My name’s Becky and I’m a horse girl with nice nails. I don’t mind smelling like a barn as long as I’m at one. The rest of the time, I like to look as if my hair has seen a comb recently and that if I extend my hand for a shake, it’s worth accepting. I’m the person who’s woken up horrified by their own paws on the day of a job interview and left the house three hours earlier than necessary in order to find time to go and have a decent manicure. It is possible to have a horse and have nice hands, and here’s how…
Hand care – the very basics
Keep them clean and soft: if I haven’t got a tube of hand cream about my person, it’s because I haven’t anticipated being far from the house. I don’t have a moisturising schedule, I’m not the person who sleeps in cotton gloves, but I do apply hand cream generously as and when I feel the need (that’s before your skin gets so cracked that it hurts). Keep in mind that if you’re a person who works with animals, kids or the general outdoors, you may be washing your hands more than the average person, which will dry your skin out. I like Soap and Glory’s Hand Food, but if I were splashing out, it’d be Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, which I was given as a gift last year. I avoid products with petroleum/petrolatum in them, and if I notice that there are any particularly dry patches on my hands, I give them a bit of extra attention, as well as trying to leave the cream I use to soak in rather than rubbing it all the way in.
Maintenance – keeping up appearances
Much like it’s rare to find me without hand cream, I don’t get on a plane without a nail file – whenever I’m in a situation whereby I can’t trim my nails, I usually find myself breaking one! As sharp implements aren’t allowed on planes, I make sure I have a file so I can at least try and tidy it up – rough edges drive me mad. Although one of the current trends is for “stiletto” shaped nails, these really aren’t practical in the equine world: a more natural, practical and easily-maintained nail shape is to mirror the shape of your cuticles – generally an oval shape. Always work towards the middle of your nail – you’re wielding a file, not a saw, and scraping the file back and forth will damage your nails. I also like to use a buffer on the surface of my nails if they’re looking flaky. Top products for upkeep are Sally Hansen Cuticle Massage Cream and Nails Inc’s Cuticle Oil Pen – I find their polishes unnecessarily expensive, but this care product is absolutely brilliant.
Finishing touch – polishing up
I have a bit of a problem when it comes to polishes (as in: I’m addicted). I gravitate towards blues, pinks and purples with glitters of every colour barely contained within two boxes on my dresser. I always use a base and don’t really have a favourite, though I generally prefer treatment-types which smooth out any bumps prior to applying colour. I own more brands of polish than I care to mention, but a current favourite for at home pedicures is Revlon’s Colorstay range: it’s part of the gel effect trend, but requires no UV lamps or special removal, just use of a specific base and top coat. I can’t stand naked toenails in flip flops and other summer shoes, but was finding polish chipped off easily when wearing socks and boots all day… until I made this discovery. This has sometimes lasted well over a week, sparing my self-consciousness when I’m not at the barn. If you were to really push me on favourite brands for finger nails, it’d have to be Essie (though irritating that we in the UK are two seasons behind the current collection!), China Glaze and Models Own for variety of colours and interesting gimmicky collections, but for pure indulgence and polishes which are a joy to apply, it’s Chanel. I clean up mistakes at the end, but think that purpose-designed clean up pens are a false economy – cotton buds dipped in nail polish remover do the same job!
Pro tips – best kept secrets
If you have a non-gel manicure which you’d like to really last, apply another layer of top coat every other day to offer a bit more protection. I’m not a believer in any of the drying aid products or tips – I think the only thing which really makes nail polish dry is time, and be aware that this actually takes about three hours (I tend to do my nails in the evenings and have woken up with creases in my polish more than once). It’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but my glitter habit means that polish removal can be laborious, unless I use strong removers. I use neat acetone from beauty supply stores (it can be difficult to get on the high street, they’re usually watered down or acetone-free), which I apply to cotton wool and then wrap onto my nails with tin foil. It takes only a couple of minutes this way, and I wash my hands and treat my nails straight afterwards. And of course, the best way for horse people to take care of their hands? Wear gloves!