A Pro Manicurist Shares Her Top Nail Rules

Her chic, fun and delicate nail art has made Saskia Fenwick one of the industry’s leading manicurists. From the products she wouldn’t be without to the common mistakes to avoid, we asked her to share her top nail rules.
By Harriet Russell /

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Nail The Shape

“I always use a thin, small teardrop shaped nail file to shape my own nails, after cutting down the length with nail clippers. Contrary to popular belief I think it’s fine to clip to get to the right length. Then, I hold my hand with palm facing me as this supports my hand as I file. I tend to stick to a ‘soft square’ shape – it’s the most popular choice among my clients, and I find it elongated the nail bed and suits most people. It’s also fairly simple and easy to achieve. I file all the nails down to the length I want, checking they’re all the same on both hands. I then swoop the file around the corners to soften the edges, taking the squared corners off, creating that soft squared look that’s so on trend right now. Keep checking the shape from different angles as you go to make sure they’re all symmetrical and even.”

Stay On Top Of The Job

“It’s so common to see people get their nails done then forget about them until their next nail appointment. It’s so important to keep up with the aftercare at home – not only will this keep your manicure looking fresher for longer, it will help your nails stay healthy and strong. Plus, I can tell you first hand your manicurist will so appreciate it! My recommendations would be to exfoliate your hands, hydrate your hands and cuticles, and try not to pick at your gels. Finally, when you’re cleaning or gardening, always wear gloves to protect your nails.”

Pay Attention To Exfoliation

“It’s really important to keep up with exfoliation to get rid of any dead or dry skin on your hands and nails – doing so in between manicures keeps your cuticles looking super fresh. My favourite exfoliator is the Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Scrub. I also hydrate my hands and cuticles every evening using Weleda Skin Food and Dior Crème Abricot. The former is a super-rich formula but doesn’t leave the skin too greasy, and it’s also really affordable. Dior Crème Abricot is a fortifying nail cream that’s known for its moisturising and nourishing properties, I see a real difference in my nail health when I use it. I consider both of these steps part of my skincare routine – that way, I make sure I do them every night and really reap the benefits.”

Find The Colours That Suit You Best

“I never go to any job or client without the classic colours in my kit: reds, nudes, black and burgundy are the core four. The only thing to note is that some reds don't suit pale skin tones. It’s key to find the right shade – a good rule of thumb is that paler skin tones work better with cooler colours like a blue toned red and darker skin tones work better with warmer colours like an orange toned red. Right now, I’m loving Bio Sculpture’s ‘French Rose’ – it’s become my go-to nude. If you can’t track it down, Essie ‘Mademoiselle’ is similar, albeit it isn’t a gel formula. My favourite red is Bio Sculpture ‘Pillar Box’ – the kind of classic that can’t be beaten! If you want to work with regular polish, try OPI ‘Big Apple Red’. Finally, I also like to have a few unusual colours on me too, such as a bright green, a couple of neon brights and a blue.”

Get To Grips With Nail Art

“To achieve beautiful nail art, the right tools are essential. You need to be able to create sharp lines and intricate detail. I always use my Upper Arch brush from Bio Sculpture and my dotting tools, no matter what design I am doing. I’m asked a lot for minimal designs on a nude manicure backdrop right now – my current favourite is a little lemon on the thumb nail. I also get lots of DMs asking about adding nail art to an existing manicure. Keeping it simple is key here – dots are a great one to do at home, as all you need is a bobby pin for a dotting tool and the design always looks effortless and chic.”

Invest In The Right Tools

Navy Professional Tools does the best tools in my opinion. I use the cuticle pushers – the Doris and the Ethel – as well as the Katey cuticle cutters and the Beryl nail clippers. I would advise people at home only to gently push back their cuticles – it’s so easy to hurt yourself with the cuticle removing tools, so most of this should be left to a professional. For removing polish, I like to use a low-content or acetone free remover, as it is gentler on the nails. I like to use the Dior Abricot Dissolvant which is full of nourishing nailcare ingredients that won’t leave them feeling dehydrated or cause peeling.”

Ignore Some Common Myths

“The key to healthy nails is quite simple really: regular manicures, not picking off your gels and not using your nails as tools to pick off labels or open parcels. A lot of people ask me about whether or not it’s necessary to take breaks between gel manicures, or what constitutes a damaged nail. The truth is, I don’t think a break is necessary as long as your gels are being applied and removed correctly and you are looking after them in between appointments. A healthy nail is a strong nail – so if yours feel brittle or weak, that’s probably a sign you need a few weeks off.”

Follow @SaskiaFenwick on Instagram.


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