1. Keep your nails trim and below the length limit using quality nail clippers, then file them into shape —go square, oval or square with rounded edges depending on the natural shape of your nail. Try an edge file that smoothes out just-cut edges and a flex file for shaping.
2. Soak nails in soapy water (mix warm water with a gentle shampoo) to soften cuticles. Dot a cuticle cream on the base of each nail, massage it in and use a cuticle stick to gently push them back. Pros at salons snip them off, but don’t try it at home—cutting cuticles with an unsteady hand risks serious pain and damage to your nails.
3. Massage hands with a lush but nonsticky hand cream, massaging the cream into your nails as you go. If you have especially dry, cracked or ridged nails, buff them with a gentle buffer and slick on nail care oil for protecting the nail bed.
4. A final trick for quick touch-ups and avoiding getting caught off-guard with dry, icky nails: stash a cuticle oil or corrector that comes in a stick in your handbag and whip it out whenever you spot flaking cuticles or stains cropping up.
5. Apply a base coat and 2 layers of polish—opt for a colour (stay away from dark shades that stain the nail) or a nude, pinky shade for that coiffed, done look—and seal it in with a shiny top coat. Alternatively, for clear, healthy-looking nails, skip the colour and go straight to the top coat.