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All about manicures

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Example of an acrylic French manicure

A manicure is a cosmetic beauty treatment for the fingernails and hands performed at home or in a nail salon. A manicure consists of filing, shaping of the free edge, pushing (with cuticle pusher) and clipping (with cuticle nippers) any nonliving tissue (limited to cuticle and hangnails) from the nail plate, treatments, massage of the hand and the application of polish. When applied to the toenails and feet, this treatment is referred to as a pedicure.

Some manicures can include the painting of pictures or designs on the nails or applying small decals or imitation jewels. Other nail treatments may include the application of artificial nail gels, tips, or acrylics, some of which are referred to as French manicures.

In many areas, manicurists are licensed and follow regulation. Since skin is manipulated and is sometimes trimmed, there is a certain risk of spreading infection when tools are used across many people and therefore, sanitation is a serious issue.


The English word manicure is derived from the French usage, meaning "care of the hands", which in turn originates from the Latin words manus, for "hand", and cura, for "care".


The Manicure

Manicures began 5,000 years ago.

French manicures can be made with artificial nails, which are designed to resemble natural ones, and are characterized by lack of base colour, or natural pink base nails with white tips. The tips of the nails are painted white while the rest of the nails are polished in a pink or a suitable nude shade. However, it is also as common to do a French manicure on natural nails. French manicures may have originated in 18th-century Paris and were popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Another technique is to whiten the underside of the nail with white pencil and paint a sheer colour over the entire nail.


Hands can be dipped in melted paraffin wax for softening and moisturizing. Paraffin wax is used because it can be heated to temperatures of over 95 °F (35 °C) without burning or injuring the hand. The intense heat allows for deeper absorption of emollients and essential oils. The wax is usually infused with various botanical ingredients such as Aloe vera, chamomile, tea tree oil and azulene. Fruit waxes such as peach, apple and strawberry are often used in salons. Paraffin wax treatments are often charged in addition to the standard manicure nail treatments such as pink and whites. As such, they are often not covered in general training and are a rare treatment in most nail salons.

Occasionally, lotion is rubbed on the hand before submersion into the paraffin bath. The hand is usually dipped more than once to allow a thicker wax coat to form, making the coating stay warm for longer and less likely to break or tear prematurely. After the hands have been dipped in the wax, they are wrapped in either plastic or aluminium foil, or a special type of plastic bag or glove then covered with towel or special mitten to retain warmth. The hands are left for a few minutes before the paraffin is cooled and dried.


A hot oil manicure is a specific type of manicure that cleans the cuticles and softens them with oil. Types of oils that can be used are mineral oil, olive oil, some lotions or commercial preparation in an electric heater.


Bowl of warm water or fingerbath
Nail clippers
Cuticle knife and clippers
Cuticle pusher/Hoof stick – often made from metal or orange wood
Nail file (usually an emery board)
Orange Stick
Manicure table
Rubber thimble resembling object (used to help open polish)
Nail Art Brushes/Tools

Nail polish remover or nail polish remover wipes
Hand cream
Sanitizing spray/towels
Cotton balls/pads
Hand towels
Cuticle remover
Massage lotion
Nail polish
Base coat polish & ridge filler polish
Color varnish
Top coat or sealant

For Decoration (optional):
Nail jewels (often self-adhesive)
Small dried flowers
Fimo/Nail art cane slices
Flocking Powder

A standard cuticle nipper used during manicure

Sanitation options
In the United States, Australia, and other countries, many nail salons offer personal nail tool kits for purchase to avoid some of the sanitation issues in the salon. The kits are often kept in the salon, given to the client to take home, or thrown away. They are only used when that client comes in for a treatment.

Another option is to give the client the files and wooden cuticle sticks after the manicure. Since the 1970s, the overwhelming majority of professional salons use electric nail files that are faster and yield higher quality results particularly with acrylic nail enhancements.


Fingernails in the shape of squovals

There are several nail shapes - the basic shapes are oval, square oval, pointed, almond, round, square, square with rounded corners, and straight with a rounded tip. The square oval shape is sometimes known as a "squoval", a term coined in 1984. The squoval is considered a sturdy shape, useful for those who work with their hands.

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