If you want to update your look, the cheapest and easiest way to do it is to make an impact with your nail colour. And with many high-street brands bringing out gorgeous colours for just a couple of pounds, you can change your shade every day to suit your mood or your dress!
But first, you don’t want your nails looking chipped, broken or nibbled. A salon manicure will set you back around £20, but you can achieve a great finish at home for a fraction of the price.
You will need:
Soak a cotton pad with polish remover and gently press it against each nail. Stroke from base to tip, keeping the liquid off the cuticle as much as possible. Now, dip a cotton-wrapped orange stick or cotton bud in the remover and wipe off any remaining traces of enamel. Wash hands in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly.
If your nails are too long, trim them with nail clippers. Don’t cut them too short, you want to see a little of the white tip.
Then file nails by holding the file flat against the edge of your nail. File towards the tip and in one direction only to avoid damage. The most flattering nail shape is ‘squoval’ – not quite square and not quite oval. To get the shape, try to mirror the curve of your nail base.
Massage cream into the cuticles – your normal hand cream will do. Next, soak your fingertips in warm soapy water for ten minutes. This softens the cuticle, loosens any dirt under the nails and removes any filing dust on your nails.
Use a soft nailbrush to scrub your nails, then grab a blob of your normal face or body scrub and rub your hands together to give them a gentle exfoliation.
Rinse and dry hands and then gently push back the cuticles with a cotton-wrapped orange stick or a cotton bud. You now have the perfect base for your nails. If possible, leave nails overnight before painting them to give them time to rehydrate. Use lots of hand cream and moisturise thoroughly.
If you wish to leave nails bare, a buffing file will make them look neat and shiny. Buff in one direction only to prevent the nails from getting too hot. If you don’t have a buffing file, a clear top coat will give you a great shine, but remove any remnants of hand cream around the nail before you paint by gently wiping each nail with varnish remover and then dipping in water and drying thoroughly. If you want to paint your nails straight away, skip the buffing and lightly wipe with remover before rinsing.
TALON TIP: Don’t use a buffer if you want to varnish your nails as they will be too smooth and the polish may not adhere well.
Start with a base coat, which provides a smooth surface. Leave it to dry before you apply the first coloured coat. Apply two coats of enamel, letting your nails dry thoroughly between coats – at least 15 minutes. Pale polish may require three coats to prevent streaks and achieve an even build-up of colour. Finish with a top coat.
Cutting back on indulgent beauty treatments doesn’t mean you can’t still look gorgeous. It’s easy to create your own pamper products at home – and most of the ingredients can be found in your kitchen cupboards.
Regular exfoliation sloughs off dry skin cells to reveal fresher, smoother skin that absorbs moisturiser more easily. These scrubs are best applied to dry skin.
Oil-based scrub: Mix 1 cup salt with a few teaspoons of cooking oil until you get a thick paste, then stir in a little grated lemon peel. Working from the ankles upwards, massage the paste over your body, paying attention to areas of hard skin like elbows and knees. Next, cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a cup and put aside (add boiling water and leave to cool for a detox drink). Use the emptied-out halves to rub over elbows and knees – the fruit acids make a great exfoliator – then rinse thoroughly in warm water.
Tip: Olive oil is good in scrubs but for a less intense smell, try grapeseed or almond oil
Honey-based scrub: Mix 1 cup brown sugar with enough spoonfuls of runny honey to make a thick paste.
For a gentler scrub for the face, put 2 tablespoons oatmeal or oat bran (Mornflake Oatbran costs only a couple of pounds and has the perfect texture) in a bowl and add honey until you have quite a solid paste. Gently massage it into your skin for a couple of minutes, working upwards from the jawline and avoiding the eye area. Rinse with warm water, then finish with a splash of cool water and pat dry.
For oily skin: Whipped-up egg whites will dry and tighten skin, natural yogurt deep-cleanses it, and mashed-up strawberries counterbalances excess sebum. Apply the egg whites (you may need 2 eggs) with your fingers or a clean make-up brush, leave on until dry, then rinse off with warm water. If using yogurt or strawberries, spread a thin layer on your face and leave for 5 minutes before rinsing off.
For dry and sensitive skin: Use egg yolk, honey or mashed-up avocado.
For combination skin: Use any of the oily skin products on your T-zone and any of the others on your cheeks.
½ cup uncooked oatmeal
½ cup honey
½ cup whole milk powder or 2-3 cups milk
¼ cup Epsom salts (optional)
Put the oatmeal in a muslin cloth, tie the ends together with string, ribbon or an elastic band and let it float in the bath water. (Alternatively, use a pair of tights: push the oatmeal down to the toe area and tie a knot.) Pour the honey, milk and Epsom salts directly into the water and stir until dissolved.
Aromatic soak: Add a couple of drops of aromatherapy essential oil (a small bottle costs from £5) to the bath water once it has been run. Now lie back and relax.
Note: Always dilute essential oils in water, cream or in a carrier oil like baby oil, never apply directly to skin. Avoid using them when pregnant, and never use on children.
Fragranced soak: Add a few drops of perfume to your bath water.
Herb soak: Put a handful of dried herbs in a muslin cloth (or use a pair of tights), tie the ends together and let the package float in the water.
Some low-cost beauty essentials are fantastic multi-taskers. A basic cream like E45 or Nivea is perfect for restoring moisture to winter skin. Baby oil makes an effective hair conditioner or body moisturiser – apply it to wet skin to ‘lock in’ the moisture.
For a real winter warmer, pour baby oil into a small plastic travel bottle and stand it in the bathroom sink filled with hot water for 5 minutes (don’t use boiling water or heat it in the microwave). When the oil is warm, massage it into your skin, then step into a warmed bathrobe and the heat will help your body absorb the oil.
For added moisturising, apply a thick cream. If you like, add a few spritzes of perfume to a handful of cream before rubbing it in, or mix the cream with a few drops of essential oil.
Fill a bowl with boiled water from a kettle. Mix in one of the foot soaks below with a wooden spoon – not your hand – and allow the water to cool down for 5 minutes or so. Then submerge your feet for about 10 minutes. Dry your feet, apply some cream and wear cotton socks for a few hours to let the moisturiser penetrate.
Simple soak: Add a squirt of baby oil plus a few drops of essential oil to fragrance the water.
Invigorating soak: Add 4 or 5 peppermint teabags to the water to give feet a fresh smell.
Stimulating soak: Mix 4 to 5 tablespoons baking soda with ½ cup dry rice, and add to the water. The baking soda will refresh and cleanse your feet and the rice will exfoliate and stimulate your soles.
Moisturising soak: Add ½ cup milk, ½ cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons almond oil to the water.
Soothe puffy eyes with slices of raw potato or cucumber. Place on the eye area, then lie back and relax for 5 to 10 minutes. Used teabags work well too – leave to cool down and then squeeze the excess liquid out.
To get rid of build-up from styling products, mix just under 2 cups warm water with ¼ cup white vinegar. Leave to cool, then pour it through freshly shampooed and rinsed hair, and rinse again. Now, apply a hydrating mask (see below), cover your hair in a shower cap to seal in the heat and wrap a warm towel on top. Leave for 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water, washing out twice with a mild shampoo and, finally, conditioning.
Banana and avocado: Mash 1 banana and mix with 1 egg, ½ mashed-up avocado, 2 tablespoons honey and 3 tablespoons oil.
Yogurt: Mix 1 egg white with ¼ cup plain yogurt and ¼ cup mayonnaise.
Strawberry: Mash up 8 strawberries and mix with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.
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