How to get lovely nails cover

Spending a little time and a few pennies on yourself is not something to feel guilty about – and beautifying your nails is a great way to get a little pick-me-up. In the second instalment of our beauty series #youdeserveit Rachel gives the lowdown on getting beautiful nails (even if you are cash and time poor)…

In the #youdeserveit series I try my best to inspire mums to take a bit of time out for themselves to indulge in beautifying. This little act of self-care is so good for you on several levels. Your nails look lovely afterwards, which will in turn boost your self-esteem. But importantly just taking some time for yourself is an act of kindness – from you, to you! And we must be good to ourselves occasionally; I truly believe it means you are a better mum/partner/friend as a result. From 15 minutes curled up on the sofa in front of the telly at night doing them yourself, to visiting a salon for a full-on gel manicure – it doesn’t really matter which one you go for, as long as you do it!

Almost meditative in its peacefulness, I genuinely enjoy doing my nails (and especially love getting them done professionally). That short period of concentration on something simple, letting all the other stressful thoughts be pushed out for a short while. It’s restful and indulgent, a bit of much needed self-love.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t really go out that much more during Christmas. Still, it’s nice to have an added bit of sparkle at this time of year to brighten up the darker days. Many people who don’t usually give their nails a second thought consider a manicure at this time of year, as the ‘party season’ approaches. Either done by themselves, or at a salon. I have included 3 options here, to cover all budgets.

1. Get a gel manicure by a professional like Jessica nail bar at John Lewis Beauty Spa

Please don’t think I spend every weekend at the spa getting my nails done, I so do not. But, every now and then – either when I feel like I need or deserve a bit of pampering or I’m going to a wedding or on holiday – I book in at a reputable spa and get a gel manicure. What is a gel manicure? Well, it’s like a normal manicure in essence, but the effect is super perfect, and most importantly it stays super perfect for 2-3 weeks (depending on how much you get your hands ‘dirty’!). In my experience they start to get rough round the edges and begin to peel off after 2 weeks, but then I don’t have a dishwasher at the moment, so yours may last longer. I simply wouldn’t ever go back to normal manicures; I don’t see the point, as they don’t last for two minutes in the real world. Then you have the hassle of having to deal with chipped messy looking nails. That’s fine if you’ve done them yourself at home, but if you’re going to the bother of visiting a professional, they I suggest getting the best manicure possible.

The only fly in the ointment is that fact that you are supposed to either go and get them gels removed professionally or remove them yourself at home using very strong remover.

This is how you remove gels yourself at home:

1. Buy some acetone from a chemist, soak a cotton wool ball in it, place on top of the nail, wrap in foil and leave for 5 minutes.

2. Then use a manicure stick to help shift the varnish. It should come away easily.

3. Use a cuticle oil for a week afterwards before you paint your nails again or have another gel manicure.

Don’t tell anyone, but I do sometimes just peel them off (eek!) and then apply a nice cuticle cream every night for a week to help them heal (as they feel a bit thin and weak after a gel manicure – the reason for his is that, if you peel them off it takes the top layer or nail off too). It doesn’t seem to do them any harm but this is not advised by the professionals!

Talking of the professionals, my nail therapist at the Jessica bar in John Lewis was so lovely. Frankie was her name. She had the most fantastic blue, sparkly Frozen-esque nails that would be AMAZING for the party season. But I am a bit of a stickler when I get my gels done. I almost always choose a pale pink, very natural colour so I can get my money’s worth out of them!! Blue sparkles look a bit conspicuous when I’m still puffy eyed, with a bad case of bed head and dressed in jogging gear at the school gates!! Saying that, it is the right time of year to choose something bit camp and glittery… (have a look at my Pinterest board on party season nails for some inspo). If you don’t want to be too boring but equally don’t feel brave enough for all out glitterball, then why not choose a modern, fashionable shade that goes with everything? I like navy, khakis, greys, or dark cherry reds.

I had a GELeration half hour manicure (colour was Blush) which costs £25*. See the full Jessica price list here.

First Frankie soaked my fingers in warm water. Then she dried them off, and treated my cuticles. Then she filed, buffed, and painted – and then under the LED lamp with each coat. She did a few coats on each nail. Afterwards, she massaged my hands with the most gorgeous, almond scented oil. As you can see, the result is pure perfection.

a gel manicure

Don’t have the time for a full-on manicure? Then try these at-home solutions to getting flawless fingernails.

2. Use an at-home kit to do your own manicure. 

leighton denny kitI bought this award winning kit a few months back, and I’ve used it several times. I love the nail file; it’s glass so it’s ultra effective, especially if, like me, you’re used to those awful cardboard ones. The nail varnish colour is just the type I like: the palest pink, not unlike the shade in a French manicure. It comes with a white manicure pencil which I don’t tend to use as I like a pinkish nail without an overly white tip. The buffer is good and feels decent quality, though it only has two sides, which I suppose means buffing is quicker. It comes with the most divine smelling cuticle cream which I have beside my bed and am using every night. It lasts for ages as you use so little. £25 feels like quite an outlay for something you only use at home, but once you consider all that’s in the kit, I think it represents good value. This would make a lovely, thoughtful Christmas or birthday gift for a mum who likes her nails to look good.

>> Leighton Denny Totally Groomed The Essential Nail Kit, £25, from

3. Get all the separates and put your own kit together

Here’s everything you’ll need to have a fabulous at manicure experience at home. Please note, I haven’t tried the three nail varnishes recommended, so I cannot vouch for their quality. However I think the first two represent great value so maybe just give them a whirl and see what they are like for yourself? If you wanted to spend a bit more I have included a pricier one too, in a brand which I have tried and do recommend.

Here’s how to do a simple, natural manicure at home: 

First, remove nail varnish with a gentle pad that is already immersed in moisturising yet effective nail polish remover. One like this is perfect.

>> Boots moisturising nail polish remover pads, £1.50,

Now, buff away to remove a smooth nail underneath. These 4 step buffers are great and last a while too.

>> 4 way buffer block, £2, from

Next, push back your cuticles. This bit always goes right through me for some reason!

>> Cuticle sticks, £1, from

Choose a nail colour! I’ve gone for 3 examples here:

varnish choices

From left to right…

How about a nude shade you know you’ll get lots of use out of…

>> Barry M Nail Polish, Nude, £2.99,

Or go for one in a more interesting shade for party season… (this one comes in a silver sparkle as well as red)

>> Rimmel Precious Stones Nail Polish, £3.99,

However, if you wanted to spend a little more, then I suggest choosing a brand like Essie, which I love. This blue shade called ‘Stroke of Brilliance’ is perfect for partying. I love it.

>> Essie Luxe Nail Polish, £7.99,

Finally, finish with a hand and nail cream. This one by Botanics (a brand I love which is also great value) is on offer right now.

>> Botanics Nail Strengthening Hand Cream, £2.33 (was £3.49),

What are your favourite nail products? Any great product tips to share?

>> Have a gander at Rachel’s Pinterest board nail inspiration for party season

*We were very kindly given our manicure for free. However, even if we weren’t I would still strongly recommend the John Lewis spa.

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