How To Get A “Hot Oil” Manicure Without A Trip To The Spa

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.
From mermaid nails to chrome powder, there's a different Instagram-worthy manicure to try every week. But constant filing, polishing, and rough removal methods can make nails weak, bumpy and brittle, with dry cuticles that catch on your clothes. 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 a DIY nail trend comes in: the hot oil manicure. Like the name suggests, the technique is borrowed from a spa or nail salon treatment. It employs vitamin-infused pastes, nourishing oils, waxes, and clever Japanese-inspired buffing techniques to give you your shiniest, healthiest nails, all without the use of traditional mani overlays, like acrylic powder and gel nail polish, some of which are packed with toluene formaldehyde and might not be great for your nails in the long run.

What is a "hot oil" manicure?

A quick search for the "hot oil manicure" on TikTok shows clips of people coating their nails and cuticles in a cream or balm, then putting on a pair of plastic gloves before dipping their hands in hot water to soak. But there are other ways to go about it, too.
@ashleydoesnails Your natural nails need love too! Add hot oil treatments to your self care Sundays 🤓 - balm is available at ##naturalnailscheck #naturalnailgrowth #hotoiltreatment #howtogethealthynails #damagerepair #nailcareroutine ♬ Vibes - Julius Waldeck
"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 manicurist Ama Quashie, founder of Ama Salon. "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 moisturized and supple. The end result: brilliant shine, almost like a built-in gloss, without a single coat of polish.
Of course, each treatment is different and often bespoke to the individual depending on nail needs. At London's Agua Spa at 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, wrapped in a hot towel, and left to soak in the ingredients for 20 minutes.

What are the benefits of a "hot oil" manicure?

Aside from dazzlingly shiny nails which last for weeks, Quashie 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 zapped of moisture. 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 Quashie, who also advises taking note if you're guilty of picking gels, acrylics, and polish off yourself (there are better ways to remove long-wearing polish).

How to get a "hot oil" manicure at home

Unlike other manicures, this one doesn't require expert precision when it comes to painting, because there isn't any polish involved at all. If you can't make it to the salon, it's easy to recreate the technique at home yourself. Better still, you probably already have the ingredients — like hand cream and cuticle oil — in your medicine cabinet. It's basically nail slugging: Simply use a soft buffer tool to polish a thick, heavy cream all around the nail bed and finish with a slathering of vitamin E-infused oil. At home, it's best to skip the heat — you'll still get the benefits. If you're so inclined to get the spa vibe, throw on a pair of gloves or use a warm towel. Either way, you're on your way to healthier, shinier nails.
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.

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