The Power of Polish

08 May 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Fashion is all in the detail – but manicured nails are no longer take-it-or-leave-it extras, discovers Penny Fray

Is it me or are manicures a real bore? I just don’t see the point of spending valuable time and money painting what’s essentially dead fibrous material. Even so, during the past few weeks I have looked around and then down at my naked fingertips, and felt the sensation of being out of whack.

If, like me, you accept the basic grooming cycle of cleansing, make-up and highlights, but stop short of getting your hands done on the basis that only high maintenance girls do polish, I have news: you can’t get away with natural nails nowadays. 

Why? Because not having a manicure is the beauty equivalent of hairy armpits or a four-inch root regrowth – it’s slovenly – a fact I was made acutely aware of during a recent trip to my hair salon. 

Flicking through a pile of celebrity-filled rags, I realised that all eyes were on me.Worried that I was hogging the vacuous reading material, I offered one of the 

magazines to the woman opposite. 

She declined. “Are you waiting for a manicure?” she asked. “No. I don’t believe in them,” I proudly replied, silently adding “I have a life. I need to work without worrying about chips – or worse – false tips ending up in my dinner.”

There was an audible gasp, then a suggestion that I might like to try Shellac, because it would seem that to lose interest in polish is like losing interest in life. 

Nails are now up there with shoes and bags as the accessory du jour. And everyone who is anyone needs to show their hip credentials with the latest shape and shade. 

Even if you don’t do ebony talons with bits of bling à la Rihanna, there’s no excuse for trying the equally hip but much more classy ‘squoval’ in a nude hue. 

In fact, according to Claire, my beautician, the modern French is the obvious entry point for manicure virgins like me. “It has a softer white finish,” she explained. 

Nail art may have peaked but the appetite for customised colour and texture is still huge. 

“Leather-effect polish and glitter are still in,” she said. “Another trend is cocktailing – otherwise known as adding colour to your ring finger in order to jazz up your daytime manicure.”

According to the expert, nails have shifted to beauty’s centre stage due to celebrity endorsements and product improvements. With gels, manicures can last up to three weeks, so more women are bothering to make the effort. 

Then there’s the incredible variety of colours and finishes introduced by fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel. So if you can’t afford the latest designer ‘it’ bag, chances are your budget can stretch to the latest ‘must-have’ polish. 

Am I convinced? Not really. But I guess there’s something nice about not having other people stare at your hands with horror. 


  • Trim and file your nails – chewing them doesn’t count.
  • Rub oil into your cuticles before soaking them in warm water for one minute, massaging your hands as you exfoliate and rinse.
  • Gently push cuticles back with a stick and clean under the nails.
  • Apply a base coat of polish if you’re going for colour and then two coats of polish. Then run the brush around the edge of the nail to seal it.
  • Reapply a top coat every couple of days to brighten it up.
  • Allow to dry without being tempted to do anything. Chillax for two minutes.

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