After a small break from the beauty series to cover pressing matters, including overcoming the mid-week slump and tips for a well-stocked kitchen during Carnival and beyond, it’s time to get back to it and discuss caring for your hair and nails. (Click here for the skincare edition and here for the makeup edition in the series.) As with all beauty matters, the first step is eating nutritious food, exercising, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water, but this is especially true when it comes to hair and nails. Shiny hair and healthy fingernails are both signs of wellness and vitality. So much so, that often when we are ill or on certain medications, these are the first places to reflect our condition — just ask your hair stylist. Even if we are healthy, as we age, the appearance and texture of our hair and nails changes too. With a little care and attention however, it’s easy to keep those locks lovely and the mani-pedi looking fresh.

Mane-tinance

The simple solution to happy hair is to wash and condition it a few times per week, deep condition once per week and avoid or limit heat styling. Also, find a hairdresser whose prices allow you to visit for a cut and, or color every six to eight weeks, depending on your style and one who will educate you on the best style and hue for your face shape, skin tone and age.

Now, back to weekly maintenance. If your scalp is oily, you may need to wash daily. For those with dandruff, a special shampoo is likely in order. Do you have a dry scalp? Try washing every other day or every three days and use a dry shampoo (I like Batiste Original Dry Shampoo) to combat oil and to refresh. If like me, you are partial to using the hairdryer and often switch it up by wielding the curling iron or wand or have a soft spot for the straightening tool, be sure to use a heat protection spray or serum. However, letting your hair air-dry is the least damaging. Try it a few evenings per week. Sleep with it a bit damp and get that sexy French girl tousled look.

For those with a larger budget, opt for Oribe products, which are available in New Orleans at Maison de Cheveux. As I wrote in my editor’s notebook for the latest issue of New Orleans Bride Magazine, it’s a favorite with the Hollywood set, so when actresses are filming here in town, they hit Maison de Cheveux for the product. It protects hair from environmental damage, keeps hair silky and shiny and it has a lovely scent. When I turned 40 two years ago, my locks lost their luster. The Oribe Masque for Beautiful Color, $59, was great medicine. A quarter-sized dollop once per week revived it within a month. I’m also partial to Kérastase, which is available in New Orleans at Hair Loft By Unique and Studio E, as well as on the Kérastase website. Bargain hunters will want to try Loréal’s EverCreme, EverPure, EverSleek and EverStrong products, which are sulfate-free, but still have that satisfying lather.

It’s good to keep a favorite alternate shampoo and conditioner on hand to switch it up every few weeks for one week. This will keep your hair from getting too “used to” your regular product, which makes it less effective. Use the alternate for a week, then switch back to your regulars.  

Most importantly, pay attention to the condition of your hair and when needed, change your regime.

Nail it

Once again, it’s all about having a routine. Personally, I’ve given up on keeping my nails painted and opt for a buffed, natural nail. Each day, I moisturize my hands, apply vitamin E oil to nails and cuticles to keep them hydrated and smooth, then reapply lotion throughout the day (I keep a travel sized moisturizer in my desk at work, in the table next to my sofa and in my purse). By the way, keeping hands and cuticles moisturized is a good way to ward off infections and colds by avoiding cracked, dry skin. A few times per week, I’ll trim and file nail tips and push back my cuticles. Once or twice a week, I exfoliate my hands with a sugar scrub (mix a tablespoon or two of sugar and the same amount of olive oil or almond oil for an easy, inexpensive and natural scrub). Apply your favorite moisturizer and leave on overnight if you really want to have the softest hands in the land. Good Housekeeping lists Eucerin’s Intensive Repair Extra-Enriched Hand Crème as a top brand and I’ve been using it for several months with great results.

For those who love to primp with polish, exfoliate, trim, file, push back cuticles and moisturize, then swipe a bit of rubbing alcohol or white vinegar across nails with a cotton swab. This removes excess oil to help prevent chipping. Apply your base coat, then two coats of color and your top coat. On the rare occasion that I do paint my nails, I opt for a quick-dry top coat, because waiting for it to dry is the worst.

For pretty feet and toes, do all of the same things. My aversion to nail polish does not apply to my toes, which are always bedecked with pretty pinks, deep plums and sparkly silver hues, to name a few.

As always, experiment, ask friends, family and professionals for their recommendations and use the products that are in your budget and work best for you.

More than anything, this is about caring for yourself. Those of us with busy careers, or who are taking care of elderly and infirm family members or small children will likely wonder how on earth there is time in the day take a shower, much less apply a hair mask or primp those peeps. It’s worth it however to find the time, because when we care for ourselves, we are better able to care for others, show up and be present in life. It’s not about vanity, as much as it’s about feeling our best and staying on top of our health. If we take the time out to care for our hair and nails, we’ll notice when changes occur and we can consult our stylist and, if needed our doctor, to potentially discover and treat an illness, before it’s too late. Self-awareness and self-care are at the heart of good living. While living a good life does not begin and end with beauty, it is a marvelous side effect, no?