From jelly acrylics to tie-dye and gradient nails, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to Instagram-worthy manicure trends. But constant filing, lacquering and rough removal methods can make nails weak, bumpy and brittle, and cuticles dry and raggedy. Your manicurist might advise giving your nails a break once in a while, but there's only so much that 'letting them breathe' will actually achieve.
That's where 2019's latest nail trend comes in: the hot oil manicure. Okay, it might not sound like much, but the new, more natural way of sprucing up nails is taking over spas and salons worldwide. It employs vitamin-infused pastes, nourishing oils, waxes and clever Japanese-inspired buffing techniques to give you your shiniest, healthiest and prettiest nails yet, all without the use of traditional mani ingredients, like acrylic powder and nail polish, some of which are packed with toluene formaldehyde and aren't very nail-friendly.
A quick search for the hot oil manicure technique on Instagram throws up clips of strange-looking wax gloves, essentially petrolatum, enveloped around hands to deeply moisturise nails and cuticles, but treatments using greener ingredients are gaining popularity, too. "A hot oil manicure usually consists of submerging your fingers and nails into a bowl of heated essential oils with the exact blend of these oils tailored to your particular nail ailment," explains Ama Quashie, session manicurist. "Think of it like rehab for your nails." At Ama, hot oil treatments include a rich blend of shea butter, jojoba, organic coconut oil and vitamin E, which are warmed up and dabbed onto hands, nails and cuticles. A warm mitten is applied while the oils absorb, leaving hands, nails and cuticles moisturised and supple. But the best part is the brilliant shine, almost like an inbuilt gloss, without a single scrap of polish.
Of course, each treatment is different and often bespoke to the individual depending on nail needs. At the Agua Spa, Sea Containers, the natural, Japanese manicure method includes a precise clean and shape with a vitamin E-infused paste then massaged on to nails. The paste is buffed deep into the nail bed to smooth, fortify and to impart a natural glisten without the need for polish. To seal in the nutrients, tidy up cuticles and ensure nails stay strong, they are submerged in 100% natural oils by Dr Jackson's, wrapped in a hot towel and left to retain the ingredients for 20 minutes.
Aside from dazzlingly shiny nails which last for weeks, Ama mentions that hot oil treatments improve blood circulation in your hands and nails and encourage growth, perfect if your nails chip, flake and break past a certain length or have been sapped of moisture thanks to the cold weather. And the technique is especially useful for those whose regular gel and acrylic sessions have left their nails flimsy and dry. "The most common way gels and acrylics can damage the nails is when they aren't applied or removed properly, for example with overzealous use of electrical drills," explains Ama, who also advises taking note if you're guilty of picking gels, acrylics and polish off yourself.
Unlike other manicures, this one doesn't require expert precision when it comes to painting, because there isn't any polish involved at all. And if you can't make it to the salon, it's easy to recreate the technique at home yourself. Readily available at pharmacies, health shops and supermarkets, ingredients shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax and glycerin deeply hydrate nails and cuticles. Simply use a soft buffer tool to polish the ingredients into the nail bed and finish with a slathering of gently heated (always take caution when doing so) vitamin E-infused oil. Healthy nails all round.