Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals

Audiobooks are a wonderful complement to print, Kindle and other reading formats. Listening to a novel or non-fiction book while driving, walking, riding or waiting for public transit, traveling, sitting in waiting rooms, crafting, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or doing laundry or yard work can make these activities much more enjoyable. A talented narrator can significantly enhance the experience of consuming a good book. Jim Dale’s Grammy award-winning narration of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a perfect example. Unfortunately, production costs are higher than for print and digital books, which makes audiobooks more expensive to purchase.

This review will introduce my fellow bibliophiles to Chirp, a wonderful service that offers a changing selection of awesome, affordable, limited-time audiobook deals without the financial commitment of a monthly or annual membership fee that Audible requires.

Best-Selling Audiobooks for Less Than $5 - chirpbooks.com screenshot

Audiobooks Continue to Grow in Popularity

2020 was the ninth straight year of double-digit revenue growth for audiobook publishers, jumping 12% vs. 2019 revenues to reach $1.3 billion, according to this year’s sales survey conducted by research firm InterQ for the Audio Publishers Association (APA). More than 71,000 audiobooks were published in 2020, a 39% increase versus 2019, per the APA’s consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners conducted by Edison Research. [Source: Audio Publishers Association press release, June 1, 2021]

This rapidly growing trend toward publishing titles in audiobook editions as well as print and e-book formats is wonderful news to the many avid readers (including myself) who love listening to books as well as reading them. 

The quality of the narrators and their performances has improved dramatically in recent years. More and more books are being narrated by award-winning stage and film actors. Depending on their contracts, narrators may be paid at an hourly rate per “finished hour” of audio, and/or may earn royalties based on sales. A sound engineer, producer, or other people may be required, and production and editing costs are much higher than for other publishing formats. Consequently, audiobooks are priced higher than their print or e-book counterparts.

Buying vs. Borrowing Audio Books

Because of their higher price tag, many of us download at least some of the recorded books we want to read the public library. Unfortunately, most libraries can’t afford to make a wide selection of audiobooks available to their borrowers, and the very long waiting lists for popular titles can be quite frustrating. As a result, many of us who love listening to them purchase at least some audio books rather than borrowing them from the library. In fact, 38% of audiobook listeners who responded to the above-mentioned APA consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners indicated that they subscribe to at least one audio book service, such as Audible or Chirp.

Audible dominates the audiobook services market to the point where the Audible name is synonymous with this book format. As an Amazon company, no would-be rival can hope to compete with its enormous library, financial backing, in-house production studio, author and publisher relationships, and marketing and technology resources.

I have been an Audible member since 2006 and remain a huge fan and loyal customer. I appreciate the many major improvements, such as Whispersync for Voice technology (which allows you to switch seamlessly between listening to a book on Audible and reading it on a Kindle or Kindle app) and the excellent, exclusive content produced by Audible Studios. However, the steep increases in the cost of membership and the changes to their membership plan model in recent years has made it less affordable.

Over the years, I looked into several less expensive sources for audio books that others had recommended, but the limited selection and desirability of the titles on offer, the number of abridged versus unabridged books and, in some cases, the quality of the narrations (some of which were machine-generated) was always disappointing. After being an Audible member for so many years, the bar for a good audiobook acquisition and listening experience was set high, and nothing else I found came close to measuring up. I gave up on finding a less expensive Audible alternative for my own needs. 

However, Chirp, a competing service that offers amazing limited-time deals on popular audiobook titles at incredibly low prices, has turned out to be a fantastic complement to my Audible membership. And for less hardcore audiobook listeners who haven't built up a library of audiobooks in Audible's proprietary format over the past 15 years, Chirp might be a viable and much less expensive alternative. 

Chirp Audiobook Deals Make Listening to Books Affordable

Last year, as I bemoaned how much money I was spending on my growing Audible library, a close friend and fellow avid reader told me about Chirp, where he frequently found titles that interested him at a fraction of list price. Given my previous experience with lower-cost audiobook sources, I was somewhat skeptical about how good this Audible alternative could be. But, based on my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I went online to learn more about it.

I found several articles about Chirp that concurred with my friend’s opinion about this new-to-me site and book listening app. The more I read about the company and its audiobook deals, the more interested I became.

I went to the Chirp website and browsed their limited-time audiobook deals. If the selection of steeply discounted books didn’t interest me or had lots of negative reviews, they wouldn’t be a bargain at any price. To my surprise, that day’s featured deals included a few bestselling fiction and non-fiction titles priced at less than $5 each! I returned to check out the update crop of deals several times over the following week or two and was impressed by quality of the books across a wide range of genres being offered for just a few dollars apiece.

I signed up for the Chirp featured audiobook deals emails in October 2020 and have added quite a few new titles to my recorded books library since then. I still maintain my Audible membership for its enormous catalog, and because I own so many audiobooks in Audible’s proprietary format that I don’t want to lose access to. But, thanks to Chirp’s limited-time deals and notification emails, I’ve also discovered several new authors and series without paying a small fortune.

Here are the things I love most about using Chirp.

Find Fabulous Deals on Popular Audiobooks

Every day, you’ll find a good selection of limited-time Chirp Featured Deals that sell for a fraction of their list prices, with discounts up to 95% off!

At the time of publication, for example, there were 381 featured deals from $0.99 to $6.99, with the vast majority priced between $1.99 and $4.99, from popular authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich, Jane Austen, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Robert Heinlein, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, David Sedaris, Jeffrey Archer, John Steinbeck, Stephanie Laurens and Robert Frost.

Chirp screenshot - audiobook Featured Deals

No Membership Fees, No Minimum Purchase

With Chirp, there is no ongoing financial commitment. Unlike Audible, whose listening plans are based on monthly or annual subscription fees, Chirp lets you buy as few or as many books as you want, as seldom or as often as you want. Never Miss a Great Audiobook Bargain You can sign up for Chirp’s daily or weekly featured deals notification emails to make sure you don’t miss a great deal. Or, if you prefer, you can opt out of the emails and visit the site whenever you wish to check out the bargains on offer that day.

A Low Cost Way to Try Audiobooks

If you're curious about audiobooks and want to give them a try, Chirp is a great way to start building a listening library without spending a lot of money.

Listen When You Want, the Way You Want

You can use the Chirp app on your iOS or Android phone or tablet, stream audiobooks from your Chirp library in a web browser on a laptop or other device, and even listen to your Chirp audiobooks on your Alexa-enabled devices after you enable the Chirp skill on the device and link your Chirp account.

Buy Once, Listen Again and Again

All books you purchase are yours to keep, so you can revisit your favorites even years later.

A Perfect Complement to Other Audiobook Sources

Whether you’re borrowing audiobooks from the library or buying them on Amazon or Audible, Chirp’s limited-time deals can help you listen to more of the books you want while saving you money.

A More Flexible Alternative to Audible, With A Smaller Catalog

In addition to the deeply discounted, limited-time deals, Chirp also sells many other audiobook titles at what they call "everyday value" pricing. Although you won’t find the vast selection of titles that Audible offers, there are still plenty of books to choose from. So, if you’re new to audiobooks or listen to them less frequently, Chirp can be a viable and far less expensive alternative to an Audible subscription plan.

Discover Great Reads With Book List Recommendations

The Chirp website has a well organized Book Lists section with smart, well written recommendations to help you discover titles you might not have known about otherwise.

Chirp website screenshot - top of Book Lists page

Books for Adults, Books for Kids

While the majority of titles on Chirp are for an adult audience, you'll also find plenty of books for kids, as well as some excellent recommendations in the "For the Kids" section of Chirp's Book Lists.

Screenshot of Chirp's recommended book lists for kids

Get 20% Off Your First Audiobook Purchase on Chirp

If you use my Chirp referral link, you'll get 20% off your first audiobook purchase (and I’ll also get 20% off my next purchase). It’s a win-win!

Explore today's limited-time audiobook deals on Chirp and save 20% on your first order!

Do you have other favorite sources for buying or borrowing audiobooks? If so, please share them below in the comments. 



Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals product review by Margaret Schindel

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This Easy $3 Hack Prolongs Your Charging Cables' Life

Apple Lightning cables, Thunderbolt cables, and several types of USB cables remain in widespread use, despite the prevalence of Bluetooth wireless technology. You probably own multiple chargers and other types of cables to power, recharge and connect your mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets, e-readers, laptop or desktop computers, wired printers and other electronic equipment and peripherals, whether or not they are Bluetooth-enabled.

If you are frustrated by how often even expensive, top-rated phone chargers and other charging cords and cables need to be repaired or replaced, you’ll appreciate this quick, easy and inexpensive DIY hack that will strengthen and significantly prolong the life of your charging cables and data transfer cables. I’ll show you how to reinforce and extend the manufacturer’s built-in strain relief for the connectors on the ends of these cords with a small, single-use pack of Sugru moldable rubber glue and a few minutes of your time.

There's no way to predict exactly how much longer yours will last with this hack, since there are quite a few possible variables at play. However, I can say that, as someone who tends to be pretty hard on iPhone charging cables, USB cables and other cords for my various electronics and digital devices, using Sugru to strengthen my new cables before I start using them has roughly doubled the useful life of several of mine.

Apple Lightning to USB iPhone charging cables before and after reinforcing the strain relief with Sugru moldable rubber glue
It took only a few minutes and less than $3 worth of Sugru moldable rubber "glue" to reinforce and extend the strain release on this new Anker Powerline+ III Apple Lightning to USB-A charging cable.

How Many Types of Charging Cables Do You Use?

USB cables are ubiquitous home, office and mobile device staples. In addition to charging most of our electronic devices, these cords are also used to transfer files and photos from a digital camera or mobile phone to a desktop, laptop or tablet, send documents, images and other data to a regular, multifunction or 3D printer, electronic cutting machine or other device with a USB port, and to sync files, photos and other data among digital devices, either instead or as an alternative to using Bluetooth or other wireless technology options.

Most households own multiple mobile phones, tablets, computers, printers and other digital devices that require different types of USB charging cables and cords for data transfer. For example, I use both USB-A to Apple Lightning cables and USB-C to Apple Lightening cables to charge my iPhone or transfer data from my iPhone to my Windows laptop and a USB-A to USB-C cable to charge my Fire HD 10 tablet, while my husband’s old Samsung Galaxy S5 Android phone uses a Micro USB Type B to USB-A charging cable. 

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

High-quality charging cables usually have more substantial, durable and usually molded integral strain relief than cheap ones. However, even on better quality USB charging cords from top brands such as Anker, if care isn’t taken to avoid undue tension or torsion at the connector ends, the strain relief may not be sufficient to prevent a wire in a shielded cable from breaking or stop the insulation, shield and jacket layers that surround those wires from splitting, fraying or separating from the connectors.

Using Sugru moldable glue to repair charging cords when the outer layers fray or split has long been a popular hack. While encasing the cable ends and connectors with this durable, air-cured rubber putty can sometimes extend the lifespan of a cable with relatively minor surface damage, such as a frayed cord or a small tear in the insulation, it can’t fix one that has stopped working because of a loose or broken wire. So, instead of waiting until one of these issues develops and having to attempt a DIY repair or pay a repair service more money to fix the broken cord or charger than it would cost to buy a new one, I highly recommend taking a more proactive approach by using Sugru to reinforce the strain relief the manufacturer has added to a new cable as soon as you remove it from the packaging. It's simple, inexpensive precaution that can significantly extend or even double a laptop, tablet or phone charger's useful life.

At the time of this post’s publication, you can order a 3-pack of Sugru moldable glue on Amazon for $7.99 with free shipping for Amazon Prime members. That equates to $2.66 for each single-use pack, which contains the perfect amount of Sugru for this quick and easy DIY project. So, for less than $3 each, you can beef up the strain relief to prolong the life of your new or lightly used charging cables. 

Since there are so many ingenious and useful Sugru hacks that use this strong, adhesive, self-hardening rubber putty, you may want to order the more economical Sugru moldable multi-use glue 8-pack, available on Amazon for $16.99 with free Prime shipping as write this, which brings down the cost of each pack to just $2.12 per (or even less with the current $3 off coupon).

Another consideration: One single-use pack of Sugru is enough to reinforce two cord ends. I prefer to reinforce both ends of my charging cables, so I use one pack for each cable. However, many people reinforce only one end of each cord, and if that's your preference, you can strengthen the strain relief on two chargers with each single-use pack, 

Note: If you aren’t a Prime member already, I highly recommend taking advantage of the Amazon Prime 30-day free trial. You can take a month to explore and enjoy the wide range of valuable benefits of being an Amazon Prime member—plenty of time to decide whether or not the annual membership fee would be worth it for you and your family.

Sugru: Use It or Lose It

Sugru begins to cure and morph from a soft putty to a hard rubber as soon as it is exposed to air. So, the minute you tear open one of the foil pouches, the clock starts ticking. According to the manufacturer's website, "Once you open your single-use pack, the moisture in the air will trigger the setting process giving you 30 minutes to fix, bond and create before Sugru begins to harden." So, it's important to work quickly so you will have enough time to complete and refine your project within that 30-minute window. [Source]

Since the company has not found yet found a way to extend Sugru's working time once it is exposed to air, make sure you have everything set out and ready to go before you open that airtight, sealed foil pouch. And, if you only need part of the packet's contents for your project—for example, if you only want to reinforce one end of a charging cable—try to plan another project (or two) to use up the remainder of the Sugru during that 30-minute "open time" so none of it goes to waste. 

Even unopened Sugru has a limited shelf life and an expiration date that is marked on the packaging. However, the good news is that Sugru was reformulated last fall and one of the new formula's improvements is that you can increase the product's shelf life as much as three times by storing the single-use pouches in the refrigerator from the time you bring them home until you're ready to use them.

How to Strengthen Your Charging Cables to Prolong Their Useful Life

Follow these simple, step-by-step instructions for reinforcing and extending the manufacturer's existing strain relief collar or band with this easy $3 charging cable Sugru hack.

What You'll Need

Note: Teflon is one of the few materials that Sugru won't stick to before it cures. Even if you prefer not to cook or bake with it, this nonstick sheet can be extremely useful for crafting and DIY projects. Unfortunately, I couldn't find mine recently when I was photographing this DIY tutorial, so I tried substituting a sheet of wax paper to protect the cutting board I used as my portable work surface. The Sugru glue did stick to the wax paper somewhat, so I don't recommend it. If you don't have (or don't want to buy) a piece of nonstick sheet for crafting and DIY, I suggest trying plastic wrap aka cling film, which might work better.

Materials and supplies needed: charging cable, Sugru moldable glue, optional container of soapy water

Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace With Everything You Will Need Before You Open the Pack of Sugru.

The second the Sugru inside a sealed foil pouch is exposed to air, the clock starts ticking on the 30-minute window of working time before the rubber putty starts to cure. So, it's a good idea to get as much set up as you can to maximize that limited window of opportunity, before the countdown begins.

  • Clear off a flat workspace and cover it with the nonstick sheet.
  • Remove the charging cord (or cords) from its packaging, loosen the hook-and-loop fastener cable tie just enough to pull out the connector end(s) you will be reinforcing for easy access, then re-tighten the cable tie.
  • Fill a small container with lukewarm soapy water, if using.
  • Set a countdown timer or app for 30 minutes, or put your watch. clock, or mobile phone clock where you can see them.
  • Pull out a single-use pack of Sugru moldable glue in the color of your choice, which can match, complement or contrast with the color of the charging cord.
    • For this tutorial, I chose a pack of black Sugru to make it easy to distinguish between the original strain relief collar band of the red Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB-A charging cable and the new, longer and thicker Sugru molded rubber reinforcement I added.

When everything is set up and ready to go, start the countdown timer (or make note of the time) and cut or tear open the sealed foil pouch of Sugru. It's show time!

Step 2: Remove the Sugru and Divide It in Half.

Lightly roll each half into a ball and then into a log or sausage shape long enough to cover and extend past the charging cable's strain relief collar or band, as shown. 

Step 3: Taper, Flatten, Wrap and Shape a Sugru Log Around One End of the Charging Cord.

Taper one of the Sugru logs slightly, then gently flatten it with your fingertips until it's just wide enough to wrap around one end of the cable. Align the wider end of the tapered, flattened Sugru log so it overlaps the bottom edge of the connector or plug cover slightly. Then, wrap the edges of the Sugru around the cord, lightly pressing and stroking the soft rubber putty so it conforms smoothly, evenly and snugly and tapers gradually as it extends past the strain relief band and onto the outer cord covering.

When you are happy with the shape of your molded rubber strain relief reinforcement, stroke the surface lightly with a fingertip to smooth out any bumps, seams or uneven edges. 

Red Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB A Charging/Sync Cable strengthened with black Sugru moldable rubber glue DIY strain relief reinforcements

If you want to further refine the appearance of your Sugru-enhanced cable strain relief, you can dip your finger into some soapy water for the final smoothing, which will allow your fingertip to glide over the surface of the soft, sticky Sugru rubber to smooth away any fingerprints, lumps, bumps, or unevenness. 

You can see how much smoother and more refined the black Sugru wraps are on this Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB-A iPhone charging cable compared to the slightly lumpier, less evenly shaped red Sugru wraps on the Amazon Basics Nylon USB-A to Lightning Cable Cord, MFi Certified Charger for Apple iPhone in the next photo, which I formed without the benefit of any soapy water lubricant. The red Sugru strain relief hack looks fine, too, just a bit less "finished." 

Red Amazon Basics USB-A to Lightning Cable Apple iPhone Charger, with ends and connectors reinforced with rubber Sugru moldable glue

Just make sure to keep and eye on the countdown clock, so you can leave enough time to reinforce, shape and smooth the other end of the charging cord (or a second charging cable) before the Sugru starts to cure and becomes harder to form and refine.

Step 4: Repeat With the Remaining Sugru.

Repeat step 3, using the second log of Sugru to reinforce the other end of the same cable or another charging cord.

Tip: If you are reinforcing both ends of the same cord, be careful not to let the first newly-reinforced cord end bump into anything accidentally while you are working on strengthening the strain relief on the other end, since the Sugru will still be soft and easily marred. One big advantage of working on a PTFE/Teflon sheet is that you can lay the first Sugru-covered end flat on the nonstick sheet, where it can remain undisturbed (if you're careful not to jostle it) as you form the remaining rubber putty around the other end of the cable.

Step 5: Allow the Sugru Rubber-Reinforced Charging Cable(s) to Cure, Undisturbed, For 12 to 24 Hours.

If you can arrange the cord(s) so that the reinforced ends lay flat against the nonstick sheet-covered work surface, that's probably the easiest option.

Alternatively, you may be able to hang the cable over a wall hook, shower curtain rod, towel rack, or even a doorknob, as I did, as long as the still-soft Sugru cord ends don't touch anything, including each other until the next day. 

By the following day, the moldable rubber will be fully cured, providing much more robust cord strain relief and helping to prolong the lifespan of the many types of phone chargers and other charging cables that power and connect the devices you rely on for information, education, communication, entertainment, work and play.


This Easy $3 Hack Prolongs Your Charging Cables' Life by Margaret Schindel


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Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Best Advice to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss

 Losing weight is a piece of cake (so to speak) compared to keeping those pounds from coming back. If you are following a mostly clean ketogenic weight loss diet for an extended period, figuring out how to maintain your successes after you reach your target weight can be even more challenging.

This time last year, after celebrating the one-year anniversary of the start of my successful keto diet weight loss journey, I shared my best advice for preparing to succeed on a keto diet

Last week marked my second keto-versary, In honor of this important milestone in my transformational journey toward better health and wellbeing, I am sharing what I’ve learned during the past year about how to maintain the significant weight loss I achieved on a ketogenic diet.

image collage of woman at different weights between 2017 and 2020

The Best Tips to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss Success

In part one of my post about preparing to succeed on a keto diet, I shared my belief that there is no “one-size-fits-all” ketogenic weight loss diet that is optimal for everyone, that dirty, lazy and strict keto are not your only options, and that designing a personalized approach to this way of eating that best fits your unique needs, lifestyle, and priorities can improve your chances of success. Based on my own experience so far, I think it’s just as important to design a personalized plan to maintain your keto diet journey wins after you reach your target weight.

For the past 12 months or so, I have been working on and refining my long-term strategy to maintain not only my new, healthy weight but also the other profoundly positive changes that resulted from my switch to a mostly clean ketogenic diet. Although I will likely continue to experiment, evaluate and make further tweaks over time, I have gradually figured out a viable “new normal” that is meeting my needs, for now. 

The best advice I can share is to learn as much as you can from people who have transitioned from a keto weight loss diet to a healthy, sustainable maintenance diet and kept those pounds from coming back. Use whatever aspects resonate with you to help you design your own personalized plan, tailored to your needs, priorities, and preferences.

To help you get started, here are the seven strategies that have helped me maintain my nearly 60-pound weight loss so far. 

3 side-by-side photos of same woman before and after losing weight and keeping it off with a ketogenic diet

Make Small, Incremental Changes to Your Diet at a Time

Increase your carbs and calories very slowly, then wait at least a week or two to see how your body responds before deciding whether, what, and how much to change next. You also may want to try gradually decreasing your fat intake somewhat and evaluating the effects. I increased my carbs by 5 grams and added 50 calories every three weeks,  very small changes to my calories and macros roughly every 3 weeks so my metabolism would adapt to each minor change without overreacting to a perceived food surplus or famine. 

Use Most of Those Extra Carbs and Calories to Add Nutrients and Fiber

It’s okay to reserve some of your extra maintenance carbs and calories for a keto-friendly cheddar cheese and chive biscuit or a square or two from a healthy, sugar-free The Good Chocolate bar, but try to invest most of your carb and calorie “raise” into a broader range or slightly larger portions of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods, such as berries and root vegetables, especially if you plan to continue with a modified keto or low carb diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. You can also try introducing small amounts of high-fiber beans and legumes and see how they affect your blood sugar, insulin, energy level, mood, and mental clarity. 

Pay Attention to How Your Body Responds 

If you have (or had) a lot of weight to lose, start experimenting with very small, gradual increases to your calories and carbs when you are within three pounds of your target weight, even though it means waiting a bit longer to reach your “magic number” on the scale. Finding your personal nutritional “sweet spot” to maintain your new, healthier weight will require navigating uncharted territory. Switching your focus from losing those last few pounds to figuring out how to keep them off for good will give you a good head-start on testing the effects of those dietary changes and fine-tuning them by the time you  reach your weight loss goal. 

Don’t Revert to Your Former Bad Habits

To paraphrase Henry Ford, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. So, if you go back to eating the things that caused you to put on weight and made it hard to lose—especially sugars, refined starches and highly processed foods—you will soon put back any pounds you dropped on keto, and probably a few more, too boot. 

Keto cookbooks and baking books

Build On Your New, Healthy Lifestyle Habits

If you have been following a "dirty keto" approach, consider eating fewer highly processed foods and buying healthier, fresh, whole, or minimally processed foods, such as organic fresh berries and vegetables and grass-fed (and, ideally, grass-finished) beef and dairy products.

If you your meals have relied heavily on fast food restaurant chains or packaged foods, try cooking more of your meals and eating out less to help you control the quality and quantity and enhance the flavor and nutrition of the foods you consume. (You will probably also save some money in the process.) To expand your repertoire of quick and easy, delicious and nutritious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, I highly recommend Carolyn Ketchum's cookbook The Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen: With More than 150 Inspirational Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes to Maximize Your HealthMaya Krampf's The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes. 10 Ingredients or Less, Kyndra Holley's Craveable Keto: Your Low-Carb, High-Fat Roadmap to Weight Loss and Wellness, Natasha Newton's Southern Keto: 100+ Traditional Food Favorites for a Low-Carb Lifestyle, and Maria Emmerich's Keto Restaurant Favorites: More Than 175 Tasty Classic Recipes Made Fast, Fresh, and Healthy

If you miss traditional baked goods and have been disappointed by the keto recipes or packaged versions you've tried, invest in a couple of cookbooks with reliable recipes from a keto baking expert, such as Ketchum's The Ultimate Guide to Keto Baking: Master All the Best Tricks for Low-Carb Baking Success or Hilda Solares' Essential Keto Bread: Sweet and Savory Baked Goods to Satisfy Any Craving.

If you haven't been getting much exercise, look for ways to build a more active lifestyle.

Bagged piles of women's clothing to donate or sell

Get Rid of Clothes That No Longer Fit You 

Don’t sabotage yourself by holding onto this safety net in case you gain back the weight you worked so hard to lose. Try on every piece of clothing you own and sort it into the appropriate pile: throw away, give away, donate, sell, or bring to a tailor to be altered to fit your new size, depending on the style and how much would need to be taken in. If you’re having trouble letting go of some favorite pieces that would require too much alteration, think about how much good you will do by donating them to someone in need.

Digital body weight scale and tape measure

Keep Paying Attention (for the Rest of Your Life)

Body weight can fluctuate frequently for many different reasons, so stepping on the scale too often when you’re on a reducing diet can be frustrating, demotivating and even misleading. However, once you are close to your goal, more frequent weigh-ins can provide important feedback as you experiment with and fine-tune changes to your diet to develop a successful eating plan to maintain your target weight. 

Even after you have developed a maintenance diet framework that appears to work for you, it’s important to weigh yourself consistently, at the same time of day, at least twice a month. This is even more important if you stop tracking your calories and macros with nutrition tracker app such as Carb Manager after you reach your desired weight. 

The longer it has been since you reached your weight loss goal, the more likely it is that you will start taking your ability to maintain that weight for granted. I learned this the hard way after Carb Manager’s initial poorly implemented redesign of this popular keto and low carb diet tracking app early this year forced me to stop using it for several months. Recording and tracking everything I ate or drank against my daily calorie limit and macros in the Carb Manager app had been one of the keys to achieving my target weight and maintaining it for the next eight or nine months. So, when the initial launch of the redesigned app made it too time consuming and frustrating to keep using, I was nervous about losing the main tool I had come to rely on to help me keep my weight and my healthy eating on track. But it didn’t take long to become confident in my ability to maintain my weight without tracking every bit and sip. Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that my tummy wasn’t as flat as it had been a year ago, and the scale informed me that I had gained back four pounds. I realized it was time to start learning to use the new version of Carb Manager and get back to tracking my calories and macros. I have already shed two of those four pounds and returned to weighing myself every two weeks, so that if my weight creeps up a pound or two, I can nip that trend in the bud and return to my ideal weight quickly and easily, simply by cutting back on the carbs for a week or two.


The Best Advice to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss by Margaret Schindel


Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

The Best Advice to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss

The Best Low Carb Keto Cinnamon Muffins

The Good Chocolate 100% Organic No Sugar Dark Chocolate Review

Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix and Yeast Bread Recipe

The Best Low Carb Keto Gift Ideas: Keto Gift Guide

The Ultimate Keto Hot Chocolate Recipe

Keto Cheddar Cheese Biscuits With Chives Recipe

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

My First Year on The Keto Diet


Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

14 Secrets to Growing Strong, Healthy, Beautiful Nails

Weak, fragile, ridged, peeling, flaking or splitting nails are unsightly, embarrassing and sometimes painful. The same is true of cracked, ragged, torn, chewed, or puffy cuticles. I know this because I spent much of my adult life feeling self-conscious about my visibly damaged nails and dry cuticles, and searching for effective ways to improve their length, strength, and appearance. I described the extent of that damage, as well as the remarkable results I have been able to achieve so far, in my recent review and recommendations for choosing the best manicure (and pedicure) tools

In today’s post, I am sharing the things I have done to dramatically improve the strength, flexibility, and appearance of my damaged fingernails and toenails.


Before I reveal these 14 secrets to growing strong, healthy, beautiful nails, I will offer three important considerations to provide context for these proven strategies.

  • The nail plate—the visible, hard surface to which nail polish is applied—is hardened, flattened, compressed layers of dead keratin protein cells. (That's why it doesn't hurt or bleed when you clip or cut the free edge, unless you accidentally trim too close to the quick.) 
  • The only living tissue is the deeper layer (dermis) of the skin beneath the nail plate (aka the nail bed) and the fold of skin cells at the base of the natural nail plate (aka the nail fold) that produce the cuticle.
  • So, the best way to achieve lasting improvements to the strength, flexibility and appearance of damaged nails is to focus on nourishing and protecting the nail bed and nail fold, keeping the cuticle and surrounding skin moisturized, and protecting the nail plate as much as possible from absorbing excess water. 

Tip: The Nail (anatomy) Wikipedia page provides a helpful, high-level overview of the nails' structure and parts, function and clinical significance. 

1. Protect and heal your cuticles, so they can protect you.

Picking at, biting or cutting your cuticles can open the door to bacteria or fungi, causing an infection that not only will make your cuticles look worse, but also can lead to permanent nail bed damage. Dana Stern, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who specializes in nail health, explained in a Q&A for Nails magazine, “Cuticles serve as the nail’s natural protective seal. They are next to the most important part of the nail—the nail matrix—and protect the matrix from bacteria and infection. Any trauma to the cuticle area (cutting, biting, picking) can affect the matrix and ultimately lead to irregularities in the nail. Instead, push cuticles back gently and use a cuticle oil or cuticle cream to keep them hydrated and healthy.”

If you have a hangnail, don't pull, tear or bite the off. Remove it right after showering or shampooing, when the dead skin has been softened. If it is next to the side of the nail, file it off with a glass file. If it is at the bottom or corner, use a sterilized cuticle nipper to carefully nip off just the base of the loose, dead skin. Avoid nipping any live tissue. Then use a glass nail file to smooth the clipped root so it doesn't catch or snag on fabrics, etc., and you aren't tempted to pick at or pull on it. I recently discovered that using a Germanikure glass cuticle pusher, which I can hold in a “pencil grip,” gives me much better control when I am smoothing hangnails or calluses.

2. Moisturize your cuticles and nail bed.

The nail bed is the living tissue directly under the nail plate, which extends beyond the cuticle. A well moisturized nail bed is one of the keys to improving the nails’ health, strength and appearance. It not only makes the cuticles smoother and less prone to cracking (which can let damaging bacteria and fungi in), but also makes the nails stronger, more flexible and less prone to chipping, cracking or splitting. 

To keep these areas moisturized, apply cuticle oil, serum and/or cream, then slowly and thoroughly massage the oil into your cuticles and the surrounding skin. Do this every morning and just before bed, at a minimum, and preferably after showering, bathing, shampooing, or washing your hands in hot, soapy water, or using hand sanitizer. It’s a good idea to moisturize your cuticles and the surrounding skin again after washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms, windows, etc., or doing other “wet work” without wearing rubber gloves, and especially if you use household cleaners containing harsh chemicals. If you don’t want to keep multiple bottles, applicators or jars of cuticle oil or cuticle cream in different parts of your house, you can keep one in your bedside stand or table and keep hand cream or lotion near the sinks to massage into your hands and cuticles after getting them wet.

Tip: If your cuticles are very dry and in rough shape, I highly recommend splurging on Deborah Lippmann's The Cure cuticle cream intensive cuticle treatment therapy, which won Allure’s Best of Beauty Award for four consecutive years. I have been using it for many years, and even though I have tried several other highly rated cuticle creams during that time, this rich formula consistently gives me noticeably softer, smoother cuticles and must faster results that, for me, are worth the premium price. 

3. Keep your fingernails dry.

When fingernails and toenails absorb water, they soften and swell. As a result, the thin, translucent keratin layers on the surface can separate, which leads to peeling and flaking. Avoid keeping your hands in warm or hot water—especially hot, soapy water—except when you wash your hands, bathe or shower and shampoo your hair. 

Also, paradoxically, keeping your hands or feet submerged in hot, soapy water dehydrates the living tissue, including the dermis layer of the nail bed and the nail fold. That’s why it’s important to massage in a cuticle oil, serum or cream (or at least a moisturizing hand cream or lotion) right after washing your hands or emerging from the tub or shower. 

Protect your nails and keep them dry by wearing cotton-lined latex or rubber dishwashing gloves for washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, and other "wet work," and wear gardening gloves while working or playing in the dirt.

4. Clean your nails gently.

Don't use a cuticle stick or other pointed tool that can dig into the quick and open it to bacterial or fungal infections. Instead, scrub the fronts and backs of your nails gently with a wet nail brush and gentle hand soap.

5. Avoid or limit contact with harsh chemicals when cleaning.

When doing housework (including washing dishes) or laundry, minimize contact with harsh chemicals, by wearing rubber gloves whenever possible and, ideally, swapping traditional household cleaning products and laundry detergents for cleaners that don't contain harsh or potentially harmful chemicals. I highly recommend Puracy's natural cleaning products, which have perform as well as, and often even better than, the popular, big-name cleaners I had used in the past. 

6. Use nail hardeners sparingly, if at all.

These products make nails more brittle and, therefore, more prone to breaking. Nail hardeners can give the illusion of strong nails, but with continued use they can do more damage than good. They should only be considered for nails that are exceptionally weak or fragile, and not for long-term use.

7. Use nail polish to repel water and prevent peeling and splitting nails.

Wearing polish not only creates the appearance of more beautiful nails, it can also protect them. In the May 2020 Bustle post “5 Affordable Nail Polishes That Are Actually GOOD For Your Nails,” Dr. Stern explained that, but also can protect nails by helping to prevent the absorption of water, and because polish “binds the nail cells together, so nails are less likely to fray and split.” 

Dr. Stern recommended “10-free” polishes, which don’t contain any of the 10 potentially harmful chemicals most often used in polish formulas. I have tried several 10-free nail polish brands and formulas, and Zoya nail polish is one of my favorites in this category.

It’s also worth noting that the authors of the November 2019 Harvard Health blog post “A look at the effects of nail polish on nail health and safety” wrote, “There is no strong research data regarding whether the chemicals excluded from non-toxic polishes have harmful health effects at the concentrations present in traditional nail polish.” 

8. Never try to flake, peel or scrape off your nail polish.

Although applying basecoat, polish and topcoat can provide some protection and aid with maintaining or growing strong nails, wearing that lacquer will do much more harm than good if it isn’t removed gently by rubbing (not scrubbing) with a cotton ball or pad soaked in acetone-free nail polish remover.

Removers whose primary ingredient is acetone are essentially slightly diluted versions of paint stripper, and while those powerful solvents are effective and efficient, they are exactly the type of harsh, drying, potentially harmful chemicals that you want to avoid. Peeling or (even worse) scraping is even worse. Because lacquer is bonded to the surface of the nail plate, the top layers of keratin are removed along with the polish, leaving them even thinner, weaker and more fragile than before the protective coating was applied.  

So, if you want to achieve or maintain healthy nails, but you either can’t resist the urge to pick at or peel off your polish or don’t have the patience to remove it slowly and gently with acetone-free nail polish remover and cotton, you're probably better off leaving your nails bare.

Experts also advise removing polish no more than once a week (especially if you are using an acetone-based remover.)

Tips for Using Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover:

I have found that Mineral Fusion works better job than other acetone-free formulas I have tried. However, even the best acetone-free nail polish removers are less aggressive and need more time to soften and dissolve layers of dried lacquer. Try to be patient and resist the temptation to speed up the process by rubbing harder or scrubbing.

If you applied a topcoat, start by scuffing the surface slightly with a few gentle strokes of a coarse salon board, just enough to start dulling the shine a bit. Lightly saturate a cotton ball or pad with acetone-free nail polish remover (so it’s evenly wet, but not dripping) and hold it against the nail for at least 60 seconds before you try to wipe off the polish. Repeat, if necessary, to remove any remaining polish.

I also recommend keeping a few HandsDown Ultra nail and cosmetic pads on hand for removing polish from just one or two nails without putting the rest of them at risk, thanks to the poly film backing and tab “handle.” that keeps the other nails away from the pad and remover. 

Polishes containing chunky glitter are much harder to get off (even with an acetone-based formula. The easiest and gentlest way to remove it is saturate small or mini size cotton balls (or large cotton balls cut or torn in half) with the acetone-free remover and use acrylic nail and polish remover clips to hold a mini cotton ball firmly against each nail. In my experience, it usually takes between three and eight minutes to remove glitter polish this way (and significantly less with an acetone-based formula), depending on how many layers of base coat, glitter polish, and topcoat I’m wearing. 

9. Keep your nails trimmed and the edges smooth. 

Use a glass nail file to smooth out and help seal the edges of the keratin layers to avoid snagging and reduce the chances of breakage. A fine glass nail file is the only type that can be used safely on both the “push” and “pull” stroke, without the risk causing flaking, peeling or splitting nails. (Any other type of nail file or salon board must be used only on the “push” stroke, going from the outer corner toward the center in only one direction, and lifting and repositioning the file to begin each new stroke, to minimize potential loosening of the keratin layers.) 

I recently ordered a few more glass nail files so I could keep one in every room of the house (as well as in my purse and our cars), to help me smooth any rough edges, snags or hangnails as soon as I notice them (and avoid the nervous habit of picking at or pulling on them and making things worse). I decided to try a set of Germanikure Czech glass nail files that come with sturdy, protective, suede leather soft cases. (The company also offers velvet soft cases as a vegan alternative.) The set includes a large file, a smaller, travel-size file, a glass callus remover/heel smoother, and the glass cuticle pusher I prefer to the nail file for smoothing hangnails, rough skin or calluses on my fingers. All the tools in this set are made from a thicker tempered glass than most others I’ve tried, and everything from the tools themselves to the suede leather cases to the packaging demonstrates an attention to detail and a commitment to high quality. I also got a pair of Germanikure Professional Stainless Steel Nail Scissors made in Solingen, Germany, which are also of superior quality. I can highly recommend this company’s products.

10. Eat a nutritious “rainbow” diet that includes foods high in vitamin C, biotin and folic acid (folate).

People who eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin C may have smoother, softer skin. One possible reason: Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can help protect your skin from free radicals. These break down oils, proteins, and even DNA. Vitamin C is found naturally in vegetables and fruits, especially oranges and other citrus fruits.

Some research studies have found that biotin can strengthen fingernails and make them grow faster. Clinical trials have shown that taking biotin orally can make brittle nails firmer, harder, and thicker, and there is also some evidence that oral biotin may improve vertically ridged nails (a condition known as trachyonychia). You can find biotin in a variety of foods, such as eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. 

A folate (vitamin B9) deficiency can contribute to ridged, weak, brittle or peeling nails. The term folate can mean not only the folate that is found naturally in food but also folic acid, the form of the vitamin used in dietary supplements and enriched foods. To increase your consumption of folate-rich foods, you can eat more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), asparagus, beets, citrus fruits, avocado, bananas, papaya, melons, eggs, legumes including beans, peas, and lentils, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, wheat germ, beef liver, and vitamin-fortified and enriched products, including some breads, pasta, cereals, and juices.

Sources: 

Lipner, Shari & Scher, Richard. (2017). Biotin for the Treatment of Nail Disease: What is the Evidence?. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 29. 1-17. [10.1080/09546634.2017.1395799].

Health Benefits of Biotin, WebMD.

15 Healthy Foods That Are High in Folate (Folic Acid)," Healthline.

11. Consider biotin supplements and folic acid supplements. 

Research studies have found that oral biotin supplements can increase nail thickness and prevent splitting and breaking. If your nails are especially thin and week, you might want to ask your doctor about prescribing a stronger, therapeutic dose of biotin, which has resulted in significant improvements in people with severe nail problems. 

Source: WebMD. (2006, December 16). A Dozen Tips for More Beautiful Nails. [https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/more-beautiful-nails-a-dozen-tips

You also might also want to consider trying a folic acid supplement. WebMD’s supplement guide to folate (folic acid) [https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-folic-acid] provides guidance on the USDA’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), as well as the maximum amount that most people can take safely on their own, although a doctor might prescribe a higher dose for treating a folate deficiency. Source: WebMD. (2020, July 26). Folate (Folic Acid). [https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-folic-acid]

Note: I recommend asking your doctor before taking any supplement.

12. Don't use your nails as tools. 

This is one of the most important secrets to growing strong, healthy, more beautiful nails. It’s also the one I have the hardest time keeping in mind during my day-to-day activities! 

13. Don’t forget your toenails. 

All these secrets for growing strong, healthy nails apply equally to fingernails and toenails. It’s especially important to disinfect pedicure tools after each use, since fungus can grow more easily on toenails that are enclosed in the dark, moist environment of shoes or slippers for many hours each day. Also, to reduce the risk of ingrown toenails, cutting toenails straight across—not at an angle—is a must.

14. Save salon manicures and pedicures for special occasions and bring your own tools. 

There is no doubt that a professional salon mani or pedi can quickly give you the appearance of more beautiful nails, at least in the short term. However, while a salon visit might be an affordable indulgence, you also need to consider the hidden cost of the cumulative damage to the strength and health of your nails. 

“Water content and other aspects of brittle versus normal fingernails” a study by Dr. Stern and colleagues at Mount Sinai published in 2007 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that the odds of having brittle nails was more than three times greater among participants who received a professional manicure, and that the likelihood of having brittle nails was linked to the frequency of having professional manicures. Possible reasons include exposure to more chemicals and harsher ingredients than you would choose for your own nail polish remover, disinfectant and other at-home manicure or pedicure supplies, and salon owners or technicians who fail to follow their state's disinfection protocols or comply with other health and safety regulations or industry standards.

Experts recommend bringing your own manicure and pedicure tools with you to the nail salon, maintaining separate sets of nail care tools for your hands and feet to avoid cross-contamination, and disinfecting them thoroughly every time you use them, especially after you bring them back from a professional salon manicure or pedicure appointment, to minimize your risk for developing a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. 

Bottom line: If you want healthy, strong nails that look pretty with or without polish, save those salon visits for special occasions, and bring your own tools to your manicure or pedicure appointments.

What are your best tips for growing strong, healthy beautiful nails?

We can all benefit from sharing what has (or hasn't) worked well for us or our friends or family members. Thank you!



14 Secrets to Growing Strong, Healthy, Beautiful Nails product review by Margaret Schindel

Read the Other Posts in This Nail Care Tips Series
The Best Manicure Tools For Strong, Healthy Nails

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Best Manicure Tools for Strong, Healthy Nails

For most of my life, I used to bite my nails and cuticles. Even after I eventually was able to break my nail biting habit, the only thing that helped me stop chewing or picking at my cuticles (for a while) was my mom's insistence that I join her for her weekly professional manicure appointment. Mom taught me the importance of bringing your own manicure tools and nail files for hygiene reasons (so you can be sure they have been properly sanitized), and she helped me choose the best set of nail care implements and related supplies to assemble my personal box of manicure tools to be used on my nails exclusively.

That was many decades ago. These days, we are even more health and hygiene conscious and cautious about the virulent spread of contagious diseases, and it's more important than ever for every member of your family to put together and maintain their own, personal, handpicked set of manicure tools to be used on their nails exclusively, whether for at-home nail care or to bring to a nail salon when they have a professional manicure.

I spent many years self-conscious about my unsightly, weak, flaking, peeling, and chipping nails and ragged cuticles. About 10 or 15 years ago, I finally decided to get serious about making my nails stronger, healthier, and more attractive. As a result of extensive research, dogged determination, and a lot of trial and error, I was able to educate myself about the most common causes of  nail damage, the most effective ways to heal the damage, and the best tools and techniques for improving the health and appearance of my damaged nails and cuticles. 

I have been surprised and grateful to see the slow but consistent progress these efforts have produced over time, and want to share the information, tools, techniques and tips that have helped me achieve such promising results with other people who might benefit from my experience.

This post, the first in a new series about my successful journey toward growing stronger, healthier, prettier nails and cuticles, focuses on the best types of manicure tools and pedicure tools for trimming and shaping your fingernails and toenails and grooming your cuticles. I'll also share the most important  features to look for when choosing nail clippers, nail scissors, nail files, cuticle pushers, and cuticle nippers, as well as the best manicure tools and pedicure tools I have purchased, handpicked favorites that have stood the test of time and earned a permanent spot as go-to components in my manicure and pedicure kits.

Woman's hand with nail polish, holding manicure tool
Some of the manicure tools that have helped me strengthen and heal my weak, ridged, peeling, splitting nails and ragged cuticles.

Selecting Manicure Tools Individually vs. Buying a Manicure Kit

Before we talk about which nail implements you need and the ones I think are the best quality at a good value, let's talk about the pros and cons of buying a nail kit that has the most commonly used tools and, often, some kind of storage case.

Pros:

  • Having someone else assemble a set of nail care implements for you is an easy, convenient option.
  • Having matching or coordinating tools (of any type) that are neatly organized in a fitted case is  visually appealing. A set of manicure tools designed and assembled by (or for) a single brand, especially if they come in a fitted storage case, can look neater and more attractive than a box or storage case with tools from different manufacturers.
  • Choosing this type of set also means having "a place for everything, and everything in its place" (as my grandmother, whose propensity for tidiness and order I unfortunately did not inherit, used to say). 
  • A preassembled nail care kit may be cheaper than the cost of buying the same types of implements individually, plus a storage case or box.

Unfortunately, there are also significant downsides to buying a these implements as a set, rather than selecting them individually, along with your own storage case or box.

Cons:

  • Preassembled kits often include items you don't need, even though you are paying for them.
  • More importantly, they can come with implements that can damage nails, such as metal files. These are much too abrasive to be used on natural nails and can cause peeling, chipping and breaking. (They are fine to use on artificial acrylic or gel nails, however.)
  • Conversely, many kits don't include all the tools I recommend for achieving and maintaining strong, healthy nails and cuticles.
  • If you've ever shopped for a multifunction printer, you know that it's rare to find one that gets top ratings for quality and speed across the board for text printing, photo printing, fax, and copy functions. Many excel at more than one, but few excel at all. The same tends to be true when buying tools, whether for car or household repairs, crafting, or nail care. Even in manicure kits that contain one or two high quality implements, the remainder usually are of lower quality.
  • Unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money, the quality of the manicure tools in a preassembled kit is likely to be inferior to the quality of tools you select individually.
So, while I love the idea of buying a nicely matched set of nail implements that fit neatly into a fitted storage case, I have discovered over time that, for me, the best way to get exactly what I need, at the quality level I want, is to put together my own kit.

Manicured hand holding nail clippers, cuticle nippers, cuticle pushers, and a glass nail file in a hard storage case
Having the right tools and making a commitment to daily nail care maintenance has enabled me to grow stronger, healthier nails, so I no longer have to hide my hands! 

Choosing the Best Manicure Tools

Choosing the components of your personal nail care kit means you can decide not only which items to include or exclude, so you can have everything you want, and aren't paying for anything you don't want or need.

It also allows you to decide how important the quality of each implement is to you which ones you are willing to spend more on vs. those you can economize on without damaging your nails or achieving inferior results.

Since everyone has different needs, the best set of implements for you will depend on factors such as whether you wear natural or artificial nails (such as gels or acrylics), your budget, and what, if any, issues you need to address, such as brittle, weak, chipping, peeling, ridged or splitting nails. 

Following are the best implements I have found for my own nail care kit that I can recommend highly based on personal experience and results. These are the tools I use on a regular basis, whether I'm giving myself a full manicure or just doing routine nail care maintenance.

Sharp Nail Clippers

I have always envied my sister's lovely, slender hands and long, slender fingers. My own tend to be a bit on the wide, stubby side, so when I'm not working on a jewelry making, crafting, or other project that requires short nails for the sake of practicality, I prefer to wear mine with a bit more length to create the illusion of slightly longer, thinner fingers. 

Before I learned how to improve the health and strength of my fingernails, as soon as I started to achieve any length at all, one or more of the tips would split, chip, or break (usually at or below the quick - ouch!), and I had to take them all down to the same, very short length and start again from scratch to grow them out to a more flattering (or, at least, not exceptionally short) length.  

When I finally learned that using files or salon boards to do this was actually contributing to my problems with brittle, weak, breaking, flaking, and peeling nails, I tried switching to nail clippers, one of the two recommended manicure tools for removing excess length before shaping the tips. (The other is curved nail scissors.) Unfortunately, I hated the first few clippers I tried! Here's why.

My fingernails have always tended to curve in at the sides. Also, when I need to repair a split or tear, the most effective solution I have found is the Orly Nail Rescue Kit, which includes brush-on super glue and a small container of fine acrylic nail powder to reinforce the glued repair area, which is them sanded or filed down as level as possible with the surrounding area. (As I mentioned, it's fine to use a file or salon board with acrylics.) Unfortunately, the cutting jaws on most of the fingernail clippers I tried were too close together to accommodate either the natural curve of my tips or the extra thickness created by the cyanoacrylate glue and acrylic powder patch. Also, the combination of my small hands and decreasing hand strength and dexterity made controlling the clippers somewhat challenging.

I even tried toenail clippers designed with widely spaced cutting jaws to accommodate thicker toenails, and an ergonomic design. Unfortunately, toenail clippers have straight jaws instead of the curved jaws recommended for trimming fingernails, and the clippers were much larger, bulkier, and more difficult to control and maneuver. So, eventually, I went back to using salon boards to file down the excess length instead of trimming it.

However, I knew this was exacerbating the existing damage to my fingernails, and I continued to look for a viable solution. Finally, in 2013, I found the right tool for the job! 

I highly recommend the Seki Edge Nail Clippers (SS-106), which feature:

  • Well crafted, precision cutting jaws made from high quality Japanese stainless steel.
  • Extremely sharp, curved blades that meet perfectly, with no gap, offset, or overlap.
  • Efficient, clean cuts that won't crush or damage nails and leave smooth edges that need only minimal refinement to the desired shape.
  • A generous 2 mm wide opening that can easily accommodate even curved or thick fingernails.
  • An ergonomic design that fits my small hands perfectly, yet also provides plenty of leverage to give me excellent control.

Sharp Nail Scissors

An alternative to nail clippers is to use a small pair of nail scissors with sharp, curved blades for trimming excess length prior to shaping the tips. They're actually better for your nails, since they are less likely to crush rather than cut cleanly. The downside is that they tend to be difficult to control when held in your non-dominant hand.

I picked up a pair of inexpensive Revlon nail scissors just to see if I could get the hang of using them in my non-dominant hand, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. So, instead, I use them to cut the nails on my left hand, and use my Seki Edge SS-106 nail clippers to clip the ones on my right hand. 

The Revlon scissors were fine for a while but, predictably, they have begun to dull, and it is cheaper to replace them than to have them sharpened. When I do, I'll be buying better pair that will hold their sharp edges and alignment for considerably longer. I'm leaning heavily toward these highly rated GERMANIKURE Professional Nail Cutter Scissors, handmade from FINOX high carbon stainless steel in Solingen, Germany (renowned for its finely crafted blades, knives, and cutting tools). They come with a leather storage case to protect the razor-sharp blades. The manufacturer, GERMANIKURE, stands behinds its tools, which are guaranteed for life! The company is also committed to ethical business practices, refuses to participate in child labor or worldwide pollution, and manufactures all its handcrafted products in socially and environmentally responsible facilities. 

Nail Care Tips: 

  • Always choose nail scissors with curved blades, not straight ones. 
  • Avoid buying manicure scissors intended for trimming cuticles. Their blades are too short to cut fingernails smoothly or efficiently. They also are not strong or sturdy enough to be used for cutting nails, which would likely cause them to loosen, become out of alignment, and lose their sharp edges prematurely.

Glass Nail Files

Emery boards, metal files, and coarse salon boards are best reserved for use on artificial nails. And while fine grit salon boards (and even medium grit, in a pinch) can be used to do the final shaping of your fingernails, the best thing to use for this step is an etched Czech glass nail file, sometimes called a crystal nail file.

Here are they key advantages that make etched glass nail files superior for achieving and maintaining strong, healthy nails.

Safer and More Hygienic

Unlike those made from other materials, glass nail files can be cleaned, sanitized, or sterilized in a variety of ways without negatively affecting their performance or shortening their useful life. They can be washed with soap and hot water; soaked in a solution of Barbicide concentrate (the iconic, Environmental Protection Agency-approved germicide, pseudomonacide, fungicide, and viricide that is effective against HIV-1, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, which is widely used in beauty and nail salons); cleaned with another strong chemical disinfectant; or sterilized with an autoclave or a UV light, among other methods.

Gentler and Less Damaging

Did you know that using emery boards, salon boards, or diamond coated files to refine the shape of your nails not only can exacerbate peeling, flaking, chipping, or splitting in weak, damaged nails, but also can cause new damage to healthy nails? These types of nail files are coated with abrasives that have tiny, sharp edges or corners that can create friction and drag, potentially catching or snagging on the exposed edges of the keratin protein layers along the "free edge" of each nail. 

Czech glass nail files have the exact opposite effect, thanks to their etched glass filing surfaces that, unlike glued-on abrasives, have no sharp edges or corners to catch or snag on the nail's vulnerable free edge. The first time I used a crystal nail file to shape my just-trimmed nails, I was very surprised at how different it felt compared to the fine salon boards I had been using for this purpose. 

Helps Seal the Vulnerable "Free Edge"

The etched glass surface enables the file to glide across the free edges much more smoothly, so shaping them is practically effortless. More importantly, the filing surfaces can help to smooth out peeling or rough edges and, in the process, help seal the edges of the layers together.

If you are lucky enough to have strong, healthy nails, using glass nail files will help keep them in good condition. If you have weak, peeling, chipping, or splitting nails, switching to etched Czech glass files can help make them stronger and healthier.   

Faster and Easier

After feeling how smoothly and effortlessly the Mont Bleu file glided over the edges of my newly trimmed nails, I assumed that significant reduction in friction or drag meant that the glass file was removing less material per stroke than the abrasive-coated files, and that shaping my nails with the crystal nail file would require either more strokes or more pressure compared to using a salon board.

Imagine my surprise when, after just two or three strokes, I discovered that the etched glass filing surface had removed much more of the nail than I had intended! After having to trim the rest of my nails (again) to match the unintentionally shorter length of the nail I had been filing quickly taught me two important lessons about using glass nail files for shaping: 

  1. Use barely any pressure, and allow the file to do the work.
  2. After each stroke, take a moment to check your progress. (It takes only a second to file off a bit more, if you need to, but once you have removed some of the length, you can't put it back!) 

I took very little time to get a feel for how these wonderful Czech glass nail files perform compared to emery boards or salon boards, and how light a touch I to use to achieve the results I want. After having used them for many years, after I have trimmed my nails to just slightly longer than I want them to be with my nail clippers and/or nail scissors, it usually takes me about a minute (maybe two, if I'm being fussy) to file all 10 nails to the round/oval shape I usually prefer. 

Extremely Long Lasting

The etched glass surface doesn't wear out, unlike salon boards or emery boards. This means that, unless you lose them or break them (which can happen if you accidentally drop or knock them onto a hard surface, or don't store them in a protective hard case), once you purchase them you can use them indefinitely. 

The Best Value for Money

Since the filing surfaces never wear out, as long as you take care of them and wash them regularly (to prevent the etched surfaces from clogging with nail filing dust), these Czech etched glass files will work as well decades from now as the day you received them. In fact, both the sets I am recommending are backed by a lifetime guarantee against the filing surfaces becoming dull (provided the files are used as intended and not abused, and that reasonable care has been taken to protect them, such as storing them in a protective sleeve, pouch, or hard case).

Mont Bleu is one of the largest and best known manufacturers of Czech glass nail files. Their Mont Bleu Premium Set of 3 Crystal Nail Files in Velvet Pouch is a terrific value: a set of Czech glass nail files in three different lengths (3.54”/90 mm, 5.31”/135 mm, and 7.68” / 195 mm) for less than $10, as of this writing. Their high quality crystal nail files are made from dual-tempered glass, so they are significantly more durable than products made by companies that don't use a dual-tempering process to add strength. This Mont Bleu premium set of three crystal nail files is being offered in a choice of 22 colors, including some extremely attractive color combinations with ombré shading. The only drawback is that each glass file is protected only by a sleeve made of black velveteen fabric and clear plastic, which may or may not provide sufficient protection, depending on how, and where, they are stored.

I keep several small glass nail files on hand, including one in my purse or handbag, another in the glove compartment of the car, and a third in my travel toiletry and makeup bag. I also keep a larger size in my box of manicure tools. I started with this set of three premium Mon Bleu crystal nail files, which are wonderful. Unfortunately, I can bit a bit of a klutz sometimes, which caused two of them to meet premature ends. One of the smaller ones snapped when I accidentally sat on my soft fabric purse when I got into the car, and another broke when it accidentally fell out of my travel toiletry bag, which was sitting open next to the bathroom sink at our hotel, and landed on the hard tile floor. So, for me, keeping my glass nail files in protective, hard plastic cases is a high priority.

When I researched possible replacements for my original set that would come with cases that offered better protection against breakage, I was thrilled to discover that Mont Bleu also makes the Czech glass nail files sold under the Bliss Kiss brand, which are available in only two sizes and one color choice (a pretty ruby red), but come with not only the soft velvet and clear plastic sleeve, but also an elegant looking, durable, protective hard plastic case. 

I now own three of the 3.5" (9 cm) long Bliss Kiss Simply Crystal Nail Files (small), which have a 2.25" (5.71 cm) usable filing surface. I also have one large Bliss Kiss Simply Crystal Nail File, which is 5.38" (13.7 cm) long and has a usable filing surface or 2.5" (6.4 cm). Note: An extra 0.25" of usable filing surface may not sound like much, but the difference definitely is noticeable when I'm using the larger size.

Cuticle Pushers

I recommend having at least two types of cuticle pushers, a set of silicone-tipped cuticle pushers and a wooden cuticle pusher, also called an orange stick.

I also have a metal cuticle scraper that I use only when necessary. If you decide to add one to your box of manicure tools, be very careful to use it sparingly and be extremely gentle, since it is very easy to cause potentially serious damage to your nails, cuticles, and nail bed with this hard, sharp metal tool

Cuticle Nippers

When choosing cuticle nippers, look for a pair that has:

  • Very sharp blades on the jaws.
  • Properly aligned jaws with no gaps; you shouldn't be able to see any light shining through between the edges when you hold the closed nippers up to a bright light.
    • It is especially important to check that the last millimeter or so of the pointed tip is sharp and is perfectly aligned, since that it the only part of the cuticle nippers you will be using to nip off the tiny bits of hangnails neatly, without tearing or cutting too much. When using cuticle nippers to nip off a tiny hangnail, it's far too easy to make it worse instead of better. 
  • A robust spring-loaded mechanism that is properly centered and doesn't slip easily when you close the jaws.
  • A silicone cover to protect the jaws when the cuticle nippers are not in use.
On the cuticle nippers I have tried over the year, my favorite by far is the Sephora Collection Cut to the Point Cuticle Nippers, which are sharper and better made than my much more expensive Deborah Lippmann cuticle nippers that I purchased years ago as part of a special nail care set. They have been on sale for a while, and I don't know whether they are being discontinued. So, if you want a pair, I encourage you to grab one ASAP!

    Keep a Separate Set of Pedicure Tools

    It is a good idea to use your manicure tools only on your hands (which are washed frequently throughout the day), and assemble a separate pedicure tool kit reserved exclusively for use on your feet (which usually are washed only once a day, are enclosed in hosiery and footwear all day long, and are more prone to fungal infections). 

    A good set of pedicure tools should be very similar to your manicure tools. Mine includes duplicates of the same Czech glass nail files, cuticle pushers, and cuticle nippers I use for grooming my fingernails. 

    The main difference is that, instead of fingernail clippers or nail scissors, you will need a set of high quality clippers designed specifically for cutting toenails. (I would be wary of nail clippers that claim to be for both fingernails and toenails.)

    To avoid ingrown toenails, your toenails should be cut straight across. When shopping for toenail clippers, I recommend looking for the following features:

    • Very sharp blades that make efficient, clean cuts through toenails, which are thicker, tougher, and (in the case of the big toenail) significantly larger than fingernails.
    • Jaws and blades made from high quality metal, such as high-carbon stainless steel, that will not only take a sharp edge but also keep it for a long time.
    • Straight jaws (unlike fingernail clippers, which should have curved jaws) that meet perfectly along the entire length of the cutting edges, and are precisely aligned.
    • An ergonomic design, including a handle with a good, comfortable grip and good leverage, to prevent your hands from becoming strained or fatigued after several minutes of use.
      • This is especially important if your toenails have thickened or become tougher, which often happens as we age.
    • Jaws that open wide enough to slide along your big toenail, especially if it is thick, tough, or curved at the edges.

    Like my fingernails, my toenails curve inward a bit (which might have been exacerbated by my foolish insistence on squeezing my very wide feet into B-width shoes during my "salad days," since fashionable shoes in wide widths didn't exist back than). As a result, I need toenail clippers (as well as fingernail clippers) with jaws that open quite wide. 

    My grip strength is also much weaker than it used to be. This meant finding toenail clippers that, in addition to being a precision tool with very sharp jaws and a wide opening, also would allow me to grip them securely and comfortably in my small hand and provide superior leverage to compensate for my weak grip strength, so that I would be able to make sharp, clean cuts through my thick, brittle, curved toenails without painful strain and cramping. 

    As with my earlier search for the best nail clippers for my fingernails, finding the best toenail clippers to meet my needs required investments of more time and money, as well as more trial and error, than I had hoped it would. Fortunately, my stubbornness and persistence eventually paid off.

    My BEZOX Toenail Clippers are some seriously heavy duty nail clippers. They are designed specifically for cutting tough, thick, and ingrown nails, and are substantial and sturdy without being heavy. The jaws open wide enough to easily accommodate even the thickest or most curved nails. The long blades are extremely sharp, and I have learned to treat them (especially the super-sharp, pointed tips) with the respect they deserve! The long, well cushioned handles have an ergonomic design, and despite their unusually wide profile, they fit my small hand very comfortably, which was a pleasant surprise. Most importantly, perhaps, they also provide enough leverage to enable me cut my thick, tough, slightly ingrown big toenails without having to ask my husband for help!

    These awesome BEZOX toenail clippers are very reasonably priced, given the high quality, thoughtful design, and attention to detail. I appreciate the sturdy metal storage box with a velvet-lined fitted interior. And although the color of the handle did not factor into my purchase decision, I have to admit that I love the pretty red cushioned grips.


    The Best Manicure Tools for Strong, Healthy Nails product review by Margaret Schindel


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