July 22 2014

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Beauty Etiquetter: A Memorandum on Nail Filing in Public


Deborah-Lippmann-Smooth-OperatorBeauty Etiquetter addresses your beauty-protocol predicaments with candid advice from industry experts and those in the know. To submit a question, e-mail celia_ellenberg@

The Quandary: I know public nail clipping is off limits, but what’s the protocol on public nail filing?

The Expert in Residence: Deborah Lippmann, founder and creative director of Deborah Lippmann

The Advice: “When you have a chipped nail or frayed edge, you should clean it up as soon as possible, not only because of the appearance but, more importantly, you don’t want to further break or damage the nail. If you don’t address the problem, you’re at risk of worsening the nail. I’m in total agreement that clipping nails in public is inappropriate. At the same time, filing nails in public isn’t very acceptable either, so it’s important to find a solution that works best for the situation.

“I recommend going to the ladies’ room to quickly file the nail, if you can. You can also be very subtle about it if you’re in a social setting and hide your hand as you file and just file the nail enough to address the concern. You could even put your hand in your purse and file it quickly and then pull out a lipstick, if you don’t want it to be obvious that you were filing. It’s extremely important to always have a file, like my Smooth Operator, with you, because you want something very fine to address the issue. The idea isn’t to shape the nail in that moment but to file the edge until you’re in the proper setting to really fix the nail.

“To that end, biting the nail or cuticle is worse than filing in public. If you think that you will be tempted to bite the nail rather than wait to file it, I would certainly opt for pulling out a file. Resist the temptation to bite, because that will make the problem worse, whether it’s a cuticle or rough nail. It’s very common for people to try to use their teeth, so it’s important to be prepared with a gentle file to help avoid temptation. One of the most important aspects of growing nails is having all of the edges smooth.

“A great tip for something that you’re able to do in public that actually stimulates nail growth is to massage the cuticles. The actual nail forms just below the cuticle, and when you massage the cuticle, you bring blood into that area of the nail, which promotes healthier nail growth—and this is something that you can do without anyone noticing!”

Photo: Courtesy of Deborah Lippmann

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