Nail-clipping should be straightforward enough—trim them when they get long, roughly every few weeks. But that baseline regimen barely scratches the surface of proper nail care. With the right adjustments and Intel, you can prevent hangnails, minimize trimmings, and maintain smooth geometric perfection. No need to see a manicurist, either: You can do it all from the comfort of your toilet seat. The cuticle expert gave us her top tips—to get your nail care game where it needs to be:
Don’t cut straight across
When cutting your fingernails, be certain you’re using one of those smaller, rounded-blade clippers; they’re the ones designed for fingers, and they work well on your smaller toes. Check out the reviews of best nail clippers from BestViva to make the best purchase. The large, straight-blade nail clipper in your dopp kit is for your big toe.
When using the rounded fingernail clippers, you still need to cut the nails at an angle, since the curve of the blade doesn’t match the curve of your nail. “A common mistake men and women make when trimming their own nails is the angle at which they approach it,” says Lippmann. “Clipping straight-on can bend and ultimately damage the nail.”
The nails should (literally) reflect your cuticles
If you’re unsure of what shape your nails should have, just look at your cuticles. Imagine your nail as an oval—an odd oval, yes. The U-shape of the cuticle should be reflected (upside down) by the top of your nail. And, since the top is often wider than the cuticle, you may have to adjust for size; the primary goal here is to mirror the shape.
Leave a little white
As for nail length, there’s a small spectrum of acceptable lengths. You should leave at least a sliver of “white” at the top of your nails—that space where the nail starts to separate from the skin it protects. (One or two millimeters, in our book.) If you look at your fingers from the side, the whites of the nails shouldn’t be so long that they start to divorce the rounded shape of the finger. If the nail is so long that it extends past the fingertips, you’re due for a trim.
Start filing your nails, and do it right
You’re not going to get a smooth, perfect cut with the nail clippers—that’s just step one. And, while many clippers come with a built-in file, it’s a sub-par option compared to an Emory board file. “An Emory board is how you get even nails, shaped to perfection,” says Lippmann. You can use one to smoothen the arch of the nails after a trim, or you can file your nails every few days to maintain a standard length.
Tend to the cuticles
Push and clip your cuticles weekly. That’s the best way to prevent painful hangnails from developing. Many nail clippers have an attachment that helps uproot excess skin. Very gently pry this skin upward so that it’s easy to trim. “These are the only pieces of skin that you should nip,” says Lippmann. “The cuticle protects nails from infection, so if cut improperly, it allows bacteria and fungus to infect the nail bed.”
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
Apply hand lotion daily, and distribute it to the nails. Do this immediately following any self-administered manicuring, too. Lotion is both an offense and defense: It will keep nails polished and strong, while nourishing any lingering hangnails or freshly nipped cuticles.