Weekend Manicure: My Moment of Zen

“You can tell a lot from a person’s nails. When a life starts to unravel, they’re among the first to go.”
― Ian McEwan, Saturday

We spent this Bank Holiday weekend in the Lakes District, a somewhat impromptu holiday decision that I regret not a whit! Travel is therapy for me, and we had a couple of conversations over this trip of how we can do more of it, as it’s something we value but have not prioritized as much as we would like in the last few years.

Self care has become a very overused term in recent months and years, but I believe the concept is an incredibly important one. Which is why I wanted at least a couple of posts this month to be on the ways we use beauty products and routines for the purpose of literally caring for our bodies.

Beauty has therapeutic benefits for me as well. For example, rare is the weekend that I don’t slap at least one mask on my face to treat the week’s stresses–usually dehydration from not watching my diet, pigmentation from not minding my SPF, or a minor revolt on the part of my hormones. I enjoy the process of forcing myself to stop moving, rushing, and generally stressing, and so something that feels good for me.

The best use of beauty-as-therapy for me, though, is probably my weekly manicure. Some people really enjoy going out and getting their nails done professionally, but I’m not one of them. For one, I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around paying for something I can do for myself unless a special occasion is involved. Secondly, I’m awful to my nails. I bit them compulsively through childhood and can still pick at or tear them in times of stress. They aren’t particularly strong to start with and all my mistreatment certainly does them no favors, even in adulthood.

But do you know what helps? Nail polish. Seriously. I’ve found that I’m much less likely to mess them up if they look nice, even in moments of stress or distraction, and if a nail lands unwittingly in my mouth for an unintentional nibble, the immediate taste of the polish reminds me that I need to not muck up my own handiwork.

 photo 2017-04-17 18.31.12_zps4bsffxe6.jpg

Like unto a face mask, doing my nails once a week also forces me to not do anything else for an hour or so while the coats of varnish dry. I can’t work, clean, or even make lists without the risk of ruining my manicure, and so it compels me to do something that I’m actually pretty bad at: being still and switching my brain off. Often I’ll turn on an Agatha Christie mystery or documentary to watch while I paint and dry, which keeps me from falling prey to the Sunday Night Blues/Scaries and helps me being to wind down the weekend in an enjoyable way. It’s a small, trivial thing, but it’s a valuable part of my weekly routine.

Nail polish is a cheap way to make me feel a bit more put together (not unlike a swipe of lipstick), and it’s been a helpful tool in keeping bad physical and emotional habits in check. I can’t buy that a salon.


Your turn. Is there a product or tool that you’ve used to overcome (or indeed, introduce) a habit? Do you have a beauty self care routine–manicures, baths, regular massage, or something else? If so, what benefits have you drawn from it? 

6 thoughts on “Weekend Manicure: My Moment of Zen”

  1. (looks embarassedly at cuticles)…

    Massage! I would love to have one every month but usually have 3 or so a year as they are not cheap (nor should they be.) It really helps when you spend so much time hunched over a computer and sitting too often. I’ve also learned far more from my massage therapists about my body and anatomy and how to manage stress then any other source. Every therapist is slightly different.

    Have had facials and eyebrows shaped, both of which were helpful and relaxing.

    I have a great pedicurist here in NY ($32, not cheap.) I keep all the right tools at home as well (foot file/cream/ etc) between monthly pedi’s. I do my own manicures as most of them don’t last long enough.

    Cotton gloves and cuticle oil. Great combo.

    1. I’d love a massage or facial at least a few times a year, it’s definitely a long term aspirational goal. The good therapists I’ve had have really helped me better care for my body (from a chronic limp that’s made the musculature in my body uneven to best practice skin care) and are well worth the money!

  2. I love aromatherapy massages as I get tense, knotted muscles in my back and shoulders from working at a computer all day. But I don’t get them very often. As Caitlin said, they’re not cheap!

    Tuina massage is also good — it’s therapeutic and is done fully clothed. I find it very relaxing and it helps my shoulders.

    I admire people with flawless manicures. I don’t have the patience to do them very often, especially as I usually chip the polish when I’m doing household chores. I’d like to start wearing polish more though. Do you have any techniques or products that you use to reduce chips?

    1. I’ve never heard of tuina massages, but I’m always looking for things to help unknot my shoulders. I must research–even though poverty precludes action!

      I too admire people with gorgeous nails. I’m not able to grow mine as long as I’d like (both due to occasional picking habits as well as the fact that they’re just not strong enough to grow long without tearing) but the only thing I’ve found that keeps things looking healthy and keeps chipping to a minimum is doing a full routine and not shirking on steps: strengthening base (I like Butter London or good old Sally Hansen), a coat or two of colour as the shade requires, plenty of time to dry, and then a top coat. Sally Hansen’s red bottle formula is iconic for a reason! I also find that some formulas or brands really are are better than others, and it’s not all ype. Butter London, Essie, and Nails Inc work for me, for instance, while OPI doesn’t, for instance.

      Summary: trial and error formulas, and a fast drying top coat!

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