Brights and 'greige' chip away at natural nails
The gloves are off. And what will you see on those hands that have been hibernating during the winter? Probably some brittle nails and dry skin.
A heavy-duty moisturizer and bold, cheerful nail polish should be able to take care of any unpleasantries. Then throw in some spring trends - purples, oranges and greens to accompany warm-weather wardrobes, as well as some new neutrals that might surprise you.
"The day of the nude or pink nail is over and we're seeing a new revolution in color," says Nancy Rappaport, director of product development for Sephora Collection.
"Spring starts with lots of bright shades," agrees Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI's artistic director. "It's not only pinks, it's bright shades from green to blue, purple and orange. Now the color story just goes on year round."
Inspired by the landscape of Hong Kong, Weiss-Fischmann dubbed a shimmery plum called Meet Me on the Star Ferry and a medium blue named Suzi Says Feng Shui. There's also Jade is the New Black.
The seasonal palette for the Sephora by OPI collection includes dark moss and forest green, with the additions of orange and turquoise for summer. Essie's Cosmetics has the bold Pop Art Pink and Tart Deco, a coral.
"The whole spring palette works together to bring a burst of art-inspired color to the wardrobe," says founder Essie Weingarten. "Spring 2010 is romantic and soft but still bold and statement-making."
Many polishes are metallic or contain glitter, pearl or high shimmer to keep them modern and more dimensional than the old-school frosts.
Lavender is a top color, too, which Weiss-Fischmann says can be "feminine and demure."
The darker end of that spectrum - dark purple or eggplant, perhaps - can give you an edge, says Allure magazine's editorial projects director, Kristin Perrotta.
"These feel so right for spring because they're just so wrong - so dark," she says. "But they're really gorgeous, and they do a nice job of quieting down all the happy, girlie dresses and fabric colors women typically wear come spring."
If head-turning colors aren't your thing, try your hand in one of the new neutrals, which Perrotta even calls the "blah colors." These beiges, grays and taupes aren't boring, and they're part of a trend that will last well into fall.
Perrotta credits Chanel with launching this look with its shade called Particuliere. The "greige" shade debuted on the runway in October, and since going on sale in January, the company says it is its top-selling polish and has sold out three times on Chanel.com.
"It's not a color I ever thought I could like, but it looks really beautiful on, and works with a variety of skin tones," Perrotta says.
Before the polish goes on, make sure hands and nails are in top shape. Tools include a nail- and hand-specific moisturizer, which tends to be heavier than body lotions, and an exfoliating brush, says Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, an academic medical center.
"Most people think it's their face that presents to the world but it's everything that shows. The key is to take care of your face and remember to take care of your hands and nails."
Winter's indoor heated air dehydrates skin and nails. The body also produces fewer natural oils in the cold weather, Bergfeld explains, and hot showers and exposure to cold and wind exacerbates the dryness.
This all can leave nails looking dry and lusterless, scaly or flaky and prone to breakage. The good news is the looming onset of humidity.
"Most women will tell you their nails break in the winter," says Bergfeld. "As the weather gets more humid and warmer, the nails do better because they're hydrated."
"Your nails take a beating in everything you do," she adds.
Dead skin can be sloughed off by getting a manicure or pedicure, or by using a brush at home, Bergfeld says.
Anything you put on your nails - polish, tips, hardeners - are also very drying. You might consider giving your nails a literal breather without product for even a few months if they don't look healthy, Bergfeld says.
Just don't forget the daily saturation of moisturizer.
To keep cuticles at bay, Bergfeld recommends moistening them with a cuticle softener before clipping. Better yet, resist clipping, instead gently push them back with a towel or wooden cuticle stick after moistening them in the shower or with a cuticle softener. Do not push back or clip dry cuticles, which can damage the cuticle and nail.
And, before going outside, apply sunscreen to your hands, Bergfeld recommends. Though it's the fingers that apply it to the rest of the body, be sure to rub some on your hands and nails, as the skin under the nail can suffer sun damage.
If you're lucky enough to take a vacation and want your polish looking good without chips for the duration, a gel lacquer, such as OPI's Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer, tends to last longer than traditional polish.
It's available only in salons, is painted on with a brush and is cured under UV lights. It can last up to two weeks. The rub might be pricey, though: At one salon outside New York City, a regular manicure cost $10 while the OPI gel kind costs $32.