Fingernails may be a small detail but any guy who works with their hands should know how to keep them healthy. Weak nails result in debilitating pain and even infection. “To make sure your nails are healthy and strong, you should eat foods or take vitamins containing biotin, calcium, and iron,” says Michael Elliot, founder and owner of Hammer & Nails, a nail salon that caters specifically to men. Think almonds, leafy greens, eggs, carrots, strawberries, and red meat.
A deficiency in any of these nutrients can lead to more than just ugly hands; it can mean thin nails, which can become easily ripped, spliced and subsequently infected. But even well-fed nails need some upkeep from the outside. Professional manicures, which include nail cleaning, clipping, and a hand massage, add a bit of pomp to the procedure, and can turn into an escape at guy-centric places like Hammer & Nails where you relax in king sized leather chairs with a beer, sports on TV, and shoulder massages. But keeping your nails groomed on your own time is also easily done.
“Fingernail clippers, a nail file, and a good moisturizer that uses urea, phospholipids, or lactic acids are all that a man needs to keep up his own manicure,” says Elliot. Start the process in the shower by pushing back your cuticles (the dead skin at the base of the nail) with your thumbnail; go gentle here because accidentally removing the cuticle can lead to infections. When you get out of the shower, be sure to dry off completely to prepare for clipping. It’s a good idea to sterilize the clipper with some rubbing alcohol to help avoid infections. Cut until the white crescent at the tip of the nail is about the width of a dime and use the file to round out the sharp edges.
Make sure you’re using sharp clippers—we like Kiya steel ones, for around $20—says Jim Price-Rogers, owner of Well Groomed Male Spa in Columbus, Ohio. Cut your nails with a curved edge, he says, then smooth away jagged edges with an emory board. If you don’t want to trim cuticles in the shower, spray fingertips with witch hazel, an antiseptic, and rub in cuticle cream post-shower. Using a cuticle stick (or a wooden coffee stirrer), press back cuticles, then trim with a clean cuticle nipper. Get the hangnails, too.
Finally, apply moisturizer to your hands and nails. The added hydration will help keep your nails from cracking and will keep the skin on the sides of your nails from peeling away, which can become painful and infected.