Well cared for nails don't just look beautiful - they're a sign of good health.  Find out how to file, shape and buff perfect nails.

If pampering your nails strikes you as just a bit too self-indulgent or too time-consuming to fit into a busy lifestyle, think again.  Regular care keeps your hands and nails looking good and helps to prevent nail problems, and it takes very little time.  It's a treat having a manicure at a beauty salon - that's why nail bars are all the rage - but you can achieve fantastic-looking, professional results at home.  

Check the box below to find out what equipment you need for the job, then follow the steps.


NAIL CLIPPERS are better than scissors - use them to cut around the nail then file it to a curve.
NAIL FILES smooth and shape your nails.
CUTICLE NIPPERS nip off excess cuticle and hangnails (loose skin tags by your nails).
CUTICLE CREAM softens and conditions cuticles - or use ETHOS Almond oil.
CUTICLE REMOVER helps to remove dead skin.
ORANGE STICK The curved ends rub away dead skin and, wrapped in cotton wool, ease back cuticles. Use the pointy end to clean under the nails.
NAIL BRUSH Use morning and night to keep hands, nails and cuticles clean and healthy.
NAIL BUFFER smooths and shines the nails.


Spending just a few minutes on your hands on a regular basis will give you clean, healthy and shiny nails. Try this easy care programme:

  • Every day - use a brush to scrub nails and apply hand cream and nail oil.
  • Every two or three days - condition cuticles.
  • Every week - file and shape.
  • Every fortnight - full pamper session, then buff your nails for a gorgeous gleam.

Pampering your nails

This mini-pamper session will take no more than ten minutes of your time. Before you begin, remove any nail polish with non-acetone remover, which is less drying than other types.

  1. Dot cuticle remover on to each cuticle. Massage it in gently to soften and lubricate the area and leave to penetrate for a minute or so - no longer.  The cuticle remover also seals the cuticle and helps to prevent dehydration.
  2. Dissolve a little liquid soap in a bowl of warm water and soak your nails for 3 to 5 minutes to soften dead skin. Then scrub them clean with a nail brush. Rinse and dry your hands carefully with a soft towel.
  3. Remove dead skin from the nail plate by rubbing the rounded tip of an orange stick in tiny circles - but don't rub the half moon or you'll damage it. Then wrap the rounded end in cotton wool to gently push back cuticles.
  4. Drop Almond cuticle oil on to your nails and hand lotion on to your hands. Massage it all in together for 3 minutes to boost circulation and nail growth. If your hands are still sticky, blot them with a tissue.


The cuticle is a waterproof seal, stopping bacteria and viruses attacking the nail and causing infection. Regular care keeps it soft and healthy; hardened cuticle looks ugly and can split and become infected.

  • Apply oil or cuticle cream every day if possible, or at least three times a week.
  • If the cuticle becomes tough or overgrown, nip off any excess with cuticle nippers or a pair of curved nail scissors.
  • Don't over-trim or the cuticle will grow back thicker and stronger.
  • When pushing back cuticles, never force them - if you feel any resistance, stop.
  • Before applying nail varnish, use a cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover to wipe away any oil or cream.


Filing once a week keeps your nails looking shapely and helps stop breakage and fraying. Make all your nails the same shape - check the shapes below to choose the best one for you. The best time to file is when the white part has grown 6mm beyond the tip of the finger. Try not to file too deeply into the corners, as a bit of side growth makes nails look longer and guards against infection.

  1. File the little finger first, then the ring finger, and continue working inwards towards the thumb.
  2. Slant the nail file at an angle against the edge of the nail so that you're filing mostly the underside.
  3. Swipe from the corner to the centre working in one direction only. Then from the other corner to the centre, stroking in the opposite direction. IT's important not to use a sawing motion or you'll damage the nail edge.
  4. Watch out for 'drag' - meaning your nails look lopsided because you've filed more heavily on one side. To check, look at your nails from another angle and from below.


Buff your nails about once a fortnight to smooth them to a glass-like finish. You'll achieve a natural shine that looks as good as a coat of clear nail varnish, but it doesn't chip. Buffing is also a great way to groom rough or ridged nails.

Starting at the cuticle, rub the buffer gently over the nail. If you've buffed recently don't do the tips - they'll still be smooth and shiny from last time. Use even motions and work in one direction. Don't over buff or you'll thin the nail.

The right shape for your nails

There are three main nail shapes and the one that mirrors the curve of your cuticle will suit you best.

nail shapes
OVAL NAILS are great for glamorous hands. They elongate your fingers for an elegant and graceful look.  Best For: Petite hands, slim fingers.  Tip: Angle the file so that you're filing mostly the underside.
SQUARE NAILS make a bold statement. Though they look strong, it's a myth that this shape strengthens your nails.  Best For: Heavy-set hands and wide nails.  Tip: Hold the file at a right-angle to the edge of the nail.
SQUOVAL nails are halfway between square and an oval. This shape looks good on most people.  Best For: Most hand shapes and sizes.  Tip: File the tip as for square nails then round off the sides.

Before you use a brand new emery board, sprinkle it with a little water to dampen the surface. This helps to soften the board and will make it gentle to use on the nails.