Lady, shave
September 30, 2010 3:19 AM   Subscribe

My mother never shaved her legs or painted her nails. It's too late now for me to be reading teenage magazines. Tell me how to do these things properly.

My mum never wore make-up either, but I figured that out myself (started at age 15 with a drugstore palette with one light blue, one dark blue shadow - so decided that the dark blue covers the lid and the light blue goes all the way up to the brow. No wonder I didn't get kissed.) I can pluck my eyebrows well enough. But when it comes to shaving and nail-painting, I seem to always get it wrong.

Shaving - my personal preference is to keep things smooth if they're going to be on display. I tend to shave after the shower with a disposable razor, and then a few hours later realise I've missed bits, or have hairy feet. I also end up with a rash irregardless of moisturising afterward. I thought wearing my glasses and sitting near bright light would help, but it hasn't. I'm not keen on waxing, so I wondered if depilatory cream would help - but it's expensive and says you can't use it on broken skin, and my legs are pretty much always scarred and cut somewhere.

Nails - I am very clumsy so reluctant to paint fingernails too often, or buy expensive polish. My toenails look like a toddler has fingerpainted them - as though the polish has been dropped from a great height. How do people do this properly? And with fingers, is there a topcoat that anyone would recommend to keep polish good (a bit like UDPP keeps even cheaper eyeshadow where it's meant to go)? Any recommendations on drugstore brands? I have the feeling that cheaper means more chips, but the more premium ranges do fairly dull colours.
posted by mippy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (54 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I had huge problems with shaving rash on my legs, so a few years back started using an epilator. It hurts the first few times but after that there's no pain (if you're me anyway), you don't have to do it as often as shaving, the hair grows back much thinner and sparser after a while, and no rash.
Still haven't figured out how to paint my nails properly though!
posted by cmarie at 3:48 AM on September 30, 2010

Can you define "shaving after the shower"? Are you not in the shower where your legs and the razor are wet? Do you use shaving cream, and if not, are you using conditioner or soap to lube things up?

Most people I know shave while they're in the shower. I just use soap, rather than worry about expensive shaving cream. I use men's disposable razors because the fancy women's razors just don't seem to do as good a job (and anything with a pivoting head makes me more likely to slice myself). After I think I'm done, I slowly run my hands up and down my legs to feel for any rough patches that mean I've missed a spot, and take care of any that I find.

I suck at painting my nails and just go to the cheap ($12) manicure place around the corner whenever I need them done for something.
posted by olinerd at 3:50 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

What kind of shave gel/foam/oil are you using? This is a new razor every time, yes? If you're shaving 'after the shower' how do you rinse all the bits off?

Personally I use King of Shaves shaving oil, which comes in a tiny little bottle that lasts for ages, but they don't always sell the girly flavour (comes in a bright pink bottle) so you have to look in the men's section (a choice of blue or green bottles! go for whichever claims to be more suitable for sensitive skin). It does gunk up the razor a bit so you have to clean the razor more often, e.g. with toilet paper rather than just rinsing. Second choice is some kind of gel, then cream.

I don't shave my legs all that often, so if I'm worried about potential rashiness -after rinsing REALLY well and drying carefully - I'll use a bit of savlon all over my legs instead of any kind of scented moisturiser. Second choice is Simple light moisturiser. I have no help about hte missed bits, except that when I shaved my legs more often, I'm sure I used to not miss so much, so I suspect it may be practice. Also, when you're shaving more often, the missed bits are shorter and so less obvious.

I would probably get my nails done by someone who knows what they're doing, at least once, and ask them lots of questions, or just pay attention to what they do, because I have no idea. Apparently it's not that expensive.
posted by Lebannen at 3:57 AM on September 30, 2010

Can't be of any help on the nails, since I look like I punched Picasso every time I try to paint mine, but you might get better results with a quality non-disposable razor and a fresh blade. Shaving cream might also help, both with reducing irritation and helping you not miss spots... as you shave it off, it'll leave visible tracks so you know what you've shaved. It's not as opaque, but shaving with conditioner works well too. Exfoliating beforehand can help with the rash.
posted by Gianna at 3:57 AM on September 30, 2010

As it seems to not just be me who thinks there's a possibility that you might be dry-shaving your legs, DON'T DO THAT. Yes, I did that as a teenager, using just moisturiser and no water at all. It does not end well.
posted by Lebannen at 4:01 AM on September 30, 2010

I was good at painting my nails when I was six, but I never improved, so I still paint my nails about as well as a six-year-old. So my trick is to let the polish fall where it may, then after it dries completely, either take a long bath or really lotion up my hands/feet, which makes it easy to rub/peel dried polish off the skin.

Usually I only do toenails, because even with basecoats and topcoats and all sorts of loving care, my fingernails will chip because I use them more. My toenails stay fine for a few weeks without anything but polish. My toenails also seem tougher - back when I was doing my fingernails every week, the nails got weak and started peeling like mad, and I've always had strong nails.

I like Sally Hansen polishes just fine - the Complete Salon Manicure or the Insta-Dri lines in particular. Don't get the Xtreme Wear in the narrow cylindrical bottles, that stuff sucks and chips like mad. OPI polish, which is what most nail salons use and a little more expensive, is great and comes in all sorts of colors. Sally Beauty Supply's (no relation to Ms. Hansen) "Sally Girl" polishes are in cute and convenient little bottles, come in wild colors, and are cheap, like a buck or two each.

Two coats of polish, always. Three if you have to. Always let each coat dry completely before adding another. If you're not sure if the polish is dry, wait another fifteen minutes. (If you can smell it, it's not dry.) If you apply a coat when the previous one isn't dry, when you bump your nail into something it'll push all the polish back, creating a dent that is impossible to fix.

Oh, and if you're doing your fingernails, go to the bathroom before you start. Trying to take off pants with wet nails is a recipe for disaster.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:17 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

On jezebel there is a beauty 101 series that includes answers questions about shaving and nail painting.
posted by statsgirl at 4:20 AM on September 30, 2010 [18 favorites]

If you're currently shaving with soap, try using a foamy shaving cream, shaving gel, or a small amount of conditioner instead. They will give you the "slip" you need but they generally aren't as drying as soap. Use your sense of touch to determine if you're getting all of the spots by sliding your non-razor-holding hand over what you've just shaved.

Consider trying a different type of razor -- some cheap disposables are fine, others are crappy. I like the Venus razor. Be sure you're changing the blades or switching out razors often enough. A dull razor can give you a mean razor burn.

Gently exfoliate before you shave; a scratchy towel can even do the trick. Moisturising afterwards is good for your skin but it won't prevent rashes if your skin is reacting to your soap or to something on your razor (like a gel strip). It also won't help if you're reacting to perfumes or dyes in the lotion, so look for something unscented.

If you have red bumps, you can soothe them with an aspirin-based treatment like Paula's Choice Skin Relief Treatment or TendSkin. If you're getting ingrown hairs (which happens when the pore is blocked when the hair starts to regrow, so instead of growing up out of your skin it gets pushed back in), exfoliate; there are chemical exfoliants that will help while also providing moisture.

With painting your nails, practice makes perfect; I also learned a lot about painting my own nails by watching YouTube videos made by teenage girls who seem to have perfected the art. They have a lot of good tips. But practice is key.
posted by neushoorn at 4:21 AM on September 30, 2010

My mother never shaved her legs or painted her nails. It's too late now for me to be reading teenage magazines. Tell me how to do these things properly.

If your mother has never shaved her legs or painted her nails, there's no proper way to go about doing it for her. But if you want to shave your own legs and paint your own nails, that's OK.

The best way to start painting your nails is to use clear varnish. It's the least offensive (invisible, essentially). Then move up to soft colors that most people won't notice if they aren't already looking at your nails. After that, you'll have had enough practice to try riskier colors, but you should stay away from gaudy or severe stuff if you want most people to treat you like an adult.

To shave your legs, have a nice hot bath or shower when you're not in a rush, get really soft and soaked, and then slowly (no nicks) shave and rinse your legs with lots of soap and a fresh razor when you're ready to get out. Oil your legs after to keep them soft and smooth.
posted by pracowity at 4:24 AM on September 30, 2010

And for shaving, in the shower or bath works best, so you can get your legs really wet, and rinse off shaving cream residue. I've found razor quality makes a huge difference, so this means the four or five-blade dealies. I usually get guys' razors (currently, Gillette Fusion) because they often roll out advanced new men's razors well before they introduce the same features in women's razors, and women's razors tend to have cushions/bumpers that make them harder to navigate around ankles and knees. The high-blade-count razors are more expensive, but they also last a lot longer.

If you don't want to buy shaving cream (and you don't need to), most shower gels work fine, or conditioner, or shampoo mixed with conditioner if you want a little lather.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:27 AM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: If your mother has never shaved her legs or painted her nails, there's no proper way to go about doing it for her.

I'm not sure what you mean by this - I know many girls learn these things from their mother, but my mother simply doesn't do them herself.

I normally have a shower and put a disposable razor (I get the men's BIC razors as I figure anything designed for a face will be gentle) on my legs. Not actually in the shower - I am too short-sighted to see what I'm doing. I think I bought a Wilkinson Sword women's razor once and it really wasn't as good as the men's face razors, so I stuck with those,.
posted by mippy at 4:28 AM on September 30, 2010

Schick Intuition razors are dead easy - shaving cream and a razor all in one. You don't get a super close shave, but they can't be beat for easy. You must use them with lots of water - I stand right under the shower spray. Run your hands over your legs to check for misses. I just have to remember my hairy toes(must get better at that).

For toes I totally recommend having them done a couple of times. I had a lightbulb moment in the pedicure chair when I realized the tech balanced her hand using her pinky. I find paint stays on better and looks better if I lightly buff my toenails to smooth them out - not a shiny buff, just the slightly rough side of the buffer. If you're right handed, start on the left pinky toe and work right. Use a good base coat, two coats of color and a top coat. That way you don't have to do it as often. Don't worry too much about overpaint - that will come off in the shower.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:35 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might need to experiment to find the best possible razor; I prefer Bic Sensitive.

Nthing that you need to be shaving in the shower. You need to coat the hair with hair conditioner (el cheapo stuff will do), leave it for three minutes or so, and then start shaving systematically. You are less likely to miss bits if you always go left shin first, then left calf, and so on.

Wash with soap or shower gel after shaving. This will help to avoid shaving rash.

A common mistake is not rinsing out the razor enough as you go along. If it's clogged, you are more likely to cut yourself.

Supposedly you have 5 uses of a razor before it gets chucked. I found I was getting skin infections this way, so I throw a razor out after two uses (based on daily use, legs every other day).

As for nail polish, make sure it's fresh. After it's been open for a while it will congeal and there isn't much you can do about it. Don't pump the brush in the bottle as that will only pump air into the bottle and make it worse. Just withdraw the brush slowly, running the brush over the edge of the bottleneck to scrape away excess polish. Make sure your toes are separated by a toe separator or gobs of cotton wool. Then paint each toenail in three strokes: one down the center of the nail, one on one side, one on the other. If it needs another coat, give it five minutes to dry. The polish will take many hours to dry completely, so do this last thing at night.
posted by tel3path at 4:46 AM on September 30, 2010

The razor everyone in college used was just a men's Mach 3 with disposable cartridges. That's what I (someone who grew up using Bic disposables) have since used. They give a better shave, and you're putting a lot less plastic into the landfill if you use them. The razors cost a lot, though.

Personally, I only use a razor for things other than my legs, and they last a long time that way. For legs, I use a dry electric shaver. My legs come out just as smooth, and I don't have to stand up in a shower and squint to use it (I'm nearsighted) and/or risk cutting myself or getting folliculitis (which used to happen all the time). I highly recommend this approach; I wish I'd started doing it years ago.
posted by limeonaire at 5:35 AM on September 30, 2010

When I shave my legs, I tend to lather them up with a shaving cream to the point where they are completely white. That way, I know once the white is completely gone, I'm done shaving and there are no missed parts!
posted by astapasta24 at 5:45 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find that any cheap disposable razor tears the shit out of my skin, regardless of whatever else I do. I use Schick Xtreme 3 for sensitive skin and it is a lot gentler on my skin. I also never use the same razor more than twice (ok, sometimes I use it three times if I'm trying to be cheap, but the third time almost always ends in a rashy mess.)

I use baby oil to shave with, slathering it on over wet legs in the shower. You do have to clean/rinse the razor several times while you're shaving but it makes for a really smooth shave and you won't have to moisturize afterwards.

As for painting nails, I've always used the three-stroke method. One stroke of polish up the center of the nail, then one up each side. You can buy a polish remover pen to clean up the skin around your nail if you slop the polish. Also, I never use two coats. The second coat takes forever and a day to dry and I always wind up wrecking the polish by doing something with my hands (pulling down my pants to go to the bathroom, opening a soda, etc.) You really don't need two coats of most colors... a deep color usually coats pretty well on its own, and a single coat of a light color can also stand on its own as sort of a transparent glaze.

In my experience using a basecoat/topcoat is not necessary either. It just adds to the drying/potential-wreckage time.

Making your home manicure last a long time isn't a big deal if removing chipped polish and repainting isn't a big production. If you buy the instant remover in a jar it's incredibly easy to remove chipped polish, you just dip your finger in the jar a couple of times and it comes out clean. Then do a single coat of polish which will dry in a couple of minutes, and you're good to go.

The multiple coats of polish will leave you incapacitated with gooey nails for a long time, which to me is the biggest pain-in-the-ass factor as far as nail painting goes.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:48 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of women aren't good at these things; that's a major reason you see manicure and waxing places on every street corner. So learn to do it yourself if you want, but don't forget that a very large percentage of women are solving this problem by paying for it at the salon. Mani/pedis are cheap; waxing less so, but compared to being scarred and rashy (plus buying expensive razors and products) it's not a bad deal.
posted by Forktine at 5:48 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I started this journey at about 11 (yes 11; I am that hairy). My mother has never needed to shave, bless her heart, and both she and my father were against my shaving even though I am honestly beastly on every surface. And I have sensitive skin that's prone to rashes and ingrown hairs. But all the problems = all the answers for you! Here are my 15 extra years of wisdom:

You literally need to do it in the shower. I know that in commercials they do it sitting on their upholstered bathroom stools, but we all do it in the shower. You feel what you're doing, not see, so don't worry about being near-sighted. The bath works, too, actually. You need all of that water.

I agree that men's razors are better than women's. But it seems like you're going for the cheapest -- Bic?? Even their pens are too cheap to bother with. I believe razors are one case where you get what you pay for, and maybe some people can use whatever, but since you're having rash problems, try a higher-end disposable razor for once and see.

I loved the Gillette Mach 3 for a while, and now they came out with the Gillette Fusion, which is WONDERFUL. I felt silly at first buying into the multiple-blades hype (5 blades!!!), but honestly, if you've never shaved with a multiple-blade razor, at least 2 but preferably 3 (I believe the Bics have 1, without a gel strip), you will be amazed. If you go to various razor websites they will explain in detail and with animations why the more blades, the better, and it's really true. The difference between 1 and 3 is extremely significant; the difference between 3 and 5 is not a closer shave but rather the same closeness and smoothness as a 3-blade, but you need fewer passes of the razor, which means less irritation.

On to shaving cream -- if you wait long enough in the shower or bath, and use a razor with some kind of strip, you won't really need a shaving cream. Or you can use conditioner or shampoo. I find that regular bar soap clogs up the razor too much. But if you're still getting irritation, my favorite shaving cream is Aveeno oatmeal/sensitive skin whatever it's called. There's a light blue one and a dark blue one -- they're both good. They're in the men's shaving-cream section. I saw a real difference when I started using that.

How to shave: You need to go against the direction of the hair, unless you're a blondie, in which case you can try going with the hair; you'll still have stubble, but supposedly you'll have less irritation that way (I don't have the luxury of finding out).

Bend your knee, and start with your calves, from ankle up to before the knee starts. Do the front of your calf, and then around to the back. Do a double-check with your hand, running it all around your leg feeling for stubble. Do a triple-check around your ankle. Do your knee: bend your leg so that the top of your knee is flat (the more stretched out the skin is, the easier to get a smooth shave). Do the front of the knee, then the sides. Next do the front of your thighs. For the sides of the thighs: Pay close attention to the direction that your hair grows in, because on my thighs it starts to get crazy. On my inner thighs I shave toward 5 o'clock, and on my outer thighs I shave toward 3 o'clock. On the backs of my thighs, the hair grows opposite to the front. I try to bend so that my thigh is as close to my stomach as possible, by either putting my foot on something hip-height, or putting my foot up and bending forward. Lastly, the back of my knee -- stand up straight, leg straight, and twist around. Use your hands again to feel smoothness here, because that's where I still miss spots. Don't forget the other leg.

Go in systematic passes. (This is also why shaving cream is good, because when you've done a strip it's very clear to see where you've shaved and where you haven't.)

Rinse your razor every one-three passes, depending on the thickness of your shaving lubricant and of your hair -- you can keep a cup or container full of water to make this easier, because it takes a little while under the showerhead, especially with low-flow.

Put on lotion after shaving -- makes a big difference if you are prone to dryness and irritation.
posted by thebazilist at 5:51 AM on September 30, 2010 [12 favorites]

For nail-painting: try more expensive nail polish. It is definitely worth it over the inexpensive stuff. Follow tel3path's advice about painting in just 3 strokes. Make sure you don't shake your nailpolish to incorporate it all. Instead, roll it in your hands until it's mixed up- you won't get bubbles in your polish. If it's too clumpy to paint on smoothly, put a few drops of nail polish remover into the bottle and roll it, it will smooth right out. Also, try an instant-dry topcoat like Seche Vite- for me, it makes a big difference between whether or not my nailpolish will look professional or smudged.
posted by kro at 6:04 AM on September 30, 2010

I get lovely nails by seeing the very nice manicurist. Although I primarily get my toenails done -- I don't like the feel of polish on my fingers, and where I live, it's common for professional women to have well-groomed, short, unpolished fingernails or french manicures; colored polish on the fingers isn't really "done" very often. (I also now have a baby who likes to gnaw on my fingers, so I'd prefer no polish there.) So I have them clean up my fingernails and make them all even and pretty and well-groomed, but not usually polished.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:08 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

One trick when shaving in the shower - do it LAST, after you wash everything else. After you're done shaving, rinse your legs, and then turn the water all the way to cold. Just enough time to get your legs wet; then you can turn it off and step out. This closes your pores and prevents infections/rashes.
posted by desjardins at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2010

Oh -- I'm assuming you have something to put your foot up on in the shower, like the edge of the tub or something. Do you? Maybe you don't, which would make it seem easier to do out of the shower. Invest in a little plastic stool or something for the shower, or if you have very good balance, plant your foot up against the wall. This is kind of crucial, I think.
posted by thebazilist at 6:13 AM on September 30, 2010

Shaving: You will need a foaming shave gel (try one of the Gillette Satin Care or Skintimates) and a good razor; the disposable cheapies are more likely to cut you. I use a variation of the Gilette Venus, and replace it when the "moisturizing strip" is visibly faded. (I don't think it does any real moisturizing, but it's a nice indicator for me of when I need to swap razor heads.)

Get into the shower, and make sure that you're in the water for a few minutes before you begin to shave. Wash your hair or something first. Letting the hairs get good and wet softens them, making it easier for them to shave off. After a few minutes, take the shave gel and razor and step out of the stream of the shower. If your vision is really as bad as all that, keep your glasses close to the edge of the shower and grab them now.

Put some of the gel between your palms, rub your hands together to get it to foam up and turn white, and coat one leg in it. Make sure the foam covers the entire area you desire to shave, because it's your visual indicator of which spots you have done already (or haven't).

Now take the razor. Shave a single stripe up your shin using a long upward stroke from your ankle to your knee. On your next stroke, don't go for an all-white foam-covered area -- you're going to want to overlap so half the razor is on bare skin and half on foamy skin, to ensure that you don't miss a spot. Every stroke or two, reach over and rinse the razor in the stream of the shower (try different angles until you find the one that actually gets the hair out; this can vary by razor.) Continue until you've done your entire lower leg. If you do your thighs, too, do the same thing once you've completed the lower leg. When done, rinse off and then repeat on the second leg.

Be very delicate around the ankles so you don't cut yourself, as I'm sure you know already. Straighten your leg to do your knee -- believe it or not, it's easier to get the whole knee and not cut yourself that way. Don't ever move the head of the razor sideways or diagonally; this will cut you.

Nails: Get your nails done at a cheap salon a few times (tell them to push back your cuticles instead of cutting them). It's much cheaper than you might expect, particularly in a metro area -- in NYC, you can find a manicure for as little as $5 (and up, of course.) When you go, watch carefully what they do. Note that you can very easily skip some of the steps with no real harm (soaking, cuticles).

To make the polish last longer without chipping, put a new coat of clear top-coat on every day or every other day. Generally a manicure only lasts about a week. If you can go ten days, you're doing an amazing job.

Frankly, though, hardly anybody is good at doing a great job on their own nails. Most of the women who have immaculate nails get them done every week.
posted by Andrhia at 6:15 AM on September 30, 2010

The cost of the polish doesn't necessarily mean it won't chip. For example, I bought a chanel polish, Starry Night. If you LOOKED AT IT, it chipped. Meanwhile, far cheaper brands like OPI often provide fine coverage. I would recommend you check out the brands that mani-pedi places carry (like OPI and Essie) as clients don't want nails that chip easily.

One thing is you might want to keep a q-tip dipped in nail polish remover while you paint your nails. That way you can quickly wipe away any polish that might get onto your skin or any other mistakes as you get better at perfecting your painting technique.

For now, use lighter colors. When you use bright colors, it's easier to notice flaws.

Lastly, I recommend that you go get mani/panis for two reasons. The first is to watch how the professionals do it. You're probably never going to go to that length (I don't wrap my own hands in a warm towel), but it will give you some pointers. The second is the way I do it as I can get a professional mani/pedi every two months or so, then I do maintenance every week. This method cuts down on the cost but while ensuring my hands look pretty.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:24 AM on September 30, 2010

I get the men's BIC razors as I figure anything designed for a face will be gentle

As someone who has shaved daily for many years, allow me to notice that BIC are lousy, awful, terrible, no-good razors. They leave me with razor burn, rashes and many, many nicks and cuts. Just about any of the replaceable head types work fine, but BICs should be banned by Geneva convention as an instrument of torture. Changing to one of the three-blade (or better) flexible-blade razors may solve many of your shaving problems.

Note that most foams and gels contain alcohol which dries out your skin. You may find that a good, rich soap lather works just as well for shaving and is less harsh too.
posted by bonehead at 6:24 AM on September 30, 2010

I've been painting my toe- and fingernails for probably twenty years now, and they still look like messy blobs when I'm finished, so don't worry if you can't get that particular aspect of your manicure under control. Just get some cotton swabs, dip 'em in polish remover, and clean it up afterwards.

Toes are relatively easy. I trim my toenails as short as I can and gently push back the cuticles with a little manicure stick (which you can get at the drugstore), which makes things look tidier and also means I don't have to change up the polish very often. Because it's easier to get on with life while your toenails dry, I usually do base and top coat in addition to color. Then I can get a good 3-4 weeks out of one pedicure.

Fingernails are definitely more challenging, but they can be done. Again, pushing your cuticles back looks a bit tidier, but it's no big deal. I do it because it reduces potential hangnails and keeps me from nibbling. I don't know if it actually makes a difference, but at some point I learned that you start painting your fingernails by doing the hand you write with first, then the other hand, and the thumbs last. Thumbs last is a good idea because then you don't smear them getting to the other fingers. Like others have said, too many coats will take forever to dry, so I usually just do color and a top coat. The top coat is really important because that is what keeps you from chipping all the polish off within two days.

I work with my hands a lot and find that a manicure lasts from 3-7 days depending on the color and the work that I am doing. It's okay to do just your toes if you find that you just can't keep your fingernails looking neat. Painted toes are a nice touch of glamour, especially in the dregs of winter when you're wearing boots & socks all the time.

In terms of type of polish, I will say this: OPI is a fancier brand, and they have every color in the rainbow. And then all of those in glitter form. When I have used their polishes in the past, they tend to look good with only one coat, and they last noticeably longer than drugstore brands. You can get them at salons and spas, and Ulta and maybe Sephora. They're expensive, so maybe you don't get them in every color, but for staple colors like red or silver or whatever, they're worth it.

I am vegan and so I use Nubar products. They also come in a squillion colors, but they're only available online. Also, because the ingredients are different, their polish is a bit thinner and more drippy, so I've had to learn how to use them without making a huge mess. Once they're on my nails, though, they're just as nice as OPI.

A lot of the makeup blogs I read recommend a top coat called Seche Vite, which dries quickly and protects your color. I think that's available at Sephora and the like. If you want more tips or visuals on manicures, you can search on YouTube and find tons of stuff. Have fun!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 6:29 AM on September 30, 2010

I don't shave my legs (haven't in over 8 years) and am not that great at nail polish applying. So don't feel alone.

Here's what I've learned about nails: manicures/pedicures aren't that expensive and feel great. Treat yourself from time to time and watch them to learn. Also, expensive nail polish is better. It stays on longer, chips less, and is easier to apply. It took me a long time to realize this last part but once I bought and used, I decided I won't go back.
posted by particular at 6:34 AM on September 30, 2010

I too suck at leg shaving (bump city), but I do know my nail polish (126 bottles and counting). I'll address your concerns one by one:

-For cuticle care, this cuticle remover is fantastic. Leave it on for 2 or 3 minutes (I do this after the shower, when my cuticles are softer), then GENTLY push your cuticles back using an orangewood stick (you can find these at the drugstore). Do not cut them, because they will get ultra-raggedy and grow back tougher. If you get your nails done at a salon, don't let them cut your cuticles either. After your cuticles are done, some cuticle cream is recommended. This video demonstrates some of the products I mentioned, and it's a good overview of a manicure.

-Polish doesn't have to be expensive, not even the premium stuff. I buy mine from etailers like Head2Toe Beauty, which sells salon-quality polishes at a pretty deep discount. China Glaze, my favorite brand, sells for $2.99 a bottle there.

-Some polishes are easier to work with than others. For salon stuff, I'd recommend starting with China Glaze, OPI, or CND. Do not start with Essie; it's a pain in the ass to work with (thin, runny, and sheer).

-I love me some drugstore polish as well. Someone mentioned the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure polishes; those are pretty great and come in a nice range of colors, but they're just as spendy ($7 or $8) as the "salon" brands (which, by the way, aren't necessarily superior). Look for them buy-one-get-one-free at the drugstore - they're on sale pretty frequently. The Sally Hansen Insta-Dris are also pretty easy to work with, and I actually like the Xtreme Wears too. I would not recommend Maybelline polishes - they can be runny. If you can find them, Milani polishes are nice too, and come in more interesting colors.

-The 3-stroke method that Serene Empress Dork mentioned is a good way to work, but honestly, you don't have to worry too much about being messy. Remover pens are fantastic (dip them into some regular remover if they get dry), and I use a paintbrush with remover (or sometimes pure acetone) to clean up around the cuticle area. You can also just wait until the next day and scrub any bloopers off in the shower, but this can sometimes mess up my manicure, so I prefer to clean it up right away.

-I live by quick-dry topcoats, which cut the surface dry time of polish to a few minutes rather than half an hour (although I wouldn't go digging in the garden or anything). Seche Vite is one of the more popular quick-dris, but I actually wouldn't recommend it when you're first starting out. It can be tricky to apply and is waaaay thicker than any topcoat you've probably used before, and the formula thickens up quickly and tends to bubble on me. I prefer Sally Hansen Insta-Dri topcoat (the one in the red glass bottle). It gives a similar result to Seche Vite, but is thinner and a little easier to use. For basecoat, I use Orly Bonder.

-I have the feeling that cheaper means more chips, but the more premium ranges do fairly dull colours. Not necessarily, as miss-lapin pointed out, and OMG the premium ranges have some fantastic colors. This is one of my favorite collections of all time, and there's not a pink in the lot.
posted by timetoevolve at 6:59 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

I shave my legs in the shower, and either grab some shampoo or conditioner (since it's there already) to lather up. It makes it easier to see what/where you're shaving. I don't bother buying shaving cream/foam for girls.

Nail polish? Get some cheap polish and remover and just practise! Then you can try some more expensive brands as recommended upthread. Too much applying and removing might dry out your cuticles, though, so use a good, thick hand lotion after, working it into the fingertips around your nail bed.

I tend to paint just one nail at a time when I'm putzing around on the computer. Having only one wet nail at a time seems to make it less difficult for me to smudge it before it's dry. But smudge happens.
posted by Savannah at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2010

Lots of great shaving advice here. The only thing I'd add is a post-shaving splash of witch hazel. It stings a tiny bit, but it really helps if you're prone to rashes.
posted by dorkydancer at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips!

I should have mentioned I'm based in London, UK. There isn't so much of a mani/pedi cult here, and where it exists it is much more expensive, and my feeling is that if I want to spend £30 on something cosmetic I could get something more fun. (I hate getting my hair cut - though like having a new haircut - because it's both dull and expensive.) It would be an idea for the future, though, especially if I live in sandals next summer too.

What do people mean by 'expensive', necessarily? OPI is about £10 a bottle here which seems weirdly expensive, given that the eyeliner I like costs £12 and I didn't mind buying it much. I'm looking at an OPI sale on BrandAlley and even at a discount it's £34 for four polishes. Is it really worth it over the £3 drugstore brand, or do people just prefer expensive polishes for the unusual colours?

Also, I tend to keep my nails short at the moment as I have a horrid habit of picking at my skin, and doing this seems to help.
posted by mippy at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2010

I don't wear nail polish very often. I don't have a problem applying it, but even the expensive stuff chips after one or two days on me and I hate how that looks. For special occasions I will go get a $10 manicure at the local strip mall, but even then the paint only lasts 3-4 days. Rather than have what looks to me to be sloppy nails, I just avoid nail polish. I'm far from the only woman who feels this way.

I have horribly sensitive skin and I'm a giant klutz, add in my nearsighted-ness and I have a hard time shaving my legs too. I got myself one of those electric razors from Target for about $20 and haven't looked back. I usually sit on the edge of the tub (before I shower) with my leg up on the opposite edge, with my glasses on, to shave. The electric razor doesn't give me the same smoothness, but with a razor I get cuts or painful red bumps that aren't smooth either. At least this way my legs look smooth and feel good.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:18 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ok, so you're in London. I have no idea if this product is available there (however I'm sure you can get it online). Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure I haven't tried it personally, but it was recommended on this blog I read, and she seemed enthusiastic enough.

RE: legs, I use a toner after shaving, rather than a moisturizer. It's not as stingy as aftershave, but seems to help calm everything down. Then if you're concerned about dry skin you can follow up a little later with some lotion. I also use a men's Mach 3 razor and find better results (for much cheaper) than I used to get with the women's Intuition.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2010

Longtime face shaver here.

Decent razors are worth the money. I would not recommend using plastic, disposable razors. Store own label non-disposable razors are not bad, but the head tends to disattach more easily than on, say, a Gillette.

Women's razors tend to be better for longer hair, but the heads are larger and more stable. This makes them better for legs, and not as good for other parts where you need to shave round curves.

Look after your razor. Give it a clean under hot water and a good shake when you're done. When the lube strip on the razor head starts to look ropey, change it.

Shaving oil is fantastic. But it will clog a razor far more quickly than shaving gel or cream. The best shaving oil on the market, by far, is Ren's Tamanu High Glide Shaving Oil. It is not cheap. But it will last for a lot of shaves and compared to the skincare and perfumes you ladies like, it's a bargain. Ignore what they say on shaving oil packs about only using a drop or two. You need a good few drops of any brand for a proper glide.

When you're done, don't go overboard with gloopy moisturizers like shea butter and so forth. Let your skin breath a little. Use something like Lavera body lotion. By the way, lots of men suffer shaving rash until their skin gets used to it.

If tend to nick yourself, invest in a styptic pencil. If your legs rash up really badly, use Sudocrem, but sparingly.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:29 AM on September 30, 2010

To reiterate what everyone else said, you MUST shave in the shower or at least in some kind of watery situation. I'm very nearsighted but still am able to shave in the shower. You just need to see where your leg is. Feel your leg to see if you missed any spots. I used the Mach 3 for years but recently switched to the Gillette Fusion ProGlide because men I know said the blades are awesome and last for a really long time. That razor really is better. I get way less razor burn and it gets a really close shave. If you can get this or something similar in the UK, I'd recommend it.

Use some kind of shave-specific lathering product. I use an all-natural stuff that's kind of like a dense bodywash, and it works fine.

If you really are so nearsighted that you can't see your leg to shave, sit on the side of the tub and use warm water to shave. You can also take a short shower separately from your normal shower, don't get your head wet, and wear your glasses (if you're just in to shave, your glasses won't have time to fog).
posted by elpea at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2010

I'll also note that I've always found men's razors to get a closer, less irritated shave than with women's razors. They make the heads too big will so much extra plastic. It's also much harder to shave armpits and bikini line for this reason.
posted by elpea at 7:38 AM on September 30, 2010

I shave my legs standing outside the tub but next to the sink, using a shaving cream. This gives me better light, I'm less likely to slip, and better leverage than actually IN the shower. I also use less shaving cream. In the states I can get a ladies' shaving gel/cream for a little over $2. I know things are more expensive overseas but I can't imagine it's *that* much more expensive. It also lasts a very long time.

Instead of polishing your nails, consider cutting them to a length that's pleasant for you and then buffing them with a nail buffer. It will make them shiny and attractive and it's much cheaper than continual manicures. Plus, your nails can't chip.
posted by micawber at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2010

My favourite nail polish is one of the Rimmel ones, which you can buy in all supermarkets and Boot for 4.99. It is easy to work with due to the shape of the brush and lasts for ever.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:13 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'll spend the money for OPI or Essie. They tend to go on better than the drugstore brands, and last longer. If I'm putting in the effort to paint my nails, I'd rather spend the money and have it last than waste my time using something that will begin chipping the next day.
posted by coupdefoudre at 8:14 AM on September 30, 2010

For nails, just don't bite them and keep them clean. Buy a clear nail polish labeled "hardening". Use that. Once your nails are longish, go to a salon and get a professional manicure. Watch what they do. Go once a month. You will learn a lot this way.

For shaving, buy a real razor. The above mentioned Gillette Fusion is a good one. Keep the razor very clean. Rinse in hot water, dry with a Qtip, and swipe with some sort of oil. (Baby oil, olive oil, lip balm, Vaseline- all these work fine.) Don't keep the razor in the shower, keep it in a dry place.

To shave in the shower, make sure your light is good. Wait until the hair is plumped up and well saturated. Have the water very warm, but not so hot that your skin is red. The best shave gel I've used is a big handful of aloe vera gel with a little squirt of Dr. Bronner's in it.

Good luck.
posted by Leta at 8:18 AM on September 30, 2010

My mom shaves her legs but never taught me how. I had never thought about it before - do most moms teach this stuff? I find makeup much more baffling and mostly just avoid it.

I use a good non-disposable razor (Mach 3), shaving cream, and do it at the end of my shower with lots of water. I am also nearsighted, but don't need to see to shave (just as I don't need to see to wash my hair or armpits or whatever). If you miss a spot, no big deal, you'll get it tomorrow.

I get pedicures done at a local shop once a month, but have only had a manicure once in the last seven years (also at the local shop). I trim my fingernails at home and don't use polish.
posted by valeries at 8:28 AM on September 30, 2010

Don't shave too fast. If you do fast strokes, the shave won't be as close as it can be. You can experiment to see what works best; I'm suggesting that the shaving be deliberate, not slow.

When you're not using nail polish, you can give your nails a little sheen if you lightly buff them. A nail buffer can be found wherever you buy manicure suplies. Don't buff too much! You just want to make the natural ridges a bit smoother, not thin the nail.
posted by wryly at 9:11 AM on September 30, 2010

Nthing the "Bic razors are crap" statements. I use Gillette Sensor and change them about once a week.

When I started shaving, it never occurred to me that one didn't do it every time one bathed, so that's what I did. (And do.) I'm blind as a bat so also sort of going by feel. Do it every shower ... if you miss a tiny bit well you'll be getting it tomorrow, won't you? I'm now very fast and I think I nick myself maybe once a decade.

OPI, Essie, and Chanel make good polish. When I indulge in spa mani/pedis, I take my own colored polish, and have them use that. Then I can touch up any chips on my own.
posted by cyndigo at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Leta - I don't bite my nails, I clip them - they grow very quickly. As I said, $50 per month on manicures isn't appealing, but I may think about going and having one done on my feet come the summer. I go swimming twice a week, but everyone at the pool is so paranoid about their own self-perceived flaws that they're unlikely to notice mine!

So it is worth paying more for a bottle of good polish rather than three cheap ones?

Also, how can you tell when polish is done? If I have a seven-year old bottle and it seems to 'flow' well enough, is it still fine to use?
posted by mippy at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2010

mippy, nail polish stays good pretty much indefinitely (unless it gets frozen or something weird like that), but it can thicken up over time. You can buy a nail polish thinner to improve the texture, but if your polish "flows" well enough, it's fine to use.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:11 AM on September 30, 2010

Use new polish (less than a year old, preferably). Old polish gets clumpy, even if it seems fine, and you'll notice that the new polish goes on much smoother.

If the problem is chipping in between polishes, you could always give them a clear coat every other day or so.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2010

You really need to invest in a much better razor. The crappy disposables generally tear up my legs too.

Even if you can't see well enough to shave in the shower, you can still lather up your legs in the shower, turn off the shower and then put on your glasses to shave. I think this will work 100 times better than dry shaving, which is generally always a disaster. Soap is ok for some, but you should probably buy shaving gel if you have sensitive skin. I usually use the razor with at least 3 blazes (not disposables) or the kind with the soap built in around the razor so that you don't have to use shaving gel (these are actually incredibly convenient just because shaving is so fast when you don't have to lather up your legs and relather if you missed a spot).
posted by whoaali at 10:38 AM on September 30, 2010

First, ditch the Bic razor. They are absolutely the worst ever for shaving your legs. I don't know why this is, but the only time I ever nick my legs, it's because I got stuck using a Bic disposable. I highly recommend the Mach razors or the Venus ones, as the angles are good for me, personally, and the multiple blades make shaving much easier.

nthing shaving in the shower, with water. I use a body wash in the shower rather than bar soap, so that's what I also use to shave, in lieu of shaving cream, and just smoothe some over my legs before I apply the razor. I do calf, knee, thigh, then the other leg. I absolutely disagree (sorry) with the one other poster who said to keep the leg straight to do the knee. You have to bend your leg to get every surface, and feel around the side of your knee, too--those are the spots easiest to miss. You definitely want the water to be warm when you shave. Never, ever shave if you have goosebumps. *Brrrr*. Trust me on this. Worst rash, longest time to heal ever was when I ran out of warm water in the middle of a shower and soldiered on with really cold water anyway. The thing is, you don't want scalding water, either, as hot water slackens the skin and pulls out water. So lukewarm is best for shaving.

I absolutely suck at painting my nails, and opt not to. I type all the time anyway, and my husband has never been a fan of painted nails, so I usually just don't even bother with a manicure, either. I just keep my nails trimmed and tidy.
posted by misha at 11:24 AM on September 30, 2010

Here is a comment I made about how to use nail polish in a previous thread on nail care/pedicures -- short version, use enough polish for the surface tension to do its work; if you use too much, remove it and try again or you will get dents; apply in strokes from bottom to top of nail; go with the grain; use a low-medium amount of pressure on the brush; allow the polish to dry for a lot longer than you think is needed.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:29 AM on September 30, 2010

You can buy a nail polish thinner to improve the texture, but if your polish "flows" well enough, it's fine to use.

Never use polish remover to do this; it won't work, and you'll ruin the bottle of polish. Polish keeps longer in the fridge.

In the summer, it is very worth it to get a half-wax. A wax job lasts generally three weeks, so that's only four hair removal sessions for the season!
posted by jgirl at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2010

Shaving creams and gels all have one terrible thing in common that makes them unsuitable for my skin - they have rubbing alcohol in them. Feh. I do not want rubbing alcohol on my ladyparts or on my legs. I use shaving soap, which has clays in it to generate the "slip" you get from creams and gels, without the harsh icky drying problems from the alcohol.

Also, gently exfoliate any area you're planning to shave with some kind of gritty substance - I like salt scrubs better than sugar ones, but my first choice is clinique's sparkle skin body exfoliator.

I find men's razors easier to use than those often awkwardly shaped girly ones. The 5-bladed gilettes are a lifesaver. I used to get wicked nasty ingrown hairs from shaving, but since I've stuck to my routine of exfoliate-->shaving soap-->men's razors, I haven't had an issue with that anywhere other than my underarms (which is due to big icky surgical scars and not shaving methods).
posted by elizardbits at 1:24 PM on September 30, 2010

Are you sure there's not any nail shops nearby? Or have you just not noticed them? I ask because everywhere I've lived in London there's been many - the small high street near my office (for eg) has three dedicated nail shops alone, plus the teeny Indian beauty shop upstairs in the newsagents. If you live somewhere with a sizeable Caribbean population there's bound to be a few - those talons don't airbrush themselves *g*.

Anyway, I'd like to second the first commenter's suggestion of an epilator. Yes, it hurts the first time, but take ibuprofen 20 mins beforehand and you'll be fine. I now spend maybe 20 mins every three to six weeks (depending on the season) on both legs and am essentially hairless, all the time. Best £20 beauty investment I've made.
posted by goo at 2:20 PM on September 30, 2010

I've had good luck with Essie To Dry For topcoat. It isn't the fastest drying topcoat but it's durable and makes my polish last much longer, even cheap nail polish. Worth the money and I would either rebuy. I've also heard good things about another Essie topcoat, Good to Go, which is supposed to be fast-drying.
posted by kitkatcathy at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2010

My mother never taught me these things either. A few more tips about shaving: I find that my legs are smoothest when I a) relax my shaving hand/arm b)don't use a lot of pressure (see a) c) use a new razor and d) shave after I've been in the shower awhile.

My shower isn't well lit, so I just feel for stray hairs as others have mentioned.

And contrary to others' experiences, I find a two-blade razor much less irritating to my skin than any of the 3+ models. YMMV.

As far as nails, filing the edges to round them into a nice shape was a revelation for me. I learned that from watching the manicurist go to town on my fingers.
posted by purple_bird at 4:37 PM on September 30, 2010

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