How To Nail It: Plus The Do’s And Don’ts

Jan 16, 2015 1 Min Read

Personal grooming is about presenting yourself in the best possible way. It tells people what you think of yourself.

Self-grooming is not about vanity. In fact, proper grooming takes the “spotlight” away from yourself.

With proper grooming, no one’s going to focus on, “Gosh, she looks so pale and untidy”, or “Did you see those dirty fingernails?”

Personal grooming for nails means they should always be clean and shaped. Ideally, nails should be polished or buffed, or coated with a clear protective coat.

Whether nails should be long or short, it really depends on your lifestyle and profession. Dirty fingernails are a rude shock, not to mention their harm to health. Not forgetting your toenails too.

Like a great new haircut, healthy and well-manicured nails are an integral part of a neat appearance – one that can work as an asset in both the social and business world.

Nail grooming: the professional way

In the business world, there is a wealth of information available on traditional business dress, but very little on how to dress both casually and professionally.

Likewise when it comes to nail grooming, there is no proper guidance as to what is professionally and socially accepted.

Hands and fingernails are noticed by others and contribute to one’s professional image. No matter the industry or position, fingernails must be cared for on a regular basis, either by the individual or a nail care professional.

In general, men’s nails should be short, clean, and filed smooth with no ragged cuticles. Women’s cuticles should be smooth and nails should match in length – if they choose to wear nail polish, it must be maintained or removed as soon as it chips.

In conservative industries, women’s nails usually extend no longer than about 1/4” beyond the fingertip. Colours can be light or dark in the traditional shades of pink, red, rose, peach, and coral.

Avoid trendy colours at work, as well as artistic designs and appliqués. A pedicure is a plus for any professional woman who wishes to wear sandals or open-toe shoes to the office, especially if she frequently deals with customers and clients.

In more informal or liberal industries, longer lengths are usually acceptable along with trendy colours, designs, and appliqués.

The rule of thumb is: the more you deal with a client’s money, future or family, the more conservative a role you should present.

Nails by industry segmentation

Industries such as finance, law, accounting, health care and insurance should project a conservative and professional image to the public.

For more flexible industries such as information technology, real estate, travel, manufacturing, publishing and education, one can present a more casual business image on a daily basis.

In the creative industries such as advertising, public relations and entertainment, one can choose nail design that reflect the latest trends.

This may be a blend of traditional with business casual, but should always have a fashion-forward look.

The do’s and don’ts of nail care

Keeping your fingernails looking their best doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does require some regular care. Cuticles should be moisturised and groomed, and nails should be properly trimmed, filed and protected.
Just follow these simple tips to enjoy healthy and beautiful nails (See table below).

Nail care

Colours for the workplace

Picking a nail polish colour that is appropriate for the office can get a little tricky.

As colour trends vary, the goal is to choose a colour that will enhance your personality while still appearing professional.

The fact is most colours can appear professional as long as you choose the right shades.

Therefore, always aim for the darker side of the colour spectrum such as deep red, rosy pink, emerald green and navy blue. These colours are warmer than their bright counterparts and are more appropriate for work.

Bright colours such as yellow, fiery red, aqua green or other neon colours are not recommended for work as they can be very distracting for you and your co-workers.

There are occasions when just one solid colour is not enough.

Here are some options to “spice” things up without losing the professionalism:

  • French tipWhen the tip of your nails are painted a different colour from the base. With this option, a bolder colour can be used for the tips because they will occupy a smaller portion of the nail.
    This significantly lessens the ‘shocking’ effect of bright colours. You can even get away with applying sparkle or shimmer to the tips.
  • CrackleThe “crackle” trend is becoming very popular. This is when one base colour is applied and the second colour is meant to go unevenly, causing the nails to look “crackled”.
  • Nail art
    Nail art is acceptable in the workplace as long as the design is appropriate.Many nail salons offer these creative designs. Just remember to stay with the colour rule.

Nail care for men

At first glance, nail care for men could be a touchy topic because for most men, nail care starts and ends with the occasional cutting of the nails when they grow too long.

Besides, in some social circles, men who take care of their appearances, particularly their nails and skin, are regarded as being “unmanly”.

If cooking can be regarded as a survival skill, then men who groom their nails can be regarded as possessing good basic personal hygiene.

It is important to understand why proper nail grooming is important for men to maintain a decent level of personal hygiene.

Most men prefer clear nail polish because it is transparent.

Similarly there is an alternative called “buff-to-shine” treatment that could last for two weeks for those who are not comfortable with the idea of applying colorless nail polish.

Men may also want to use hand lotion to help their nails stay healthy and strong.

Magdalene Siaw is a certified BrandImage professional with BrandImage International Institute. Send us your feedback at or in the comment box provided.


Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 17 January 2015

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