Q I have a winter-related question. With the cold weather I have been using my fireplace, and inevitably my hands are covered with soot which I have a great deal of trouble removing from under my nails and cuticles. Is there an easy way to clean these without a manicure?
A Grooming is definitely an under-recognized concern for men, and it is good that you are addressing this important element of your appearance.
Your hands are always on display, and fingernails tell a lot about a person. You are right not to ignore them. A business or professional man has no excuse for nails that look less than perfect.
Nails look their best when kept all the same length – short – and scrubbed clean. All the equipment you need is a good pair of clippers, a nail file or emery board, and a nail brush. I am always surprised at how few men own a nail brush. These small brushes with soft but stiff bristles clean the nails on fingers and toes and won't hurt the skin. They can be found at Walgreens, Walmart, and online from dealers such as Tweezerman and Amazon. They generally run from $4 to $10. A nail brush is a great way to keep your nails and cuticles clean and smooth.
Unclean (or bitten) nails are guaranteed to detract from a man's appearance. You should also know that women are particularly aware of, and notice, a man's nails. I recommend an occasional (or, at least, a one-time) professional manicure just so you can see how short to clip your nails, how far to push your cuticles, and how good your hands can look. However, do not under any circumstances allow anyone to put polish on your nails. Even clear nail polish on a man has a gangster connotation.
Nails that are poorly cared for are not only unattractive but reflect poorly on a man's hygiene. The fact is that people do take notice of your fingernails. So whether you're dating, interviewing for a new job, meeting prospective clients or just going about your day-to-day business, it helps to have hands that look good.
Grooming your nails is not something men should be ashamed of. Neither is treating oneself to an occasional (or regular) professional manicure. A man can certainly be masculine while also taking care of his body. Some barbershops even have a nail station so you can get all your grooming done in one place.
Or, if you are taking care of your own nails, it really doesn't require a lot of time. Follow these tips to perfect your at-home nail-grooming skills.
First of all, cut your nails after a warm shower, when they are softer and easier to work with. My favorite clippers are from Mr. Green and sell online for about $13. They work on nails and hangnails, too. Don't try to clip the whole nail in one or two motions. Slowly clip along the finger line to create a smooth arch. Make sure not to cut your nails too short. You can cut off most of the white part, but don't go deeper.
After clipping your nails, they are going to look jagged and out of shape. This is where a metal file or an emery board comes in to smooth the edges. I prefer an emery board; it seems easier to use. If you haven't used one in the past, start slowly. Filing too fast or too hard can cause breaks, so be careful. Start from the outside of your nail and work your way to the center using short, gentle strokes.
Trimming your toenails is not quite the same as trimming your fingernails. For starters, toenails are thicker than fingernails, so you will need a larger nail clipper. Next, toenails should not be cut in an oval shape; they should be cut in a straight line. This will prevent painful ingrown nails which are more common on your toes. Then use a pumice stone or other abrasive device to gently buff away calluses. The thick skin on your feet will be softened after the shower, making it easier to exfoliate. Don't do this more often than once a week. Apply a moisturizing hand cream or lotion of your choice.
My strong feeling is that men who do not have a lot of experience with "doing their nails" (that is to say, most men) should leave their cuticles to a professional manicurist, or just leave them alone. Trimming them too much can not only be painful, but can lead to infection.
And here is a perhaps helpful side note: When tending to my own fireplace, I use my fireplace tongs and the accompanying brush, and, thus, never actually need to touch the soot. If you need to get your hands in there and dirty, it might be worth throwing on some plastic gloves; it's a good use for those that many of us bought at the beginning of covid and now have in excess.
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