The Care and Feeding of Calluses

Just about every adult on the planet has calluses.  Women who wear high heels, men who wear workboots, people who go barefoot, and anyone who spends most of the day standing, get them on their feet.  People who lift free-weights, play a stringed instrument, or use their hands to make a living, get them on their fingers and palms.  I get them in the summer, on the sides of my feet, because I don't like to wear shoes, and tend to sit with my feet curled up under me. 


Having calluses isn't a bad thing, in fact, they're part of the body's natural defense to protect your skin from injury.  The only problem is that as we continue to do the activities that cause calluses, they can keep thickening until the skin becomes hard, dry, and can sometimes even crack and bleed.


So what is a person to do about these unsightly areas?  The good news is that with a little bit of home maintenance, and regular trips to see your favorite nail technician, you can have healthy skin in no time!


**Side note for the guys out there**

I often hear men say that manicures and pedicures are for women only, and that it's too effeminate (or "gay") for a 'real' man.  Let me tell you something though Mister, it's not all about painting your nails; it's skin care we're talking here. Now, if your wife or girlfriend flinches when you caress her cheek because your rough, dry skin is in danger of cutting her open, how good do do you think your chances are of getting to touch her other, more sensitive bits?  Trust me here, go get the mani/pedi.  No one will take away your man card, and the woman in your life will thank you!


I'm going to assume that you've read my post on NSS salons, and that you've gone, or are going, to see a reputable nail technician for a treatment on your hands and/or feet.  It's important to see a professional regularly, because they have products and tools that you can't use safely at home.  So get a pedicure every one or two months, and a manicure every two to four weeks.  It's not that expensive and you can schedule them to coincide with your regular haircut. 


Now we're going to talk about what you should be doing at home, between salon visits, to keep your skin looking good and feeling smooth.


To prevent the build up of calluses, use a good sugar scrub on your problem areas in the shower or bath every day.  I recommend sugar scrubs because the sugar dissolves as you scrub, preventing over scrubbing and the development of sore spots (which just make calluses build up faster).  You can also purchase salt  and pumice scrubs, but they can be a little too abrasive, especially for every day use.  Scrubbing once a day will work for most people, but if you have especially thick calluses you can use the scrub twice a day until the hardened skin is more manageable. 


Next, lotion, lotion, lotion!  I can't tell you how much a good lotion can help smooth out rough, dry calluses.  Use lotion on your hands every time you wash them, and on your feet twice a day.  For hand and body, I like Qtica Smart Spa lotions, and for feet, CND's non-greasy Cucumber Heel Therapy can't be beat.  Most importantly though, what you're looking for is a lotion that has a low alcohol content, and moisturizing skin oils like Vitamin E, Sweet Almond Oil, and Jojoba.


A good soak can also really help penetrate thickened skin as well.  If you're you're abusing your hands or feet on a daily basis, try soaking them once a week for five to ten minutes in water that has bath oils, or a mani/pedi soak mixed in.  Be sure to finish up your soak with lotion to keep your calluses soft and smooth.


Last but not least is to resist the temptation to cut off your calluses!  I know they can get annoying, and sometimes even painful when they start to get really thick, but cutting them off only makes your body rebuild them faster.  They're there for a reason, you need your calluses, so you should never, ever cut or file them off completely.  Also, if your nail tech ever uses a blade on your feet to cut your calluses, stop the service and leave the establishment!  Cutting calluses in a salon is illegal in most US states, so if your tech does it as part of a pedicure, there's a good chance you're in a NSS.


If your calluses are getting too thick to handle, and you just can't make it into the salon for a treatment, use a medium to fine grit file, or a pumice stone to bring them down a little bit after you've soaked them.  If you're a guy, I'll even let you use a fine grit sand paper to do the job (in the interest of making sure you're able to keep your man card); use 150 grit or higher.  Don't take them down too far, just file off the dead skin on top, and then moisturize with lotion when you're done.  If you use your sugar scrub daily though, you shouldn't have to file your calluses down between salon visits.


That's it, that's all there is.  Keeping your hands and feet soft and smooth is as easy as brushing your teeth or washing your hair.  So now there's no excuse not to have skin that your significant other will love to touch (I'm talking to you guys out there)!




Bling It

It's been awhile, I know.  In my defense, I have a lot on my plate right now, and most of it is nail related. I'll have a big announcement to make soon, but until then I wanted to let my handful of fans know that I haven't forgotten you!  So,  I have a quick nail art post today!


I recently lost a few of my acrylic enhancements because I went too long between fills, and the manual labor I've been up to lately was too much for them.  I know, I'm a nail tech, I know better, but if it's a choice between letting my clients nails suffer or my own; I'll always choose to spend the time on my clients.  Anyway, I decided to just soak the enhancements off because my natural nails underneath had grown out, and I like having natural nails when I can.  I bite when they're short and ragged, but once they've grown out I can usually resist the temptation to gnaw them off.


Unfortunately, after only a few days of having my nails Au Natural, I broke off two of them and tore another doing some more of the manual labor I mentioned above.  Nails are jewels, not tools after all.


I really don't have the time to put acrylics on at the moment, and it seems kind of silly to do all that work for just three nails, only two of which are actually gone, so I reached into my tool kit and used an old but good technique that most people seem to forget about.


Fabric Wraps!


Silk or fiberglass wraps are a great way to repair a damaged nail, or add length to one or two nails so they match the rest.  They also lend strength to your natural nails, to help reduce normally occurring damage. 


So I wrapped my nails, and then painted them with one coat of CND's Sapphire Sparkle Effects, and one coat of CND's Sugar Sparkle for a natural, semi-opaque look that is dazzling in the sunlight. 


I like my nails to have a little more pop though.  They're my business card after all.  I want people to notice them, and ask me about them.  So.


Time to Bling it!


You'll Need:

1. Dip your dotter tool into a puddle of topcoat, and leave a dot of it on your nail wherever you'd like to place your rhinestone.


2. With the dotter still wet with top coat, touch the top of a rhinestone to pick it up.  The top coat should make it stick long enough to move it to the nail.  If not, dip the dotter in top coat again before picking up the stone. 


3.  Place the stone into the dot of topcoat on your nail and press firmly.  The topcoat should ooze out from underneath the stone.


4.  Arrange the stones into a pattern you like, and finish by sealing the stone and the nail with a thin layer of topcoat.




Easy Peasy, and looks fab!



Heart Art

Today we're going to do something fun!  I have a tutorial for some super easy Valentines nail art.





  • Acetone or Polish Remover, a small glass dish, and nail wipes for clean up.
  • Red (or Pink) and White Nail Polish
  • Dotting Tools
  • Toothpicks or a Small Nail Art Brush
  • Scrap Piece of Paper
  • Top Coat

Step One: Nail Prep

Prep, and then Paint your nails with the Red or Pink polish.  I used two coats of Zoya Nidhi.




Step Two: Gather Supplies

If you don't have a dotting tool, a great substitute that most women have at home is a bobby pin.  Just straighten the pin, or cut it in half, for the perfect dotting tool to use with your art.


Place a drop of white polish onto a scrap piece of paper, and dip your dotting tool into it, covering about half of the ball.




Step Three: Place the First Dot

Place one dot of white polish slightly to the left of center on your nail.




Step Four: Place the Second Dot

Dip your tool into the white polish again, and place a second dot of paint directly to the right of your first dot.




Step Five: Place a Third Dot

Once again, dip your tool in the white polish, and place a third dot centered under the first two dots of polish.




You should now have something that resembles a Mickey Mouse head.


Step Six: Connect the Dots

Use a toothpick or a thin nail art brush to fill in the gaps on the side of your heart, and to pull the bottom dot down into a point.




Step Seven: Top Coat

Allow to dry for a few minutes, and then paint with a top coat to protect your hand painted art.


Once you get the basics of hand painting hearts down, try making them larger or smaller by using different sized dotting tools, or try painting more than one on each nail for a fun and funky heart/polka-dot pattern!




Basic Starburst Nail Art Tutorial

Today we're going to spice up our color blended polish with some very basic nail art.  This technique is a little more difficult than what we did yesterday, but it's still very easy, and I'd venture to guess that anyone reading this can paint their own nails using this technique and have them turn out well.  If you're not sure, just practice a few times on a piece of paper before you start your nails.  You'll be painting like a pro in no time!






Step One: Prep

Prep your nails, and Paint them.


Step Two: Silver Glitter



Load your brush up with silver glitter polish (in this picture I'm using a Nail Art Polish).  Start at any corner of your nail and press down with the tip of the brush.  Draw the brush out across your nail, lessening the downward pressure as you go.




Repeat to create a silver V shape.


Step Three: White Stripes

Load your Brush with White Polish.




In this step I'm using white nail polish (Hot Topic Brand - I love these polishes for nail art, but not for painting nails!) and a nail art brush so you can see the difference.  To load the brush with polish, place a drop on a piece of scrap paper, and dip your brush in it until the bristles are covered about 2/3 of the way up.  You can also thin the polish if necessary by dipping the brush in acetone before dipping it in the polish. 




Using the same stroke method as you did with the silver polish, Draw three stripes of white radiating from the same corner as the silver.




You should now have a design that resembles a a starburst shooting from the corner of your nail.


Step Four: Clean

Clean your brushes in a dappen dish filled with acetone before the polish dries.


Step Five: Dots



Place a new drop of white polish on your scrap paper if the old one has begun to dry or thicken.


Dip your dotting tool into the polish, covering about half of the ball at the end, but not submerging it completely (completely covering the dotter ball will produce dots that are uneven).  Or, if using a toothpick, dip one end into the polish.




Starting at the base of your starburst, place a dot of polish along the side of your nail plate by pressing down gently (try not to touch the ball to your nail as this will result in a dimple in the middle of your dot).  Without dipping back into the polish, keep dotting until you have a line of dots that follows your starburst.


As you use up the polish on the tool, the dots will become increasingly smaller. 

If necessary, dip your tool in the polish once more and re-dot the entire line to fill in any dips, or smooth out uneven dots.  Don't try to touch up a single dot, as it will increase the size of the dot and give you an uneven line.


Step Six: Top Coat

Seal your nail art after it's dried with a good quality top coat.  Clean off your dotting tool with acetone, and admire your work!


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Click to see a larger picture.

That's it! You've officially created your own, beautifully hand-painted nail art!  Now make sure your husband takes you out for dinner so you don't ruin all of your hard work doing the dishes!




Color Blend Tutorial

Now that we have all of the boring stuff out of the way, it's time to have some fun! 


I'm going to show you a flashy way to paint your nails that anyone can do, and I mean anyone.  You don't have to be ambidextrous or a contortionist to get great results with this technique.



Don't forget, you can click on any picture to see a larger version.


You will need:

  • Tape or Horseshoe Nail Forms (available at Sally's Beauty)
  • Base and Top Coat
  • Scissors
  • White Nail Polish
  • Cosmetic Wedges
  • Two or More Colors of Nail Polish
  • Acetone Nail Polish Remover
  • Sable Clean Up Brush, or Cotton Swabs
  • Dappen Dish, or Small Glass Dish


Step One: Prep

Prep your nails, and paint them with a good quality base coat (CND Sticky is da bomb).


Step Two: White Polish

Coat each nail that you will be color blending with white polish (I'm just doing an accent on my ring finger, so that's the only one I painted white).  The white polish creates an opaque base, and allows your colors to pop with fewer coats.




One thin coat will do, it doesn't matter if it's blotchy or doesn't cover your nail completely.


Allow your nails to dry completely before moving on to the next step.  I recommend waiting at least thirty minutes to give the polish enough time to cure all the way through.


Step Three: Mask Your Nails

Use tape or nail forms to mask off all of the skin around your nails.  This step isn't completely necessary, but will save you a lot of clean up time, and give your nails a neater appearance when you're done.  Personally, I prefer using the nail forms because they're already contoured to fit a fingernail, but if you prefer not to spend the money, tape works just as well.




I cut my form into three pieces to help it conform to my fingernail.




The top of the horseshoe fits across the eponychium, and covers a small margin of nail at the base of the nail plate. 




The sides of the horseshoe are placed along the sides of the nail, again covering a small margin of the nail plate, and tucked under the free edge of the nail.


Tape will work in a similar fashion, though you may need to use your scissors to create a custom fit.


Step Four: Load the Wedge



Place a drop of each of your nail polish colors right next to one another on the edge of the cosmetic wedge.  When choosing your colors it's important to remember that the colors will blend together.  So, for example, yellow and red polishes will create a a band of orange between them.  Remember to choose colors that will blend into something pretty, or you may end up with muddy brown nails.


Step Five: Start Sponging

Dab the wedge across your nail in the direction you want your blend to follow. 




You can blend either horizontally or vertically for different looks.

Step Six: Reload and Repeat

Allow your first coat to dry for a couple of minutes, and then reload your wedge with fresh polish, being sure to place each color in the location where it was placed before.  Then, line your sponge up with your previous color application, and dab on a second coat.


I've found that with the white base coat, two coats of color are usually enough for complete coverage.  However, depending on the quality of the polishes you use, you may need a third coat.



Once you are satisfied with how it looks, remove the mask from your nail.

Step Seven: Clean Up

Pour a little acetone nail polish remover into a small glass dish (acetone will melt many plastics, so glass is recommended.  You can purchase glass dappen dishes from Sally's for around $1).  Dip a sable nail brush (available from Amazon) or a cotton swab into the acetone, and clean any stray polish from your skin.



Step Eight: Save the Wedge

You can reuse your cosmetic wedge many times, by simply cutting off the used portion.



Step Nine: Top Coat and Admire

Paint your nails with a good quality top coat (Seche Vite) to protect them from chipping and scratching, then stand back and admire your work.


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Tomorrow I'll show you how to add an easy hand painted design to your color blended nails to make them really pop.  People won't believe you did it yourself!