I’m sure if you’re like me this time of social distancing has left your manicure a little worse for the wear. I’ve been busying myself with gardening, cleaning, decluttering, painting my home office and setting up my apothecary…all of which are wonderful things to be doing, but really hard on your hands. Thankfully, this time of year the little magical weeds growing in my yard are just what the manicurist ordered.
If you’ve got grass then you probably have a few (hundred) dandelions as well. My husband grumbles and groans as they take over our back yard but to me all I can see are little globes of sunshine filled medicine. The common dandelion is full of healing and nurturing properties. Normally in my herbal practice I go to dandelion for its powerful effects on the digestive and urinary systems. It’s also in my “Stop the Madness” menopause blend because it is an amazing support to strengthen the liver. The liver is our control center for hot flashes so this little weed is currently one of my BFF’s. As a gentle diuretic, it also helps control bloat and fluid retention without potassium loss. Mother nature knows that when you pee a lot (diuretic effect) you can deplete your stores of potassium so she just adds potassium to diuretic herbs like good Ms. Dandelion. She’s also rich in vitamins A,C,E, and B2(riboflavin), iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous which are essential for strong healthy bones. Internally dandelion works in a cooling and slightly drying way, however topically it acts in a soothing, hydrating, anti-inflammatory and analgesic way. Dandelion can be used in oil, salves, balms and creams to assist in relieving dry, cracked, chapped skin (hello-I’m washing my hands 700 times a day right now and I won’t even discuss all the hand sanitizer), easing the discomfort of stiff achy joints and soothing sore muscles. Wow! Pretty awesome for a lil weed, huh?
Now, I bet you’re wondering how you get all that goodness out of those pretty yellow flowers. It couldn’t be any easier. Go out in your yard on a dry day and snip those little golden goodies off and bring them inside. You’re gonna need enough to fill up half of a pint jar. As tempting as it is to use them fresh, they have too much water content and it will make a murky oil that will grow bacteria and spoil quickly. I like to use a cookie cooling rack to dry the blossoms for about three days. Just spread them out in a single layer and let them dry a bit (not in direct sun). At that point you put them back in your jar and fill it with enough oil to cover the flowers completely. Cap and let infuse for about four weeks. What! Four weeks is a long time when you need it right now so you can also use my express method. Take your jar, remove the lid and place in a saucepan on the stove. Fill with enough water to cover 2/3 of the jar and heat on low heat for about 3-4 hours. If you use the express method I recommend using fractionated coconut oil because the heat won’t break it down. If you’re in it for the long haul then my favorite is sweet almond oil (ahem, I’m from the solar oil generation and can’t get enough of that scent), olive oil or any other oil you have on hand.
Feel free to do a little research and add other herbs or flowers to your infusion. I had some beautiful dried calendula petals from last year so I added a big scoop to my current batch. Calendula adds more anti-irritation fighting properties, soothes and heals cuts and irritation and is great for eczema and other dry skin conditions. As soon as I can get back in my salon this infusion will be a staple treatment on my manicure table. Once you have fully infused your oil, strain it well, cap it and keep for about a year. You can use this oil as a cuticle treatment or hand moisturizer, a base for your salves or creams as well as a muscle relief balm. It’s also a great base for lotion bars which are a lot less messy for on the go.
Now, about those hands… let’s talk manicure. I love a professional manicure (even if I’m the one doing mine). It just elevates the typical “slap some polish on” to a whole different experience. Here’s what you’re gonna need for your DIY Pro-mani: Clean flie or emory board (180 grit is plenty), orangewood stick or cuticle pusher, cuticle nippers, sugar scrub, cuticle oil, hand lotion, alcohol or acetone and polish if you choose (base coat, color and top coat). If you don’t have sugar scrub, check out this month’s newsletter for a great spring recipe. In a pinch you can also mix regular table sugar with a squeeze of your favorite bath gel to do the trick.
Alright, here we go:
1. Remove any old polish, trim your nails and shape to a nice oval shape. When filing, go only in one direction. Sawing back and forth will only cause snags and peeling later.
2. Place a dot of cuticle oil (your dandelion oil will be amazing) on each cuticle and massage in. Let sit for a minute or two. I don’t like soaking the nails in water. It is absorbed into the nail plate and polish just won’t sick. If you like steam towels (who doesn’t), you can wet a hand towel, roll up and place in the microwave for 30-60 seconds and wrap each hand.This will help soften the cuticles even more. Slather on dandelion oil or a rich hand cream before you wrap up for a full on skin healing treatment.
3. Gently push back the cuticles but not too aggressively. The more often you do this (I recommend weekly), the less it will be necessary, the less you will need those nippers and that equals less hang nails.
4. If you have cuticle sticking up or hang nails, carefully use your nippers to trim them. Do Not cut off your cuticles completely. This is a natural seal for the nails to keep moisture and bacteria from getting under the skin.
5. Clean under the nails with your cuticle pusher and then use a dollop of sugar scrub to exfoliate the hands and cuticle area. Massage gently and then rinse.
6. Apply one drop of oil to each cuticle again and massage in. Apply a good hand lotion and massage in all the way up to your elbows. If you’re not using polish then this completes your manicure.
7. Optional polish application. Saturate a cotton ball or tissue in alcohol or acetone and cleanse each nail plate well. Polish will not stick if there is any oil or moisture present. Begin with a thin even coat of your base coat. Allow to dry one minute. Next, apply two thin, even coats of color allowing to dry slightly in between coats. Lastly, apply a nice smooth, even coat of quick dry top coat.
8. Now, sit still. Drink some hot tea, read a magazine, watch TV, just sit still. If you colored outside the lines, don’t worry about it right now. When your nails are completely dry (about 15-20 minutes) you can take a q-tip dipped in polish remover and clean up any mistakes.
9. After you’re all finished, I like to apply cuticle oil once more to hydrate the cuticles.
Great job! You can care for your natural nails in this same way each week, in between manicures or if you have removed your gel or acrylic nails this is a great “rehab” manicure for them. When you return to the salon your nail tech will be guaranteed to be impressed!