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BEAUTY: Perfect Nails in Two Minutes

Perfect grooming means perfect nails. But who can spare the time – or the cash – for a full-fledged manicure once a week!.Not to worry, experts say. “If you spend two minutes a day on maintenance, you can really improve the look and health of your nails, even if you can’t swing a professional paint job,” said Jin Soon Choi, who owns several nail salons in New York City. Here, she and other salon pros share their tricks for keeping your manicure and pedicure looking great all month long.

1: Apply hand cream regularly. Slather your hands with moisturizer at least three times a day, says Choi. The best choice is a thick, rich hydrator with skin-softening vitamin E, such as SpaRitual Instinctual Moisturizing Lotion. It’s $25 and http://www.sparitual.com.

2: Pamper your cuticles. “They protect the root of your nail from infection,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Arielle Kauvar. And don’t pick at them! To keep cuticles looking neat, gently push the skin back with a towel after showering.

3. File right. The healthiest nail shape is what professional manicurists call a “squoval” – a squared-off oval. Very square nails are apt to catch and tear at the corners, while rounded nails are prone to splitting. Jan Arnold, co-founder of Creative Nail Design in Vista, California, has this advice on how to create the squoval: Use a fine-grade file to shape your nails into a square, then carefully round just at the edges.

4. Use ridge filler. It will smooth your nails – which is key to making your nail polish look better and stay on longer. And it’s a must whether you prefer pale, sheer polishes or trendy brights like OPI Nail Lacquer in No Autographs, Please (it’s $8 – check opi.com <http://www.opi.com/>  for stores). As for ridge filler, RadarOnline.com likes Lippmann Collection Ridge Filler – it’s $16 at lippmanncollection.com <http://www.lippmanncollection.com/&gt; .

5. Skip acetone-based polish removers. While acetone speeds up the drying process, it also dehydrates nails, says Maria Dascalu, a manicurist at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City. Remove nail color with a mild product like Cutex Quick & Gentle Protein Enriched Nail Polish Remover. It’s $3 at drugstores.

6. Clip with caution. When doing an at-home pedicure, “cut your toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails,” advises Dr. Suzanne Levin, a podiatrist in New York City.

7. Clean your tools. Nails are a magnet for bacteria, says Arnold. “When you use your nail tools, you transfer those germs and taint your implements,” she pointed out. To prevent problems, she recommends disinfecting metal tools with soap and water after each manicure or pedicure. If you use an emery board, toss it after several uses.

8. Take a supplement with the B vitamin biotin. Getting 2 ∏-milligrams a day of biotin thickened nails and reduced splitting, according to a study in the “Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.” You can also nourish your nails by eating a diet with plenty of zinc (found in poultry, nuts and whole grains), and iron (in beans, lean red meat and fortified cereals), says Tara Gidus, R.D., a nutritionist in Orlando, Fla.

9. Fix a chip. Use a nail buffer to smooth any dings, advises Deborah Lippmann, a celebrity manicurist. RADARONLINE recommends Creative Nail Design Boomerang Padded File – it’s $2; check creative nail design.com <http://www.creativenaildesign.com/>  for salon locations. After buffing, touch up with color, let the polish dry and add a shiny top coat – like Revlon Ultimate Top Coat, sold in drugstores for $7 — to the entire nail. It will prolong the life of your paint job, especially on your toes.

10. Avoid toluene and formaldehyde. These additives keep polish from thickening and help lacquer adhere, but they can also dry out the nail. Look for polishes that are free of both substances, such as Revlon Nail Lacquers — $7 each – and L’Oreal Pro Manicure polishes – $5 each. Both

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