You probably already own the secret to great nails! Allure reveals which household product doubles as your new favorite beauty tool.
Let me cut to the chase: My nails suck. Worse than Karen Smith's in Mean Girls. I have tiny, pudgy fingers; infant-size nails freckled with small white scuffs; cracked cuticles; and at least a couple of nicks or hangnails at any given time because, well, I cannot resist the urge to pick. I'm essentially the opposite of a hand model. I have slathered, soaked, and rubbed dozens of nail care treatments all over my digits to help treat the laundry list above, but it wasn't until someone rubbed a gritty white paste over my hands at an Arm & Hammer event that I found my miracle nail transformer. Turns out, the magical stuff was nothing more than baking soda. Yup, that bright orange box in your pantry might actually be the greatest nail-prep product I have ever tried. Here's how to incorporate it into your next manicure or pedicure.
Nail smoother. Ever since my first gel manicure, the once-smooth surfaces of my nails have had tiny indents and ridges that make a smooth, glossy manicure a real challenge. Turns out the solution is some mild scrubbing. "Combine three parts baking soda and one part water to create a gentle yet effective scrub to buff and exfoliate nails," says Julie Kandalec, the creative director at Paintbox in New York City. "Rub gently in circular motions over hands and fingers to seriously smooth the nail surface."
Cuticle exfoliator. Since learning that cutting your cuticles is a nail sin (you're basically creating open cuts on your fingers), I've settled for pushing them back. But with tiny nails like mine, there isn't much room to work with. I scrubbed my dry cracked cuticles with an exfoliating paste of equal parts baking soda and water, and the dead skin cells surrounding my nails disappeared — no nipping required.
Stain remover. Think of this as your recipe for Tide to Go, fingernail edition. Mix equal parts baking soda and water to create a gritty scrub and apply it directly to your nails. Using your fingers, massage each nail individually, rubbing the concoction in circular motions over every nail and paying extra attention to stains. Rinse with warm water and the marks will wash away.
Foot care. If you have any rough patches on your feet (i.e., if you're human) "blend two tablespoons of baking soda in a basin of warm water to create a soothing foot soak," says Kandalec. "Then follow with a baking-soda scrub (three parts baking soda, one part water) to smooth and exfoliate calloused areas." The results are baby-soft feet with smooth, buffed nails, ready for painting.