available!!

  • Agree with your brilliant commenters: we can make our own rules. Does anyone change their polish every day? Have fun with colors, go pale pink, or go clear, it’s all good. This year I like darks for myself, but that could change any minute : > LOVE your drawing.

  • Anat

    Soooo relevant. I have been shuuning nail polish on my hands for about 15 years, and then, a few weeks ago, I tried putting on some really vibrant color – and found that it makes me absolutely happy! So I’ve been trying a new, bright and by no means bashful color every 3-5 days, and thoroughly enjoying having that added splash of color. I don’t coordinate it with my clothes or my toes, it just needs to be a really nice color. I can do my own nails just fine, and have found a brand which holds out quite nicely for a few days, with maybe only minor fix ups. I could never switch my polish on a daily or semi-daily basis – just too much work. And I hate not being able to do stuff with my hands for long (while the paint dries).

    Bottom line – I’m loving it right now, but could easily tire of it in a few weeks, and go back to my regular routine – clipped and clean.

  • i love doing my nails! i do them a few times a week, and i usually do something wacky — i’ve been using little stickers like painters tape to do multi-colored designs. right now i’m sporting gold / black / neon stripes and they look kind of awesome if i do say so myself. ๐Ÿ™‚ glass of wine, movie, manicure — for me it is a really relaxing way to spend an evening.

    one of the best tips i’ve learned is to do your dominant hand first (using your non-dominant hand). somehow this makes it a little easier to keep the mess contained.

    i’ve also noticed that, even when my manicure is messily slopped all around the nail, once it dries i can wash my hands and all the bits on my skin will come off, leaving a nice, neat-looking paint job.

    my nails always start chipping within 2 or 3 days, no matter what kind of topcoat or procedure i use. i am embracing this and just change it up when that happens.

    but i definitely never worry about my nails matching my outfit. that would take it out of the fun realm for me, and make the process stressful …

    • Sal

      Hah! Love that tip, Madge! I NEVER do my non-dominant hand first, but will try it now for sure.

    • I wouldn’t mind doing my nails more often but I HATE taking off the polish. It always seems to take forever because I do two coats of polish and a top coat so the barrier is practically impenetrable to the acetone. Have you found something that does this better/faster?

      • spacegeek

        Get a good remover! I use Zoya’s brand and it is a breeze!

        • Really!? Ok I’m excited, will try it out, thanks!

  • Amy K

    I love changing my nail color and I change it as frequently as time allows, usually once a week. And it’s usually never one color either, I’m a big fan of the “bling finger” so there will be a solid color or something semi-subtle on all of my fingers except the ring finger where I’ll do a contrasting color, glitter or a pattern. I’ve also really started to like using two colors and painting the ring and middle finger on each hand with the secondary color. For example using coral and tangerine: left hand all coral with tangerine ring and middle finger. Right hand all tangerine with coral ring and middle finger. I go really bold with my choices and I love it. That being said, I’m a High School teacher so my nails get noticed. And I’m not afraid to say I’ve taken nail inspiration from the kids. It makes me happy though, so I go for it!

    Also, I’m a HUGE fan of nail polish strips-completely fool proof to apply, fast, easy and amazing results. They’re a little expensive, but if you need something for an event it’s still cheaper than a manicure.

  • Elise

    I’ll echo the sentiment – Who has the time to change nail polish everyday? While I always wear nail polish on my toes I rarely wear it on my fingers. There are several reasons for this. Seeing nail polish on my toes makes me smile when I’m in yoga class and there is something that makes me feel really attractive and dare I say sexy about having painted toenails. Meanwhile I do a lot with my hands and tend to mess up any manicure quite quickly. But I occasionally paint my nails on my hands and I do love trying those nail stickers, especially the black and white striped ones I found in the craft store for a dollar. Personally I like bright colors for my toes and neutrals for my hands, there is something about a bright manicure that makes me feel really self conscious. It’s funny that this topic comes up today because last night I gave myself a manicure for the first time in months and it’s really fun having some gold nails today.

  • Leah

    Sal, I have become a huge fan of the gel mani. It lasts forever and really isn’t that much more expensive than a regular mani. In Minneapolis, anyway, I’ve had much better luck at the little strip mall nail places than at an actual Aveda-type salon. Daisy Nails at 26th/Hennepin does really good work, and inexpensively to boot. Give it a try, you might like it!

  • f.

    I have to say that the world of nail art blogs is just completely confusing to me! All the complex manicures with nail jewels, crackled topcoats etc… How do people cook, clean, swim, play sports, or even just TYPE without ruining all their fancy adornments?

    Anyway – Back in the day I used to do my nails every week, in order to break my childhood habit of nail biting. I had a great time putting on colors like bright blue and purple, but once the habit was broken I quickly got sick of polish on my fingernails.

    Now I just go with buffing my fingernails if I have time, and since I do almost-weekly home pedicures anyway (seriously, my feet get callouses so quick!) I paint my toenails. It’s fun to have red, pink or coral toenails as a feminine counterpoint to my usually subdued and tomboyish wardrobe.

    Also, agreed with Heather that fake, acrylic French manicures are the kind to avoid. Natural, nicely maintained fingernails look effortless and simple, while overly glossy fake nails come across as a bit eyebrow raising to me!

  • Sarah

    I’ve discovered a foolproof manicure that goes with everything I wear – totally plain. I haven’t painted my nails in probably about 5 years. I USE my nails – I know we’re not supposed to but I have freakishly strong and thick nails that never ever break. So when I used to paint them, they’d chip within hours. So I just stopped caring. It’s one of those things – I just don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to worry about it. I clip and file once a week and that’s it. I don’t think they look terrible either.

    The other women in my office go crazy – they have different color manis and pedis everyday it seems. I don’t understand it (especially the style where they are all shades of one color or all blue with one pink nail), but if it makes people happy, I say go for it.

    • M

      There aren’t many girls on my floor in the office, and we’re all kinda off in nail polish land. Some go for neutral colors, but I am the one doing crazy stuff, but I like it! I just look at it as a way to add more color to my life and express creativity.

      I use Zoya nail polish and it seems to be rather durable – I’m pretty rough on my nails.

  • Helen

    Ha! More drawings please! As for my nails: if they look clean and not too gnawed-on, I’m happy. If I’m feeling extra fancy, I’ll get a manicure with a neutral pink or slap on some clear polish myself. I’ve never once managed to successfully apply a dark color to my own finger nails.

  • Sonia

    Ha ha ha ha! I could have written this!

    I am a nail polish girl, in that I feel naked without it, but I never follow these silly rules. Here are my two cents, and bear in mind that I am 42 and work in a fairly conservative office:

    * French manicures are timeless, elegant and classic, like a little black dress.
    * I keep my fingernails short to medium. I keep my toenails short.
    * I change my nail polish once a week or so, and if it matches my outfit, it’s purely by accident.
    * That being said, I have a very limited clothing palette (by choice), so clashing my nails isn’t really an issue.
    * I get a pedi once a month in the summer. I pick neutral colors, both dark and light.
    * I get a professional mani twice a year, for funsies.
    * The “rules” are arbitrary and made-up to sell you things. You know this, Sally! : )

  • Rules schmools. I usually have mismatching toes and fingers, but they never go. The majority of my polishes are in varying shades of pink or purple, sometimes green. My wardrobe is very neutral so I never clash.

    But most of all, I don’t give a fig what other people say I should be doing, I do what I want to be doing. The only time I let someone else dictate my style is when I work somewhere that has a dress code, and ultimately having a job is more important than my personal style, although I’ll always try and work it into my outfit. Thankfully, as I’m currently unemployed, I don’t have to worry about it!

  • Katrina

    I love nail polish and laugh at rules! Generally, I paint my fingernails twice a week and toes nails once a month. I have never worried about matching since that personally doesn’t bother me so I have been known to rock Tiffany blue toes and yellow with pink shimmer on my hands.

    When I relied on salon services for mani/pedis, I always stuck with neutrals for my hands since those colors don’t show as much wear. Once I started doing my own nails, I learned what products work best for me (different body chemistry reacts with different polishes, which could lead to easier chipping. Who knew?!) and now my manis last longer. This means feeling confident wearing brighter colors and different finishes like glitter or duochrome polishes.

    With practice, a quick mani takes about 20 minutes. Quick dry top coat, like Seche Vite and Sally Hansen in the red bottle, is a life changer. Your mani will be dry in half the time. There are lots of beautiful neutrals available now if you are a fan of a clean, natural look. My favorite is an Essie sheer polish called “Like Linen”. OPIs Ballet Collection had a set of gorgeous sheers, including sheer lilac and grey, as well as a very pretty and delicate glitter top coat that added something special without screaming “OMG! That woman is wearing glitter nail polish!”. Enjoy what you like and what you feel comfortable with it. Remember, it is just nail polish!

    • Dee

      Yes, yes on the Sally Hansen instant dry in the red bottle!! Been using it for a few years, you can pick it up in any drug store for $5-6. Dries your nails in seconds!! Life changing for us gals that do our nails frequently and need to touch up chips nearly daily. I keep several bottles around. However, with the new shellac polish, while a bit hard on your nails, really really is NO CHIP!! I get them every few months and they do not chip or wear off for at least 10 days, and when you leave the salon they are completly dry. Super great for vacations! They can be pricey though. My salon is around $50. I am a polish girl, been painting my nails and toes since I was around 12 years old. I don’t really feel “dressed” with bare nails. Not sure why but thats just me.

  • I have no idea where these rules came from (and I’ve never heard of some of them.)

    It has been years since I’ve worn nail polish on my hands on a regular basis. I used to do it all the time, but then I took a job that involved handling large amounts of paper every day. Even with a topcoat, if your nail rakes across certain kinds of paper in the right way, it leaves a crayon-like streak on the page. I got tired of reprinting the pages I had messed up (and tired of having to frequently redo a manicure that had been in perfectly good shape.)

    I don’t handle as much paper at my current job, but I’ve gotten out of the habit of polishing my nails regularly. I keep them trimmed short, and I make sure they are clean and have the cuticles pushed back. That’s it.

    • Kate

      Topcoat will fix that! I always used to have that problem, but a good clear topcoat will not only extend the life of your manicure, but will also keep the pigment in your polish from wiping off on paper, walls, etc.

      • spacegeek

        Yes exactly! My favorite Top Coat is Seche Vite. It is relatively expensive, but because it makes my home manicures last longer, it is worth it! Also, it dries really really fast, so I can go to bed within 10 minutes of doing my nails and not worry about denting the new polish! Great great stuff!!

  • I don’t care if my nails match, and I’ve never had a manicure in my life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Right now, my fingernails are painted cow print, compliments of my best friend, and my toe nails are metallic red, which I did myself.

  • Katie

    I did my nails more in undergrad (my museum job then was pretty relaxed) but now that I’m expected to act like an adult in grad school I’m doing them less. Mostly because I like having green, yellow, and white polka dots or blue with large sequins and that just isn’t professional (or so I hear). I never matched my toes to my hands, only because my toe polish lasted so much longer so I didn’t bother to change it as often.

    When my bridesmaids and I were going for manicures last year for my wedding no one thought a french was passe, in fact everyone got one except for me! (I had stubby nails from living abroad that summer)

  • LinB

    For most of their existence as species, humanoids have adorned and altered their bodies to follow whatever is currently fashionable within their cultures. The basic model has stayed the same. Plenty of us are happy with the basic model. Plenty others of us like to go to the body shop for modifications. Either way, we’re all still human.

  • Ginger

    When I worked an office job, I had French manicures. I’d do it again, particularly if I worked in another law office, because it’s the conservative choice. But that’s a lot of money and I chip my nails too quickly these days. I actually got a manicure a couple of months ago and did it pale pink. Next time it will just be buffing, thanks. I’ve seen bloggers that do nails to match every outfit and can’t imagine the effort involved.

    I get pedicures every 3-6 weeks (depending on polish) because I live in Texas and my feet are on display year-round and I physically can’t hold my feet in position to polish my toes. I have brown hair with purple and burgundy highlights; I do best coordinating my toenail polish to my highlights. (Everything else has to go with the hair too.)

  • Dee

    For what its worth I do think the french manicure look is out dated. Its been around in the U.S. since before I was married and that was over 25 years ago! Still, I know it “goes with everything” and is a clean look that lots of women prefer. But for me I would not wear that look any more, as much as I won’t go out of the house with chipped nail polish, I would feel uncomfortable with a french manicure just like I would wearing ill fitting clothes, or out of style clothes. Can’t really explain why I feel that way, but I do!

    • I definitely walk out with chipped polish because I prefer having some polish rather than no polish at all and I don’t have time to fix my nails every day, but I do agree with you about the french manicure. I think also it’s very different from a coat of clear polish on plain nails, which is truly classic and always attractive. A french manicure where you do that coat of beige/pink and then paint a strip of white should be avoided in my opinion…

      For me, I’m obsessed with nail polish but since I’m also obsessed with minimalism, I only ever wear two shades of red and one pale pink. Instead of “boring” I like to think it makes me “consistent.” And it goes very well with my wardrobe of mostly blacks, navy and gray. I was actually very torn about this matching fingers and toes issue recently myself, but decided to do it and guess what, the world did not end. In fact, no one but me ever noticed. I usually go for several weeks while wearing one color and then I’ll swap to another color and do that for a while. The bright and deep reds are my favorite though. As people have mentioned, a fast drying top coat is a must! And I love the extra shine it gives your manicure. I’m really curious about these at-home gel manicure setups you can buy, I would love to not have to redo my manicure every week, anyone have comments?

  • Nomi

    You know what, you’re overthinking this. Wear nail polish if you want, or not. Change your colors when you want, or not. Match them if you like. The hell with it! If you try to track & keep up with alleged rules, you’ll drive yourself crazy and waste valuable brain matter. The part I especially hate to read is where your natural look is somehow passรฉ because it resembles French manicures, which are out? That’s just ridiculous.

  • I rarely let my toes out in public without nail polish. I just think they look nicer that way and it hides some of the uneven parts of my nails. But fingers? It is exceceptionally rare for me to put polish on my finger nails. If I do, it’s likely that one broke close to the bed and I’ve had to cut them all down and a dark polish looks nice on short nails and makes me feel like it was intentional. But as my nails get longer, I like them better just au natural.

    And seriously, how can anything as natural looking as a French manicure go out of style? That’s like saying that my eye colour is out of style.

  • Anneesha

    I have short, weak fingernails and do my best not to pick, but DO like them to look like I made an attempt at good grooming. I’ve found that neutral metallic polishes (Ulta’s are decent, and inexpensive) wear like iron and the sheen makes them less noticable when there are chips. And as far as messy paint jobs (especially on toes) – just slap it on, let it dry completely before going to bed, and then in the shower in the morning, use a foot scrubby or similar to buff off the straggler polish from around the cuticle!

    French manicures – love the look, except for tacky salon jobs that make the white strip WAY too thick for the proportion of the nail. Those Sally Hansen white “felt tip” pens are able to make a very fine line that I like better (once again, let it get on the fingertip skin and buff away afterward!)

  • Jenn

    The rules come from people who want you to buy more nail polish and visit the salon more often. And also by the wealthy who can afford regular maintenance and use nail color as a sort of status indicator. It’s not some great plot, just the current trend. Sort of like the whole move away from bar soap to liquid soap.

    I also keep my nails bare. As a violinist I have to keep my nails short and stubby nails look even stubbier when polished. When I remember I buff them. And my toes spend so much time in shoes it seems not worth the time to keep them polished. Although when I was unemployed, cheap polish in very quirky colors was my one splurge. I’d only paint my toes so as to still appear professional in interviews but it was a great feeling knowing I had sparkly toes.

  • Adina

    Don’t get your information from women’s magazines. Seriously.
    I read women’s magazines sometimes, but realistically, who cares about stuff like this? I love makeup and nail polish. I experiment with makeup and with makeup I sometimes colour-coordinate. However, I see nail polish as the thing I can experiment with, so I can use the strangest colours and designs. Anything goes!
    (Also, French manicures are AWESOME.)

  • Dionne

    Piano player and teacher here, so I’ve always had short short nails and never done anything more than clip them, I just can’t be bothered.

    Sal, related to this is an idea I’ve started to come across lately about our toes, and it’s not just women’s magazines. I’ve now read on a couple of blogs and several forums the opinion (expressed by women) that someone who dares to wear sandals without a pedicure and polish is DISGUSTING and “deserves to be flayed.” Because feet are just so gross, dontcha know, and how dare you inflict them on others in their natural state.

    Obviously, this attitude really rubs me the wrong way.

    • I think disgusting is way too harsh a word (and peculiar!) but I definitely have to say that nail polish on toes is the aesthetic I strongly prefer. I’ve felt this way since high school (15 years ago?) so it’s not a bowing to recent trends.

      • Anna D.

        I too have seen people argue (insistently) that feet without pedicure/polish are “disgusting.” I think feet are one of those things some people feel strongly about, but “disgusting” seems a little overwrought. I mean, yes, I’ll confess that despite all my body-image-acceptance ideals I don’t love seeing heels that are dry, yellow, and cracking, and I try to keep mine from getting that way – but really, what does it matter to me what other people’s feet look like? It’s not like anyone’s sitting me down and FORCING me to look at them. (However, I’m not an “eww feet are disgusting!” person, and I know some folks are, even clean, pedicured feet.)

    • Shereen

      A few years ago I was visiting British relatives who were living in the US. When we were getting ready to go out one evening my SiL offered me some nail polish, for my toes “because folk’ll think it’s strange if you don’t have any on.” Now, I wear nail polish loads at home, in all colours, glitters and crackles[1]; but go au natural on holiday so I don’t waste holiday time on nail maintenance. So I happily let folk think I was strange.

      [1] You’d think a woman in her forties would have more sense than to go with glitter, but the glitter polishes of my childhood were such a disappointment compared to today’s ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Stephani

    It’s just another way to keep women focused on their appearance and running on the hamster wheel trying to keep up with the random demands of fashion. Anyone who says you “have to” do something for fashion or style or beauty is either trying to sell something or trying to divert your attention from more important things. Possibly both.
    I don’t do my nails regularly because my nails are crappy to begin with. They’re thin, brittle, and short. They split and peel very easily, and no “nail nourishing/growth” treatment I’ve ever tried has helped. Maybe I need to eat more jello. So when I paint a color on my nails, they just look like rainbow crap. And there’s also the left/right discrepancy in coverage and quality. Plus, I’m just hard on my hands generally. I sew, I hand-wash dishes, I type on a keyboard constantly–all things which contribute to the poor quality of my nails. And my toenails are just as bad. Although I don’t wash dishes with my feet.
    Sigh. I would love to have somewhat longer, firm, nicely shaped nails. But it ain’t gonna happen in this life. And I’m not going to pay over and over to have fake ones put on. I figure anyone who cares more about the state of my nails than I do really has too much time on their hands (heh!) and should mind their own beeswax.

  • I haven’t done polish on my hands in ages, maybe once in a while for a special occasion. I just can’t be bothered, and I like the look of my “naked” nails. I have nice hands/fingers and I keep my nails very short (I play Ultimate Frisbee, so it’s not good form to have nails – ouch).

    I do my toes regularly but I swear by all the 60-second polishes out there. Rimmel makes some great ones. Easy to put on (I do it right before bed!) and easy to take off.

  • Rules for nail polish? Other than “don’t let them get too chippy” I think you’re fine. Tho’ I personally think french manicures look a bit old-lady / out-dated, but that’s my preference.

    I love crazy, wild, out-there colors for toes & fingers, including glitter & patterns. When I have time, that is. A great short-cut is the Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips — they come in solid colors, but far more interesting are the patterns, everything from lace to b/w houndstooth to pink camo & more. They’re essentially plastic decals you stick on your nails. Takes maybe 10 min to put on, they last 2 weeks w/out looking ratty, comes off w/polish remover. LOVE THESE!!! Btw, do not get the ones from Sephora or other brands, they suck (just reviewed them on my blog; didn’t last 24 hours).

    Currently, I have bright purple on my toes & matte black on my fingers (which needs a touchup ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Those rules sound crazy to me! I think what you’re currently doing sounds totally reasonable.

    I use the Dazzle Dry nail system (http://dazzledry.com/). Full disclosure – a relative of my husband owns this company – she’s a very cool woman and an amazing scientist. Before I started using Dazzle Dry I would only paint my toes because my manicures would only last a few days before the chipped. Now I can get 2 weeks out of a manicure even though I work on my cars and garden and everything else.

    I do my nails every other week and my toes about once a month. I don’t worry about if the colors match each other or my outfits. Right now I have royal blue toes and this manicure from pinterest on my nails! (http://pinterest.com/pin/140807925819575778/)

    About painting your dominant hand – you get better with practice! You really do. Also, I paint my nails at the end of the day. Then when I shower any polish that I got on my cuticles or skin will loosen up with the moisture and peel off.

    • spacegeek

      You do get much better with practice. I used to get a mani every 2 weeks, and a pedi once/month. Now I do my own fingers and change the color as often as I feel like it–sometimes 2 nights in a row! With practice and good quality base, polish and top coat, I can do the whole thing in about 10-15 minutes, and 10 minutes to dry while I watch a bit of TV. Then I’m done! I love it–fun to try different colors and far less expensive than shopping for (more) new shoes/bags/clothes!

      I still get a pedi about once/month, because I don’t like doing my toes–too far to reach, and I like the opportunity to sit and not be responsible to do pretty much anything for at least 30 minutes! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aaaand this is exactly why it’s useful to have a pre-existent colour scheme running through your wardrobe- that way, you won’t ever get stuck with the ‘my nails don’t match my outfit, arghhhh’ conundrum!

  • Brynn

    I love the look of painted nails, but….they’re just not practical for me, for many reasons.
    1. I am impatient letting the nail polish dry. I also have a dog who is always very close to me, and she likes to “help” me paint or demands attention right when I’ve gotten the nail polish on.
    2. I work with young people and wash my hands a lot during the day, so nail polish rarely lasts on my fingers.
    3. I hate long nails with a fiery passion, and keep mine very short. Nail polish often looks silly on my stubby fingernails.
    4. If the nails get smudged, chipped, or otherwise ruined, I get really mad and immediately take it off. Usually it only lasts a day.

    I do, however, enjoy painting my toenails. I usually try to paint my nails when my husband takes our dog for a walk, so she isn’t there “helping” me ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I don’t follow those rules at ALL. I wouldn’t call french tip nails high fashion anymore, but they’re still respectable in my little corner of the corporate world. As are matching finger and toe nails.

    What I usually do is paint my toes something fun or bold (pink, bright red) and my fingernails something neutral or clear. One factor/problem is that my nails chip paint like nobody’s business, so it’s a pretty big waste of time to paint my fingernails. So my toenails will be fun while still being less visible and my fingernails (when polished at all) will match with anything.

    I don’t pay for manicures either. It doesn’t make sense to me to pay for something that will chip in a day or two and shellac seems convenient but freaks me out because you have to soak your nails in acetone to get it off. A pedicure however is a luxury and worth it every once in a while. (but more often than not I paint my own toenails too).

  • Anna

    As a youngster I longed for the day when I would be a real grownup with long shapely nails polished bright red. Then at age 19 I had an unfortunate encounter with a heavy-duty food mixer that mashed the tip of one finger. When the finger healed and the nail finally grew out, it was slightly deformed and has stayed so ever since. I love nice polish on other people, especially with the many colors available now, so I get my pleasure from looking — which costs me nothing in $$$ or time. My 9 3/4 nails are a sort of natural French, and I keep them short because I do so much by hand. For those who love polish, I say go for it! It’s an art form and lots of fun.

  • D

    I view nail polish in the same light that I view most makeup in- it is purely for fun. I have quite a selection of polishes, and I like to keep my toes done at all times. My fingernails aren’t always polished because of pure laziness, as well as the fact that they chip quickly when I have derby practice.
    When it comes to color, I’m the girl with the glitter and the bright colors. And I don’t care if the color matches a thing I’m wearing. Maybe this attitude comes from when I had pink hair- I’m just fine with bright color that doesn’t match. I’m all for doing what makes you happy. I think French manicures look lovely!

    The picture of the left and right hand comparison made me smile- SO TRUE!

  • Anne

    Believe it or not, where I live I do feel pressure to keep my nails groomed. I usually get a professional pedi about every 3-4 months. Oddly enough, it never feels like pampering anymore; it feels like a chore. I can usually do my own toenails in the months in between, though I have to admit it feels like a longer reach lately. I rarely get a mani. I don’t think the cut-rate mani/pedi mills around here do a good job and their low prices have driven out all the better more expensive places. I try to keep my fingernails short and even. If I do polish them I use a neutral color. As much as I love a bright unexpected color on my toes, I wouldn’t want the same shade on my fingers.

    The nails places around here usually push and “American manicure.” White tips, clear nails. This is strictly opinion here but I do think the french/or American pedi is not a great look. It makes toenails look longer which is perhaps not a good idea.

  • Kate

    I’m definitely not trying to start an argument, but I’ve been noticing (both on this post and on the no-makeup post) that there is some condescension in the comments…A number of comments posted had the implication that “Oh, a manicure is such a waste of time, I have other things to do!” or “I actually use my hands and clean, so I can’t understand how anyone could have fancy nail polish on!” or “I’d much rather sleep in than waste time getting up early to paint my face because I should’t need to change how I look to be beautiful.”

    I, and many people, view makeup and nail varnish as just another accessory. Sometimes I wear a necklace with my clothes for the day, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I polish my nails, sometimes I don’t. There’s nothing right or wrong about it – if you don’t care to accessorize your body in that way, that’s fine. You’re not lacking anything or are “unpolished” (pun intended?). But in the same sense, those of us who choose to do so may be doing so because it’s just another way to express ourselves – we’re not frivolous for doing so, we’re not “wealthy” people wasting time on something, we’re not tacky time wasters. Obviously, feeling the need to wear makeup/accessorize/etc because you’re “ugly” or not good enough without it is NOT the right idea and is not what I’m referring to. But if these kinds of adornments are something you do because you personally enjoy how you look and it makes you happy, then why the judgement?

    Sal, I’m not trying to criticize you or your posts since they so often prompt really interesting discussions, but sometimes I feel like the way these posts are framed, there’s an encouragement to rail against convention (which I support! No one should feel like they have to adhere to society’s aesthetic expectations) but the result is often a moralistic judgement/condescension against those of us who choose to do so. It’s just a thought.

    • Sal

      The thing is, Kate, passions run deep about these topics. Mine and those of readers. I agree that respecting all sides is important, and hope you’ll agree that both enjoying makeup/nail care and feeling they aren’t personally necessary are valid viewpoints. I can certainly see both sides myself! As for how my posts are framed, I can assure you that I do my best to be inclusive. I express frustration in this post because I’m frustrated, but am careful to point out that maintenance of polish is a pleasurable practice for some. And there are loads of comments here from folks who LOVE to have fun with manis and pedis!

    • Sarah

      I said in an earlier comment that I don’t have the time, energy, on inclination to get fancy with my nails – but I certainly don’t knock women who do! To each his own, especially considering I seem to have the time, energy, and inclination to watch Golden Girls episodes I’ve seen at least 3,000 times before and read trashy romance novels. I also spend time nearly every night grooming my eyebrows and inspecting my pores, so please know I didn’t mean to seem judgy!

      If my nails didn’t chip so easily and grow in so fast, I would probably spend more time on them.

    • Broderie

      This has been an education – it’s really interesting to notice that while I was one of the people for whom wearing makeup or not was a hot-button topic, wearing nailpolish or not is not an emotional decision for me at all! (Maybe because I feel like it doesn’t seem quite so socially compulsory?) Here I am on the other side of the fence. It reminded me that it’s important to be aware that one person’s “hey this is fun!” can be another person’s “this decision is fraught with emotion!”

      Also I’d like to say that while in some spaces online it feels like it wouldn’t be okay to say “I just don’t give a toss about my nails!” and in other spaces it would be frowned upon to say “I change my polish every day!” – I never feel like that about Already Pretty. Sal, I think you’ve done a good job of creating a space where it’s okay to express opinions that sit at all points along the beauty/fashion spectrum. ๐Ÿ™‚

      (As for me… the reason I don’t wear nailpolish on fingers or toes is that I don’t like to draw attention to my hands and feet. Strangely while I never make disparaging remarks about my hips or thighs or belly, I can barely mention my hands or feet without talking about how ugly they are… Non-weight-related body hatred?! Still not cool I guess…)

  • Good question. I have great nails, dare I say it myself, that I used to polish all the time. They look awesome with a manicure. Then, 12 years ago, I had a baby (death to good hands, for at least the first few years). Now I practically never get a manicure – who has 2 hours for that or the interest in spending money that way?? I knit, sew, garden, type… Those activities are not conducive to painted nails.

    Mind you, on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I got the best manicure I’ve ever had and it lasted perfectly (despite all of my activities) for 2 weeks. Almost has me back on the bandwagon.

    • patty

      I also knit, sew, garden,paint and do housework (mine and my mother’s).However, I’ve always loved the look of a nice mani.So.I am never seen without polish. It’s kinda my signature.Right now I’m rocking a subdued coral with a silver polish on my left ring finger. Toes are turquoise.Just do what ever you like, what makes you feel pretty.No polish is fine, as long as your nails are clean and trimmed it’s all good.

  • Nicole

    To these so-called rules I say, “Bite my clashing smiley-face and decal adorned nails you party poopers.” Ok, so my nails don’t currently have any polish, but sometimes they do. I don’t read fashion magazines. The only time I care about coordinating nails to outfit is when I am going to a wedding or some other shindig. The tips of my nails tend to be white so I have that almost french manicure look most of the time too (and love Lush’s Lemony Flutter cause it keeps them white and lovely) and I love it. I’ve always viewed a french manicure as a classic style, like classic clothes, they always look sharp. I don’t pay for manicures or pedicures, I’m a DIY kinda gal. One of my favourite things, though I don’t do them nearly often enough, are Konad nail stamps. No stickers, totally DIY, so easy once you get the hang of it (takes a little practice at first) and seeing cute little butterflies and flowers on my nails (or reindeer and santas at Christmas) is endlessly entertaining.
    I was highly entertained to discover the polish I was wearing last week was a perfect match for my bright blue phone case. ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t need to change that match every day! lol

  • tagatha

    I think those rules are silly! Who cares if someone doesn’t like your choice of nails colour(s)?

    My nails are usually a bit shorter than the ones in the picture and more rounded and I’m always confused when people say they can’t wear polish on short nails. Of course they/you can! No-one is going to come and remove it by force!

    Never thought about matching my toes to my fingers, I can easily wear turqoise in my toes and orange on my fingers. The only “rule” I seem to keep is to remove chipped polish asap and either put on a new coat or change the colour or even leave my nails bare.

    The bottom line is that you should do whatever you want to your nails as long as you’re happy with the result.

  • Diana

    I don’t polish my finger nails, only my toe nails. The primary reason is that I do NOT have the patience to sit still without doing anything with my hands for the time that it takes it to dry. How boring that must be. Plus I work in a lab and cook/wash dishes every day so am constantly washing my hands, which means a manicure lasts approximately 24 hours on me anyway.

    I don’t coordinate my toe nail polish with my outfits at all! I just change it once in a while when I feel like it. I am pretty anti-matchy matchy anyway though.

  • Hetley

    Hahaha! Love the picture, it’s hilariously accurate. As far as these ‘rules’ go…Like several other commenters said, they are just arbitrary made-up things to keep us on the hamster wheel and worried about how we look.

    Personally, I can’t stand the sight or the feeling of nail polish on my hands. I hate it, it chips and I hate it more, and I end up taking it all off within an hour of application. I keep them trimmed to the end of the fingertips but that’s about it.

    Toenails are a different story, however! Since I keep my feet covered 9-5 almost year-round (laboratory rule, no open toed shoes) they are my little surprise/my little secret. I change them up about once a week or once every other week and typically go with bright, funky colours– blue, green, yellow, purple. I give a single..no wait, zero flying falcons about matching to an outfit rules, either. Not a huge thing in my opinion. Most people are so worried about themselves that they aren’t going to notice, or say anything, about your toes, painted or not, unless the toes in question are, say, bleeding all over their brand-new carpet. And yes, that happened to me, but it was my own brand-new carpeting after stepping on broken glass in the garage, and I got the stain out (after bandaging my poor toes of course). ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nicole

    Sal, give Incoco a try. They are nail polish stickers in various patterns and solids. In my opinion, a much better product than what you see at the drug store. Instead of a French that will chip in three days why not try one of their subdued prints or patterns ? I love to use this product before I go on a trip because the stuff does not come off! You can apply the stickers to fingers or toes and it will look fresh for at least 2 weeks. I can ” stretch” a full mani-pedi from just one package so I feel it’s quite economical. Start with lighter patterned colors while you are learning how to apply it. Once your proficient at it, you’ll have your nails done in 10 minutes and you’re off… No drying time!

    • Sal

      Oh that sounds tempting! The drug store versions didn’t work for me at all.

  • Cleo

    Well, I don’t know anything about “rules,” but I have a tiny tip for doing your dominant hand with your awkward hand: place your dominant hand on the edge of a stable surface, then bring the nail polish brush close to painting position with your non-dominant hand. From there, just hold the brush in place and move the finger/ nails of your dominant hand *under* the brush. It’s actually difficult to do the first couple of times, but I found it easier to learn than to teach my left hand not to tremble.
    Of course, polish remover and Q-tips for touch-ups do still remain my friends :p

    • Emmi

      Cheers Cleo, I just recommended the exact same technique! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Emmi

    My nails are my only really girly-cosmetic concession. I don’t wear makeup, use hair products or wear jewelry apart from a ring or two. Every other weekend my Mom and I go get our nails done together and have lunch – it’s awesome! We both have acrylic nails, but the shop we go to is super clean and inexpensive, and appreciate the extra strength the acrylic coating gives our flimsy natural nails. We each will get a freehand design painted on both our ring fingers. With the fill, design and tip it costs us each just $20. Considering the pain of split, broken and cracked nails I used to have (I open a lot of packages at work), I think it’s totally worth it. Also, I favor crazy, ugly, or bright colors – when I go in, the gals who run the salon always bring me over their ugliest new color, and I always love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    When I used to paint my own nails, I found that bracing my non-dominant hand on a table (pinky against the surface) and moving my dominant hand under the polish brush instead of moving the polish brush itself was very helpful, though it took awhile to master the technique. And always do the dominant hand first, because if you mess up it’s much easier to start again with one hand not already polished. I used to keep a small amount of nail polish remover in the bottle’s cap and use small scraps of paper towel dipped into it to wipe down gloppy polish on my skin. Wow, I am suddenly extra-grateful for not doing my own nails anymore, I guess I would really make a production out of it.

    A well-done French manicure is always lovely. And anyone who puts such stock by those “nail rules” is someone I know to avoid! The best way to keep your nails is the way that makes you happiest.

  • Cynthia

    That person that regularly changes their polish to coordinate with various outfits? They must not have small(ish) children in the home. We have a 7.5 year old and a business and some days I’m lucky to get a shower and a sammich. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know, I know, many women have more kids and work full-time and still manage to be coiffed and coordinated and polished on a daily basis. Yay them but I sure ain’t one of ’em.

  • I admittedly got pretty baffled when nail art went became a Thing again. I have terrible nails, they break, I bite them, one of my nails has a gouge in it from a sewing needle. No amount of polish is going to fix any of that, in fact it’ll just look worse all chipped up. So I go finger and toe polish free, unless someone else is paying for the mani/pedi. ;P Which is like one in a blue moon.

  • LaChina

    Great post- I used to have my nails done all the time, then realized I was too poor. Plus I cook alot do my hands are constantly in water and my polish chips. Now I just get a pedi in the summer and either do my fingernails myself or most often swipe a clear coat over them.

    Last month I had fun with neon green on toes and a couple of weeks on fingers as well. I believe polish should not clash with your clothes, but don’t have to match either. This month I have a French pedicure, it just goes with every thing!! I also have a French mani. And finally yes, my nails look ridiculous when I do them myself. I have to spend close to an hour cleaning up the polish on my skin.

  • I like the look of painted nails, and I’ll do ’em myself from time to time (no rules re: matching outfit, matching toes, etc.), but it’s not super practical for me. My nails are short, below my fingertips, always – this is the lingering habit of 10 years of classical piano training. I also garden as a hobby – and if you think washing the dishes makes your polish chip, you should see the effects of digging in the dirt!

    So, it doesn’t last long – and then I have to remove it. Which brings me to what is probably my major hang-up about polish. And I was surprised I didn’t see more discussion of this in the thread? In general, do you find that polish (and those harsh removers!) wreak havoc on your nails? They do on mine. (And yes, I know, we have formaldehyde-free nail formulas now – things are getting safer!) Yet I always feel some hesitation about painting my nails because I am going to coat my body in chemicals and then later use different chemicals to strip it off. So, while I own a generous handful of nail polishes, all the bottles are almost full, because I use them so rarely.

    • I do encounter this, and more so as I get older. Leave polish on my nails a week and they get yellow and brittle. The older I get the less I use polish. And like you I’m not thrilled about the chemicals, though I use Zoya and am leased with the better ingredients and still durable and pretty finish.

  • If we follow “rules” for nail polish then does that mean no boots in summer, white only after labor day, etc? As a professional woman in a conservative industry and who travels a LOT, I try to stick with a pale blush/pink polish on nails so that wear isn’t as noticable. However, one thing I read about toes is that if you’re wearing awesome sandals to keep the polish pale or neutral to not detract from the shoe. Interesting approach. But, I like to use the interesting colors that are out today on my toes.

  • All of sudden I realized I wasn’t painting my toenails the same as my fingernails and that it was ok. I used to really really hate that. I think it started happening when this nail art trend starting running rampant and I just paid more attention to my fingernails than toenails. As I type this, though, my fingernails and toenails match and I drew a daisy on my big toenails. Oh well! Generally, I think a french looks very nice if not overly done and especially NEVER NEVER any fake nails. I think if you go for a french, then don’t do the super crazy white out white but a more subtle white with a sheer pink over. Then again – what do I know? Right now my nails are mint green ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cat

    So right about the unmatched mani and pedi colors, right down to the twitchy! Me too.
    So, in summer I paint my toes with colors that look good with my sandals and keep my fingernails painted a bare neutral. OPI stuff lasts weeks.

    What really kills me are the nail decals.
    A friend of mine spends hours applying the plaid and checkered ones to her toes.
    Her manicure is a completely different color/pattern.
    Looks bizarre and distracting to me.

  • You know what I do?

    I get a pedicure when I have a bonus at work or have an especially good month on the blog. I always do the same color so I have the bottle and can do touchups when I get a chip (which is usually within 24 hours of the pedicure). I pick a color I like and that works with my wardrobe – usually a shade of red (this summer it’s more like coral). As for my hands, I chew my cuticles and use my nails like tools so I keep them short and if I feel fancy will put on some clear pink-tinted polish.

    In the words of Gore Vidal, may he rest in peace, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Do what makes you happy, keeping up with nail trends will make any sane person go mad! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ruth

    I say do what you want with your nails since they’re YOUR nails. Personally, I always have my toenails painted because I like them better painted. As for fingernails, for the most part, I leave them unpainted though I love the look of nail polish. (I’m a pre-school teacher so I’m constantly washing my hands and using my fingernails for all kinds of things so when I’m working, they chip super fast.) I’ve gotten better at painting my non-dominant hand by watching and applying this: http://youtu.be/15VH5BbX8g0
    It’s so simple with a paintbrush and acetone.

  • Liz

    Your illustration made my day.
    I go in streaks when I do or do not wear polish, but I observe no rules. Lately the weather in Minnesota has been so humid, I don’t think my nails would dry.
    My one tip: Avoid greens on your toes. If the polish is not carefully removed, you will look like you have a fungus. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sandy

    I love to change up the color on my toes, and get them done every month or so, (i.e., whenever they start to look ratty). I’m a big girl, and it’s hard to reach my toes for painting purposes, so a good professional pedicure is my one beauty indulgence.

    That said, I keep very short, buffed fingernails. I use an emery board to buff them and keep them a little shiny, but I have never been able to abide the feeling of polish on my fingernails — it’s a thing, polish never lasts longer than a day with me. So I just keep them clean and neat.

    I think if your fingernails look that nice naturally, or with a little clear polish, you should take the gift the universe gave you and run with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kelly

    I love the little picture, except since I’m a leftie it looks the other way around for me. LOL I nver wear polish on my hands and I keep my nails short. I work on a computer and can’t stand the clicking. Also I make stained glass and nails get chewed up by the glass grinder in a heartbeat. I like to have pretty toes though. In the winter, I usually do them myself, but in the summer I will get pedis; not sure why. I am going to look into the Incoco stickers, though.

  • Janet

    This is going to be a minority opinion, but here goes. I never polish my toenails and here’s why. Babies have beautiful feet. But by the time we’re adults, the kindest thing you can say about most people’s feet is that they’re funny-looking. My feet are only average, but I choose to not call attention to them. As for fingernails, I can’t stand chips, and I have neither the time, patience, nor inclination to keep them up on a daily or every-other-day basis. In the past I wore fingernail polish sporadically and haven’t worn any at all for probably five years. Beautiful nails are fun, but it’s just WAAAAY too much work.

  • Eleanorjane

    Interesting to see people’s different responses… I find it hard to understand why people have such trouble with nail polish chipping – I do my finger nails weekly and they last pretty well for at least 5 days. I work on a computer all day, cook, wash, etc. I get a little bit of wear on the tips (especially the index fingers) but basically it’s fine.

    I generally don’t match fingers and toes and certainly don’t match my polish to my clothes! At the moment my toes are an opaque pastel apricot and my fingers are a slightly translucent lilac/gold shimmer (a new purchase – I’m really fond of it).

    I find nail polish to be a cheap and cheery way of following trends. It takes me about 5 min to do my nails (I keep them short). I’ve got a range of polishes from trad pinks and creams to pastel blue, gold glitter, gunmetal grey etc. I vary what I wear by the season – more pinks and pastels in summer, more dark colours, wine red etc in winter.

    I haven’t gotten into nail art, different colours on different fingers etc. There is a limit to how crazy I go with colours for work but my workplace is pretty casual.

  • I think French manicures and pedicures became passรฉ because of contemporary connotations with tackiness and poor taste. If I think of French manicures and pedicures, I associate them with porn stars and cheap acrylic stick-on nails at the drugstore. As for matching nail colours on fingers and toes, I rarely do them but it’s because I have a lot of fun choosing complementary colours. Sal, I know you love playing with colour combos in clothes. And even though you’re not a nail polish person, maybe this is a chance to play with colour theory in a different way?

  • Heidi L.

    I have been a fan of nail polish ever since I stopped(severely)biting my nails when I was 12.Then I took pottery in summer school and started playing the piano and so had to throttle back a bit.It seems to go in fits and starts,mainly when I have the time to do a manicure and am feeling the creative mojo.I do my toes less frequently since they hold up better…One thing that creeps me out a bit are French pedicures…Generally the ones I’ve seen have a too wide white strip which makes your toenail look either stumpy or kind of over long and hence sort of icky…I have found that when doing lots of sewing,hand or machine, it is handy to have some nail to work with for picking threads out or pushing fabric through the needle without,as much,chance of getting your finger in there as the nail protects you a bit…And yes I do use my hands a fair bit every day.Actually digging in the dirt with bare hands isn’t awesome for a manicure,but it will exfoliate your skin,ha,ha…
    Heidi

  • I generally wear nail polish of some sort on both fingers and toes, though it rarely matches (toenail polish just lasts longer, and I’m not about to take perfectly unchipped toenail polish off and re-do them just to match my fingers). Also, I get pretty artsy fartsy with my fingernails…I had pacman nails earlier this year (complete with little white dots and ghosts!) and right now I’ve got an art-deco-ey purple and beige combo going on. I don’t mind when the polish starts to get chippy, it just hangs out till I get inspired to do something different. It helps that I have a pretty extensive nailpolish collection, too (some date back to 7th grade when neon scented polishes were all the rage…ah, the 90s).

  • I like having nail polish on, but I hate actually doing it. It feels like a chore to me. And if I let my nails go long it takes a lot of clipping/filing because if I let them grow past the hyponychium they start growing laterally.

    I have to keep my nails short and polish-free for my job (in healthcare)- sometimes they go around checking and writing people up for wearing polish. When I do risk painting my nails, I like colors like bright yellow, white, mint, and navy. My toes are always bright blue in the summer.

    Now that you mention it I have a day off tomorrow and no one at work checks nails on the weekend, so I just may paint mine tonight!

  • Ruby

    Manicures are a waste of money on me: they chip because I cook and garden. Plus, my nails grow REALLY quickly, so there is always the bare nail base poking up. Fortunately, in my career (academic social science) no one has manicures–and in fact, something so “superficial” would be looked down upon–so it’s no issue with me. I might paint my fingernails (clear) if I have a job interview, because it makes me feel more polished.

    Pedicures are another situation. When I lived in LA twelve years ago, I noticed EVERYONE had a pedicure and they were cheap. Wearing open toed shoes or sandals year-round made me self conscious about my naturally yellow toenails, so I became addicted to pedicures. I also have “crusty” feet (gross and TMI, I’m sure), so I feel like they are a necessity. I have stopped doing “fun” colors during the teaching part of the year, because, see above, but I hate seeing my yellow toenails in sandals. At least my pedicures don’t chip.

    I only notice manicures on others if it is a bright or unconventional choice, and I have to say, I find myself feeling sorta judgy (maybe jealous) about having the time/money to spend on something frivolous. But I’m trying to retrain this attitude, as some women really love manicures and just because I find them a PITA, doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone. And I have my own frivolous stuff, too.

    • Shereen

      Ruby, re: the “superficial” comment: Do people in your work wear jewellery, get their hair styled/coloured, or wear make-up? How is nail polish any more “superficial” than any of the other dozens of appearance-related choices people, male and female, indulge in?

      I ask because I work for a large, old British corporation, am currently based in a British Government site, and frankly anything goes. From out-there fashion, make-up and hair colours; to visible tattoos (some in senior management) and piercings.

      I wonder if this a UK-US difference in workplace attitudes? Interesting.

  • Rudyinparis

    Someone else asked my question upthread, but I don’t think it was answered: where do you find polish remover that actually works??? Is this just me? I’d wear polish on my fingernails occasionally, I bet, if only I could find nail polish remover that would actually REMOVE it when I want it removed. I’m not wearing anything but normal polish. I asked my sister-in-law and she said she just let’s it chip off, and I’m okay with chipped nails but waiting for all of it to chip off would drive me crazy. What brands work?

    • Nikki

      I like to use the maximum strength Up and Up brand (from Target) Dip It nail polish remover. The container is really hand for getting nail polish off, even glitter polish, because you put your finger in a little well full of polish remover and there are little brushes along the side to rub against to scrub it off. It takes zero effort and is really reliable, regardless of brand or type of polish.

  • Laura

    I used to wear nail polish regularly, fingers and toes, but I eventually realized that my body doesn’t react well to cosmetics, including nail polish. If I wear polish at all, it can only be a clear coat. I just try to keep my nails/hands well moisturized and manicured, and I don’t think twice about it.

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Not so difficult – the “rules” are manufactured by the same people that manufacture nail polish, since they require you to use more of their product and therefore make them richer.

  • Marlee

    I’m a really artsy person, so I LOVE painting my nails. I usually make them in crazy designs inspired by blogs or in fresh new colors. I don’t really follow specific rules, and my toenails are usually concealed (I love flats). Since I’m a student I don’t really have to worry about workplace-appropriateness, and really get creative with my nails.

  • Christa

    I completely agree! I do not understand how the bloggers that change nail polish to match their outfits 3-4 times a week do it. I can not sit still long enough to let them dry and agree with the pink toenails for months on end is great for me! I always do my toes, rarely my fingers. I agree too with the woman who mentioned the unpleasantness of the nail polish remover. Ick. I have done a couple of the gel polishes and they are better, but do not like to pay and question the ultraviolet light. Glad I am not alone in this.

  • shebolt

    Your illustration made me laugh! Yes, that’s what I look like when I paint my own nails.

    I can’t be bothered with it. First, I generally can’t go even 24 hours before the polish on my hands chips. Second, I have a serious issue when I can’t use my hands at all. Whenever I get a professional manicure, I feel trapped until the polish is dry. I know this is strange. I will get a manicure only for a very special event. Otherwise, my fingernails are bare.

    Pedicures are a whole different kettle of fish. It’s one of my few girly indulgences.

  • Nikki

    I finally committed to stop biting my nails when I began to paint them. It really did the trick for me. I don’t follow rules, I just like to paint them colors I like. I work in a pretty relaxed atmosphere, so anything from pink to black is fine. I have found one “trick” with doing a good job on my dominant hand- use a wide brush. The Complete Salon Manicure from Sally Hansen has a really wide brush that I find easy to use.

    The problem I have with my nails is trying to get them to be a nice shape. I’m a total klutz with a nail clipper and file.

  • Kenzie

    I’m a terrible biter/picker when it comes to my nails and the skin around them, and just getting a halfway decent color on them for a few days is an achievement for me. My toes I paint about once a week over the summer, often in a simple neutral color. Or not, for the past week I’ve had bright teal toes with no regard to my outfit or shoes.

  • Suze in CO

    Two things:

    1. Who decided that something like nail polish was important enough to have “rules”? My only rule about nail polish is to put it on long enough before I get dressed that I get it all over my clothes.

    2. Regarding how tough it is to do your own dominant hand – I lucked into the best solution … Marry somebody who used to build models! Seriously, I hand the bottle to my hubby and he is a WHIZ with that tiny little brush. And hearing him refer to it as “painting my landing gear” is a very small price to pay. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Suze in CO

      Sorry … “DON’T get it all over my clothes” is what I meant.

  • mdp

    I do my toes during sandal season. Usually I do it myself, sometimes I have it done. It’s usually a bit more durable when done professionally.

    My fingernails don’t like to be painted at all. They *always* show *extensive* damage within an hour, even if I’ve literally done nothing but sit still watching television. Doesn’t matter what kind of polish, what kind of prep or base or topcoat, how long it dries, or whether its diy or professional. Even when I got a “no chip” manicure, it chipped that day. And I think that nail polish with even the tiniest scuff or chip looks way, way, WAY more slovenly than bare nails that are clean and neatly filed, so no more manicures for me.

  • Nail polish never had rules, unless you work in high end retail, or read too many fashion magazines that make it have rules. In my mind polish is supposed to be fun! I personally find doing my nails (and my friends’ nails) a huge relaxation technique for myself. This may be in large part due to the fact that I am an art student, and don’t always have time to make art that is for my own personal enjoyment and not for an assignment or commission (ironically). My friends love my hobby as well because they benefit form it when I’ve already covered my nails in art and need someone to practice on. My nails never match my outfit unless on accident, are always bright, flashy, and or fun, and my manicure pretty much never matches my pedicure. The only downfall that I have experienced from my own regular hobby of nail painting is that the “treat” of professional manicures is no longer, but that isn’t much of a problem, considering I’d rather spend that money on a couple bottles of nail polish that can be used for many more manis than one at a salon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I do my nails in crazy/glittery colors all the time, even though I do a lot of art and destroy them.

  • Sally, I love polishing my nails, as you know, but I by no means think you have to follow certain nail rules. I’m not a big fan of the traditional French manicure for myself personally, but I think a woman’s hands are her own and she should wear or not wear what ever she pleases on her nails.

  • Anna D.

    (Haven’t read other comments yet, so apologies for any duplication:) I’ve noticed watching the Olympics this year that a LOT of the women athletes are wearing nail polish (usually nationally themed), which I personally think is adorable. I want to say this is a new thing, because I don’t remember seeing nail polish in previous Olympics, but it may just be because I’ve got into nail polish in the last couple of years so I wasn’t looking the last time the summer Olympics were on (I don’t think one is likely to see winter athletes’ nails – everyone’s wearing gloves!). Though really, I think nail polish has become more of a thing in recent years.

    I LOVE nail polish and doing my nails. Especially during law school, it was a quick way to pamper myself when I had little money or time. I also love having my fingers and toes “go” together but not match – mostly because I keep the colors on my fingernails relatively subtle (for work purposes, and also because you look at your hands a lot when you type all day!), but then I can put anything and everything bright, glittery, garish, crazy on my toes! (Also, I change my fingernails much more often than my toes.) It’s frustrating at first because doing your own nails can be a big huge mess, but the more you practice, the better you get.

    I think in part nail polish got popular with the recession because it’s an easy, cheap pick-me-up and way to play with color/fashion with minimal investment. And I think in part it’s gotten more airplay in recent years as more nail blogs have come along (and more nail polish companies have gotten into social media), so it’s not all that nail polish itself is more popular, it’s also become more heavily promoted.

    All that said – I don’t think it’s by any means mandatory to do your nails. I used to work in academia and I almost never saw anyone with polished nails. (I never quite encountered the “you can’t wear makeup and be a serious scholar!!” attitude, but I think polish did seem a little … frivolous.) Now I’m in law, and while I see more women with polished nails, I would say that still, the majority of women I see don’t do their nails. (Also, amusingly, some of the best nail devotees I’ve known are a federal judge and a state supreme court justice.) I have never encountered pressure from anyone to have polished nails, nor do I think anyone else should feel that pressure.

    I’ll confess that I don’t like French manicures any more, though (except the so-called “funky French,” where the tips are actually colored – some of those are cool). I guess I’ll just say I think their moment has passed (like of like the dark brown/plum lipsticks of the 90s!). But I don’t think that has anything to do with natural nails – mine also look very “French manicure” if I leave them alone, but that’s totally fine and totally different from actually having a French manicure.

  • Shaye

    I’m not a fan of nail polish. I don’t like the way it feels on my fingers and I don’t like the way it chips if I do about half the things I normally do with my hands and I really don’t like the way it looks when I try to apply it myself. (Although if it weren’t for the first two, the obvious solution would be to exchange manicures with a friend.) I even tried one of those professional gel manicures and it lasted less than a week! Nowadays I’m lucky if my nails are clean and mostly the same length, although I will buff them if I have the time. Even clear polish drives me crazy!

    On the other hand, I’ve recently gotten into painting my toenails. I’m still really bad at it, but fortunate your feet are normally far enough away from anyone’s eyes that you can’t tell! Pedicures can last for weeks on me and if I REALLY don’t like the color of my polish with an outfit, I can usually wear a neutral closed-toe shoe.

  • Brigitte

    I think a subtle French manicure is a classic, and will remain a classic, sort of like a strand of pearl. It can be funky depending on the wearer. Especially if it’s not an actual French manicure, but simply has the soft look of one because you have a sheer pink varnish on your naturally white tips. I think it just looks clean and nice.

    As for what’s cool and what’s not cool… I really appreciate funky designs on other people, but they don’t feel like me most of the time. I used to typically have on a dark red colour on my toes, and the sheer pink on my fingers- it was just more appropriate for a conservative office. When I started working at a more casual office, I switched to darker colours, and by then greys and taupes were fashionables and I like them a lot: they pretty much go with everything but they look like I thought about it a bit more.

    As for not matching toes and fingers, like I said, I go for greys and taupes these days, and I go for a darker tone on my toes and a lighter version of the same colour on my fingers. Since I spend my summers in sandals anyway, that way my toes look nice and clean and shiny, and my fingers too… but without having really dark tips. Anyway, that’s the look I like!

    (PS: I did try the minty green/jade colour that was all the rage from Chanel, but it feels weird in the winter. I ended up adding a few drops of grey to it to make it less neon, and that felt better!)

  • Elisa

    I tried to do that trendy two-tone thing with my nails a couple of days ago. In pictures, it looks artfully disheveled. On me, it looks like I let a 6 year old paint my nails. Ah, well…

  • Heather

    How does everyone make nailpolish work with jewelry? I like metallics but I’m never sure how to make it work with my gold and silver rings…

  • Anamarie

    I think LONG, French ACRYLIC nails are passe – because they are so fake! I keep my nails short – just past the tips of my fingers. They are more modern, and short nails definitely prolong a manicure. I also do my own fingernails and toenails, mostly because I don’t like strangers touching me with instruments that may have touched someone else. I probably own about 30 colors and different metallic glitters (used sparingly, and only on top of a nude polish on my ring fingers). I don’t LIKE to match fingers and toes, but it happens. I prefer crazier colors on my toes (no glitter, stickers, gems, nail art), and short, nude nails most of the time if I’m going to have a busy week or a lot of court appearances (attorney). If I don’t have a lot of court appearances or my schedule can handle high maintenance colors, I go with a pale green, Tiffany blue, magenta, orange, or whatever color is complimentary to what I will be wearing for a few days. I paint my nails every three days. I can’t stand chipped nails, I know some people are OK with them, but I have to keep nail polish remover wipes in my purse just in case. I’d rather have unpolished nails than obviously chipped nails. People do notice your hands, and I get a lot of compliments on my nails. I prefer OPI, Essie, and Butter London nail polish. Essie and Butter are a little tricky with some of the opaque, non-pearly colors – they tend to brush on streaky. I just go a little heavier with the second coat and use a good top coat and it all evens out.

    My tips for fingernails: Use a cuticle remover gel (Sally Hansen is good) and a cuticle stick to push back cuticles once a week. When you paint your nails, do a very thin coat, making sure you do not touch the brush to the nailbed/cuticle – leave a little gap. Use the second, thicker coat to fill in the nail and even out the color. Use a good topcoat (Seche Vite is my favorite, available at Ulta) – it dries your nails completely in five minutes, even if you still have to button your jeans! I don’t always use a basecoat. Depends on how much time I have. It takes me 10 minutes to paint my nails, slowly, and then five to dry.

    Toes – I always do my toes the night before I need them to look nice. I use cuticle remover, trim, file, etc. Then use a basecoat, because it really helps the polish last longer. I make sure to use toe separators that are comfortable, because I leave them on a long time – up to an hour while i watch tv or read or internet surf. I paint my nails similar to the fingers, where first coat is thin and just establishes the outline of the polish on the nails. Then fill in with 2nd coat, then top coat. I don’t worry about getting polish on my toes/skin. Even if I get a ton of nail polish on the skin, I KNOW it will all come off easily at the end of my shower the next morning – I just use a fingernail to gently scrape it all off, then my toes are perfect!

  • MM

    Buffing is best, but if you want color, get gel. Can’t be beat, and short and red is a great combo.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve just started painting my finger nails at home again & am having better luck after getting some advice from a friend whose been doing her own for years. Basically she just said take your time with it. Sounds obvious but I realized I was always trying to speed through my polish application. It’s still messy. It’s still not salon quality. But its better. Using q-tips dipped in remover is helpful for clean up but I’ve found the shower helps just as well. It just depends on how soon you need to go out. Truthfully, how often do people look that closely at our nails? For most of us, I imagine its not very frequent. Painting your nails can be fun & relaxing if you let it be just that. I just finished mine. Angora Cardi by Essie on my fingers, Boca Mocha by Sally Hansen on my toes. I’m feeling the fall colors already! I say go for what you like & don’t worry about rules or opinions ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aw, Sal, I still think pretty, natural well-groomed nails are in! I can’t afford regular manis and I usually ruin them by the time I get to my car, but in the summer I do get pedis every 6-8 weeks (’cause they last forever) for good foot hygiene and pretty sandal toes. Of course, I try to pick a color that I can live with for that long.

    I hardly ever painted my nails until this year. I’m just klutzy with nail polish. But I seem to have been heavily influenced by Catherine at Not Dressed as a Lamb, Tara at Mix and Match Fashion, and some other style bloggers who are really having fun with their nail polish. So I’m wearing colors I’ve never worn before – purples, blues, greens – and painting either the first or fourth fingers a different color. I’m getting lots of compliments from strangers, and my nails do perk me up since I keyboard all day. The trick for me is to go slow, and paint my nails when I’m not in a hurry and can let them fully dry. I also do the hand-washing trick mentioned by a reader above – it gets off the polish where I can’t color between the lines ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Having been blogging for two years, I realized about a year ago, nail art and nail blogs started to leap in popularity. Couple that with cute-as-heck Essie ads and nail polish branding every where you turn (Katy Perry, Kardashians all turned into nail polish) and BAM! You suddenly need your nails painted always.

  • If you DO want the painted-look and not a natural look, I’d suggest a shellac manicure. It’s a bit pricier than a regular mani, but it lasts SO much longer, and strengthens your nails to resist breakage. Since you’re not interested in switching up your colors that much, this is a great option. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jenny

    You are SO funny! I love your hand illustration! My fingers and toes have to match, or just toes are polished (can’t bear to see them without something on them). Don’t think I could wear different polish on my fingers from what’s on my toes though, that would annoy me. I play guitar and trim my nails sometimes twice a week to keep them short enough, so fingers these days rarely get polished. When they do, they end up looking almost exactly like your picture. I don’t really care if others like my nails or not, I like my hands.

  • Jenna

    Birchbox recently had a tutorial on painting the fingernails on your non-dominant hand. https://www.birchbox.com/the-haute-box/how-to-paint-your-right-or-left-hand/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=3ff1f74610-Aug_Newsletter_caldrea_33&utm_medium=email&mc_cid=3ff1f74610&mc_eid=9d978a76c3

    I am a polish junkie, though I tend to paint my toes more than my fingers. I keep my fingernails short out of necessity and because they are not strong and tend to break easily. And I’m going to tell you the biggest reason to ignore any sort of rules about nail polish colors: changing your polish too often will damage your nails.

    I spent the entire spring totally enamored with trying out new polishes and especially glitter polish just on the tips (a/k/a glitter French). Glitter and dark polishes are easiest to remove with acetone, and my polish ADD meant that I was using acetone every few days. My nails were peeling, weak and soft until I figured out that it was the acetone. You should really try to avoid using acetone and only change your polish no more than once every 14 days. So finding a polish you like and can live with is a lot more important than finding a polish that matches your outfit!

  • Charmagne

    I try to keep polish on my fingers and toes at all times and believe that any style rules on polish color choice should be ignored. When I’m stressing about a color, I remember that the fact that my fingers and toes are painted is what is making them look great. The color choice is secondary to the fact that I’m polished. The only rule I follow personally is ‘no polish is better than chipped polish’. I do have some guidelines that I follow, but these might not work for everyone. (1) I keep my nails short. This makes my manicure last a week or longer. My polish usually starts to chip when my nails are ‘long’ (for me, long is at or above my fingertips). (2) If I’m painting my toes and fingers at the same time, I’ll usually paint the same color on both my fingers and my toes. Since my pedicure lasts longer, my mani and pedi will no longer match the next time I paint my finger nails. I don’t try to ‘coordinate’ the color of my next manicure to my existing pedicure. I just look at my polish collection and ask myself ‘which one of these colors makes me happy today?’. That’s the one I pick. (3) I am on the conservative side with my style, but I LOVE to put patterned nail polish strips, like Sally Hansen Salon Effects, on my toes.

  • K

    I feel your pain Sal, I can’t imagine updating my nails daily. So think about these rules with the following grains of salt:
    1. a q-tip dipped in nail polish remover can help clean up your dominant-hand gaffes
    2. think about coordinating your wardrobe and nails on a larger scale colour palette: jewel tones, red/oranges, cool tones, pastels, neutrals – you name it, pick a group for a week or so to guide things, then change it up (I usually stick to very cool jewel tones as that is the bulk of my wardrobe, use a favourite print as guidance)
    3. tell the fashion magazines to go to hell – so long as you get an “ooh pretty/shiny” moment when you catch a glance at your nails, that should be enough