How To Look After Your Nails

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How To Look After Your Nails

Words by Mr Alex Harris

17 August 2016

First impressions start with a handshake. Here’s five handy tips to put the man in manicure.

Nails that are long and dirty or bitten and bloody can be a deal-breaker in a business pitch. Not to mention on a Tinder date. But they are also a revealing indicator of one’s personal hygiene, attention to detail or lack thereof.

You might not pay much attention to your nails, but you should – because other people do. They are the business card you don’t realise you’re handing out. To ensure they look presentable, make a weekly manicure part of your grooming routine and don’t rely on your teeth to keep them in check.

Assuming you are not a regular at a professional nail salon, to perform your own mani-pedi at home you’re going to need a set of DIY tools. Manicure kits are consistently among the best-selling grooming items on MR PORTER. Most of us are a dab hand with a pair of nail clippers, but what about all the other implements? We asked Mr Frank Sawkins, founder and creative director of grooming brand Czech & Speake, for a step-by-step demonstration, to help you claw your way up the corporate ladder.


Like a good football referee, your nails should go largely unnoticed rather than stand out like, well, a sore thumb. Wash your hands in warm water to soften the nails and use a nail brush to clean out any dirt (the best time to clip nails is straight after a shower or bath). When cutting your own nails, use clippers rather than scissors – it’s near impossible to be ambidextrous with the latter. Having dried your hands, trim your nails, following the natural curve of each fingertip. Don’t make the mistake of clipping too short. Leave 1 or 2mm of white that can be filed down.


One thing evolutionary biologists agree on: the mammalian perception of beauty is defined by an appreciation of symmetry. Keep this in mind when using the nail file to round off any jagged edges and aim for uniformity of nail length and shape. Place your hand on a towel to ensure consistent angles and pressure. Forget the old myth that you should file in only one direction. For men’s nails, which are not worn long, this really doesn’t matter.

Cuticle shaping

To further soften the cuticles (the thin layer of skin along the bottom of your nail bed) soak your fingertips in warm water for 30 seconds. Use the cuticle tool to carefully push the cuticles back to their natural stopping point – no further – to reveal the “half moon” of white under the nail. Use the tool to shape the cuticle line to make it look neat. Professional nail technicians may use cuticle nippers to trim the cuticle skin where it ridges up, but don’t try this at home. It’s difficult to do with your non-dominant hand and you run the risk of cutting your cuticle, which can lead to bleeding.

Buffing and moisturising

Now for the finishing touches. To further emphasise the neat white nail edge and remove any lingering dirt, use the cuticle tool to carefully scrape underneath the nail. Give the edges a final once-over with a nail file. Use the clippers to tidy up any loose pieces of skin or hang nails, making sure you don’t cause bleeding. Then use a nail buffer (which you can pick up from any pharmacy or from NET‑A‑PORTER). Many people have ridges across the top of the nail, and working over these with a buffer block in a left-and-right motion will smooth them down. Done with the right degree of delicacy, this will simultaneously add shine while increasing circulation to encourage growth.

Finally, moisturising: using the thumb of the opposite hand, rub a few drops of oil – almond works fine – into each cuticle, massaging it back gently. It’s a good thing for the nail, too. Next, massage your hands and forearms with a non-greasy hand cream. Now sit back and admire your handiwork.


Illustrations by Mr Joe McKendry