healthy natural nails with hortūs nailworks.

April 6, 2016

healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves
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.

Jane explains why she recommends it: “I love the natural look of well manicured nails with a high shine buff. It’s such an elegant and polished look; long lasting and works great on just about everyone!” 
To get bare nails looking good, nails are cut, shaped and cuticles are cleaned and detailed. (Yes: like a car!) Hands are then deeply moisturized with a hydrating massage. To finish off, the manicurists at Hortūs use a two sided buffer. One side has a very fine grit to gently even out surface, and the other side is smooth, which creates the super shiny finish. They top off the buff with a few drops of nourishing nail and cuticle oil.
Since this kind of manicure leaves your nails exposed, it’s important to keep them tidy and well groomed. I asked Jane for a few of her favorite tips for at-home maintenance:
healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves
 + File. I’ll admit I’m not a regular nail filer, but Jane explains that regular filing keeps nails “smooth and snag-free” and after seeing how nice my natural nails could look, I might just be a convert. To get the job done, Jane recommends a crystal or glass file since they’re “very gentle with a super fine grit.” Even better, the files are washable, so it’s easy to keep them clean and sanitary. Jane mentions that with care, a crystal file will last a long time, making is a great sustainable choice. To note: Always file dry, clean nails to avoid splitting or weakening. (For the curious: My new file.)healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves

+ 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.healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves
+ 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.)healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves

+ 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. 

2. Keep your hands and nails clean and moisturized.
3. Drink lots of water and practice a clean and well balanced diet.

healthy natural nails with hortus nailworks | reading my tea leaves

Hortūs Nailworks is a salon on the Lower East Side of Manhattan specializing in hands and feet care and sugaringTo 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.

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  • Reply jenn April 6, 2016 at 9:48 am

    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)…

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Dreamland! Booking appointment for toes ASAP!

  • Reply Sarah Z April 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I had no idea nail files were available in anything other than the ugly disposable ones. Great find! *Purchased*

  • Reply Roopali April 6, 2016 at 11:06 am

    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!

  • Reply kiara April 6, 2016 at 11:17 am

    This was some really helpful advice! Thank you for this post 🙂

  • Reply judith April 6, 2016 at 11:36 am

    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.

  • Reply jess April 6, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    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 🙂

    • Reply Lauren @ Lauren, Etc. April 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      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! 🙂

  • Reply Maria April 6, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Love this! Any chance you know what buffer they used and where to get one?

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Not sure what they used and I don’t own one myself. Will see if they have rec.!

    • Reply Jenn April 6, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      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.

      • Reply Nicole Brant April 14, 2016 at 6:20 pm

        Thank you, Jenn!

  • Reply Lauren @ Lauren, Etc. April 6, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    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!

  • Reply Emilie April 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    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!

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks so much, Emilie!

  • Reply Chloe | Conscious by Chloe April 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    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!

    – Chloe

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks so much!

  • Reply Erin April 6, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    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 –

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      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!

  • Reply Mun April 6, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    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…..

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Same here! Definitely an exception rather than the rule to have such a serene spot!

  • Reply Megan April 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Are there any recommended brands of natural nail polishes?

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      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!

  • Reply Jayme | holly & flora April 7, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    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!

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 7, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Zoya’s great too! (And thank you!)

  • Reply Sommer April 10, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    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.)

  • Reply Kimberly April 13, 2016 at 2:59 am

    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:
    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!

  • Reply sarah April 13, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Great recommendations—can’t wait to try the nail file. I’m also curious as to what kind of buffer to try. Thanks!

  • Reply Robin Ann April 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I was lucky enough to inherit my grandmother’s Bakelite and chamois buffer – I love it! Great article, thank you!

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