I mentioned in this weekend’s newsletter that I’d spent a little quality pampering time in the Lower East Side gem of a nail salon, Hortūs Nailworks. The salon carries a whole range of five-free polishes, but at founder Jane Maccolla’s recommendation, I got one of the salon’s most popular services. It’s a little something we’re calling the bare manicure. No polish, just pampering.
+ Shape. When the aim is for a manicure sans-polish, Jane recommends shaping your nails to follow the natural curvature of your nail. She says: “It’s generally the most flattering shape especially when keeping nails bare and unpolished. This is what I would recommend since they are ‘naked’ and you can see the actual shape of nails.” So, no square or oval or round. Just do you.
+ Scrub. I tend to only really think about scrubbing my nails when they’re visibly dirty, but it turns out that whether I’ve spent the day potting up a window box or typing away at my computer, I should be keeping my nails clean. Noted. Jane recommends keeping a nail brush handy to use regularly when washing your hands. A brush keeps nails and cuticles free of dry skin and debris. She advised me to “be gentle and don’t forget to clean under your nails!” Bonus: Keeping nails scrubbed “allows for much better absorption of nourishing oils and creams.” (For the curious: a similar wooden nail brush.)
+ Moisturize. Speaking of oils and cream, Jane says that any “nice, high quality oils you have in your kitchen generally work great.” At home, Jane loves mixing organic coconut oil with olive oil and castor oil. She says, “the combination makes it fast absorbing and deeply hydrating.” She also recommends grapeseed, safflower, and sweet almond oil and suggests mixing them or using them solo. She says, “play around with the various consistencies and textures to find the one you like best.” Jane reuses glass bottles with pumps to make the oils more accessible and easier to use. To moisturize: Gently massage oils into your hands, cuticles and nails.
+ Buff. For the brave at-home manicurists, a natural buff is the loveliest finish to a natural manicure. I’d never had my nails buffed to a high-shine before and I marveled at the fact that the result was so much like a clear polish, minus the eventual chipping. Tip: If you’ve moisturized pre-buff, take a moment to remove excess oils from your nails. You can use non-acetone nail polish remover, or simple soap and water, just make sure nails are completely dry before buffing or shining. Word of caution: Don’t over buff! It can cause thinning of your nail plate.
Jane’s three recommendations for maintaining healthy nails?
1.) Avoid using your nails as tools! Treat them gently and wear gloves when cleaning, doing dishes, gardening, etc. This helps to keep your nails from breaking, splitting and drying out.
Hortūs Nailworks is a salon on the Lower East Side of Manhattan specializing in hands and feet care and sugaring. To ensure the highest level of quality, freshness, and effectiveness, Hortūs uses a carefully selected range of products for their services, including those handcrafted in small batches using food grade and organic ingredients.
To make an appointment, visit Hortūs Nailworks.
PS. Hortūs offers a Happy Hour special on Monday-Wednesday from 11am – 4pm: A manicure and pedicure for $50. (Cash only for Happy Hour!)
Disclosure: I was treated to my manicure as part of my coverage for this story. Opinions are my own.
I’m totally on board with this!! my first bare treatment was on my TOES. the nail tech told me my toenails looked the way they did (i.e. REALLY BAD) because I basically never went withOUT polish, and she suggested that I just get them buffed with a shine, and MAN WERE THEY SHINY!! luckily for me, my husband was in the nail business for 10 years before snagging a business job in midtown, so he does my nails 95% of the time. I now request a shiny buff on my fingers when he does my nails (for free, on my sofa at home)…
Dreamland! Booking appointment for toes ASAP!
I had no idea nail files were available in anything other than the ugly disposable ones. Great find! *Purchased*
Your post has inspired me to look for a similar place in Boston. I have had a hard time finding places that use natural products and have been doing my own nails. The file and brush look great too – so will be ordering them soon! Thank you!
This was some really helpful advice! Thank you for this post 🙂
Thank you for this. My aging nails are ridged and they break easily. I do not like nail polish for all the reasons that you as the mother of a young girl are already aware of — they often contain chemicals that are bad for the environment and especially bad for developing bodies.
I love the idea of a “natural” manicure like you describe. I live in the Boston area and maybe I can find a place around here that does what Hortus does, but in the meantime, you’ve given me lots of good tips for doing this at home.
This makes me want to add a bare nails treatment to my self care routine, thanks for the inspiration! The salon looks gorgeous too. I first heard about nail buffing when I was gifted a book on natural beauty as a teen — it was one of those Klutz craft books, does anyone remember those? I kinda feel like the natural body care rage these days (which I whole heartedly support) is basically all explained in that book! I remember there were natural facial recipes, hand moisturizer masks, foot soaks, DIY bath bombs, and it came with a little kit of tools for nails and face brush like the one you’ve shared here. A trip down memory lane 🙂
I totally remember the Klutz books! I had the nail art book which came with a couple shades of peel-off polish. Definitely a trip down memory lane! 🙂
Love this! Any chance you know what buffer they used and where to get one?
Not sure what they used and I don’t own one myself. Will see if they have rec.!
If you can find it locally (for some reason they tend to be $$ on Amazon) I like the Revlon Crazy Shine buffer. Only 2 sides, so you can’t accidentally scratch your nail with one of the rougher sides if you press too hard like with the typical 4 sided buffers.
Thank you, Jenn!
I’ll be doing some hand and foot care tonight so this post is really helpful. I rarely follow the natural line of my nail when shaping it, so I’m definitely going to start doing that. Natural and simple is always better!
Erin – you write such interesting posts! I’m still back on trying to get decluttered, but have so many of your posts bookmarked for later, because, first things first. But, I’m taking a break to try a natural manicure probably early next week when my new nail file arrives. Its that time of year and I’m itching for “renewal”. Thank you!
Thanks so much, Emilie!
This is such a wonderful post!
I used to have a glass file but eventually got rid of it because I felt like the grit was way too fine. Now you make me regret it.
I love that your solution to beautiful and healthy looking nails and hands does not require the use of chemical-filled cosmetics.
This article comes at there right time, as my nails and cuticles are a mess, I sure make them go through harsh treatment last week-end during a basket-weaving workshop and definitely need some filing, cleaning and moisturizing. I’m adding a glass file and wooden brush to my wishlist!
Thanks so much!
I used to get my nails buffed but eventually it was too much and they started getting thin and the buffing burned. So sad. I liked the put together appearance it had. Unfortunately, my currently line of work keeps me from really allowing too much to be done with my nails so, I just keep them pleasantly short and polish free!
Do you have any recommendations on nail polishes? I will be wanting to paint the tootsies this summer but all the mainstream polishes are so – ick –
Ah, totally. Jane definitely recommended exercising caution with over-buffing! I always look for five-free polishes and have a few from RGB that I love!
I haven’t seen such a beautifully setup nail salon before! The ones here in Australia mainly focuses on speed and efficiency and very much in aesthetic hence I always want to be out ASAP when I have my nails done…..
Same here! Definitely an exception rather than the rule to have such a serene spot!
Are there any recommended brands of natural nail polishes?
I always look for five-free polishes. They guarantee to have the top offenders excluded from the formula (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor and formaldehyde resin). I really like RGB!
First of all, Erin, this place is absolutely gorgeous!! I love the feel there and wish there were a similar place here in Denver. I’ll have to check out your recommendation for RGB polish. I have been using Zoya over the years and love their colors. So happy you got a tranquil getaway!
Zoya’s great too! (And thank you!)
I love all these recommendations and am going to incorporate them ASAP in part of my self-care routine that I’m working on. I’m definitely curious about the buffer that you or they can suggest. Thanks! (And changing my nails from square-ish to natural.)
I’ve been a big fan of buffing my nails vs polish for a long time (it’s also helpful for nurses – a lot of the time we cannot have polish/acrylic on our nails because of infection control issues, and I don’t like Gel because of the uv damage and how my nails are after you remove the gunk). This is what I use: https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/349330/Deborah_Lippmann/smooth-operator-four-way-nail-buffer
I’ve had it for a few years at this point. Also, usually nail salons will have the equipment to buff your nails vs polish, in case they don’t explicitly offer it, it’s worth asking!
Great recommendations—can’t wait to try the nail file. I’m also curious as to what kind of buffer to try. Thanks!
I was lucky enough to inherit my grandmother’s Bakelite and chamois buffer – I love it! Great article, thank you!
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