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(Photo: Instagram/deborahlippmann)

How much do you really know when you plop yourself down in the mani chair? For me, the answer is not much. Like, really, really not much. I shrug in silence when asked what “shape” I’d like my nonexistent nails filed into and whisper “Whatever you think is best” when asked what I’d like done with my cuticles. Recently though, it hit me that there are people who actually know what’s best. I see their names on my favorite polishes after all—and luckily for anyone as manicure-clueless as me, one of the very best and well-respected of those people, Deborah Lippmann, is here to answer some of the essential questions.

You probably know Lippmann’s nail colors—in fact, she just announced a collaboration with EMPIRE, so if you want those Cookie-style nails, she’s your girl. Lippmann’s polishes are five-free (that is, free of five carcinogenic chemicals used in some nail polishes) and infused with biotin and green tea to promote nail health—so while $18 is on the pricier side of polishes, you’re investing keeping your body chemical free, which is an unquestionably worthy investment.

(Related: Signs That You Are Definitely Addicted to Nail Polish)

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(Photo: Instagram/deborahlippmann)

First up—those pesky little cuticles which are so not as ‘cute’ as they sound.

The Gloss: What are the must-know tips for cuticle care?

Deborah Lippmann:  Hydrating daily is key! One of the biggest problems women have is that their nails, cuticles, and hands are extremely dry. Think of your nails and hands like your face. It wouldn’t occur to most women to wash their face and not apply a moisturizer, but they wash their hands over and over and don’t apply hand lotion. Keep a hand lotion that hydrates and protects your skin, (e.g. Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Broad Spectrum SPF Hand Cream) at every sink in your home, at your office desk, and in your purse. Easy access is key because when adding a step to any routine, often times, out of sight means out of mind.

Weekly cuticle treatment is also essential. Apply an exfoliating cuticle treatment, like Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover, massaging into the cuticles and pushing back gently. Remember – a cuticle oil isn’t a cuticle exfoliator. Imagine using moisturizer to try to exfoliate your face, it’s just not going to take off the dead skin. Using The Cure (Lippmann’s cuticle hydrator) also helps to nourish the cuticles post-treatment.

TG: What are the five nail polishes every girl should own?

DL: Nude and sheer colors, like Naked, Fashion or She Wolf from my Fall 2015 ROAR collection, give nails a timeless look. A deep red, like Respect or Single Ladies, is always chic and modern as well.

Picking any “top” polishes is like ‘Sophie’s Choice’—my favorites are always ever-changing! That said, the newest shade from my Fall 2015 ROAR Collection, Miss Independent, is the most gorgeous dark, deep berry wine shade. It’s highly-pigmented so it makes a bold statement on your nails, and it’s especially great for autumn because it goes with everything in your wardrobe!

TG: Do you have any tips for long-time, can’t-stop nail biters?

DL: Keep a nail file handy at all times. That way, if your nail breaks or tears unexpectedly, you can file instead of gnaw. If you have to physically get up to get a file, you’re just going to wind up biting off the uneven edge. You should also try to keep your nails as well-manicured as possible, at all times. Start by getting a manicure every four or so days. When your nails look nice, you won’t be as tempted to ruin them by biting.

TG: You advocate a waterless manicure—what is that and why?

DL: Water is very damaging and drying to nails and also leads to polish chipping sooner, so I’m a firm believer in a no-soak mani. The nail plate is porous and therefore absorbs water while soaking, leading it to expand. If you apply polish to an expanded nail, the polish will not adhere well and is likely to chip when the nail dries out and shrinks back.

TG: What do you recommend girls ask for at a nail salon—especially ones that are less high-end, do you have tips for what the customer should do to have best experience possible?

DL: When at a salon, consider your surroundings and always pay attention to the cleanliness of the space. I also recommend putting together your own nail kit to include a pusher, nipper, foot file, nail file, buffer, base/top coats, and nail lacquers. Otherwise you run the risk of hygienic contamination if salons aren’t properly sanitizing.

No matter what, be assertive and make sure you are clear on your direction. Don’t cut your cuticles! Engage your manicurist, ask questions about the products and services to determine her level of education.

 

The Deborah Lippmann Five-Step Manicure

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(Photo: Instagram/deborahlippmann)

Finally, here are DL’s definitive steps for a safe, effective, long-lasting mani.

STEP 1: CLEANSE

Saturate a piece of cotton with my nail lacquer remover —The Stripper. Place cotton on the nail and press down covering the nail with cotton. Grabbing second piece of dry/clean cotton, place that over the saturated cotton piece, hold for 5 seconds and pull gently forward toward the tip of the nail.

STEP 2: SHAPE

Shape your nail so it mirrors your cuticle and elongates your fingers. For a great-looking nail at every angle, use a nail file to smooth and file the nail plate on an angle so you can see it from each side. Remember to use gentle motions to prevent breakage.

STEP 3: EXFOLIATE

To prepare nails for lacquer or to create a beautiful buff, use the Smooth Operator 4-Way Nail Buffer. This all-in-one exfoliator offers four unique fabrics to make grooming as easy as 1,2,3. Side 1 works to smooth away dullness, Side 2 buffs away ridges and Side 3 smoothes the nail. Stop here if you are prepping for your polish. If opting for a natural buffed look, finish with side 4 to reveal an unbelievable shine.

STEP 4: TREAT

One of the most important steps, treatment softens and hydrates the nails and cuticles. Remove dead skin from nails by applying the Cuticle Remover anywhere the skin meets the nail. Gently push back cuticles with a cuticle pusher, using small circular movements and working from corner to corner to get a clean cuticle. Then, wipe nails of debris and complete the treatment process by rubbing a drop of the nourishing Cuticle Oil onto the base of each nail.

STEP 5: FINISH

Apply the 2-Second Nail Primer to cleanse away any oil, dirt or residue from the nail plate. Once dry, apply your favorite Deborah Lippmann base coat, per your nail concerns.

When painting your nails, you absolutely must let each layer—base coat, first polish application, second polish application and top coat—dry completely before doing the next. The solvents in the polish need no less than two minutes to evaporate and if you actually watch the nail for that period, you’ll see it go from having a really wet look to a dried-down, glassy look that means the solvents are gone. When you paint on your next coat before the layer before is fully dry, you get peeling in sheets.

Never cut cuticles, only push them back! The cuticle acts as a barrier to keep bacteria at bay and should only be pushed back, never cut. Cutting them can potentially lead to irritation and infection, which can result in permanent damage to the nail or worse.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.43.15 AM(Photo: Instagram/deborahlippmann)