Travel Nail Emergencies: 6 Quick Fixes For When You're Not Totally Prepared

You'd be surprised what you can do with butter, a matchbox and a toothbrush!
Publish date:
September 30, 2013
How-To, hands, nail files, life hacks, massages, cuticles, toothbrushes

Travel stresses me out. The potentially missed flights, lack of sleep, and varying levels of comfort make for one grumpy cat. And if you’re anything like me (read: a picker) you take that stress out on your nails.

Already, I’ve picked off my nail polish (a serious habit I worked hard to break), and I’m on the verge of cuticle warfare, which, once started, is practically impossible to stop. Worse: I’ve still got 10 days on the road.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to pack my nail essentials, which include OPI’s Avojuice Body Cream in Coconut Melon, Nail Envy by OPI, and a 4-Way file by Tropical Shine, a great way to keep your nails in condition without the use of polish. (Can I also add that one bottle of Essie nail polish is $12 in Canada? I kid you not, kids.)

I’ve also packed a nail kit with the necessary supplies should I hit a snag, break or tear while hauling my luggage to and fro. Here’s a cute option I found in a drug store in Canada. You can find similar sets in your local CVS or Rite Aide.

But what if you find yourself on the road with nary a nail supply in sight? I’ve got you covered my little jet-stressers: Here are some nail hacks to keep your eyes off your nails, and on the road at hand.

The Hiccup: Dirty Nails

The Hack: A Toothbrush

The area underneath the free edge of your nail--the part you clip and file--is the dirtiest area on the human body, and traveling further exposes your nails to even more grit and grime.

Ask the front desk for a free toothbrush--available at almost every hotel in the countr--then scrub your nails using soap and warm water.

I tell clients to “scrub in” like they’re about to do surgery because, let’s face it: it’s the easiest way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria between clients. (It also makes you feel like a doctor without all that college nonsense.)

The Hiccup: Dry, Cracked Cuticles

The Hack: Butter

I discovered this tasty nugget after diving into a vat of movie theatre popcorn at the last Star Trek flick. Post-movie, while imagining Spock and Kirk in a tight embrace held for light years too long (am I the only one who finds their relationship delightfully erotic?), I noticed that my cuticles were soft and conditioned.

Could it have been the liquid butter layering I requested on my popcorn? Indeed! Pick yourself up a pat of butter from room service or your local coffee shop, and gently massage a little into each cuticle. Remove any excess shine with a tissue and try to avoid eating your fingers.

The Hiccup: Broken Nail

The Hack: A Matchbook

So you’ve got a snag in your nail, and before you know it, your nail has broken clean off. What better time to start gnawing down the rest of your nails, right? Wrong!

Check with the front desk for a nail file. If they don’t have one, head over to the bar or restaurant (or local smoker) and pick up a pack of matches. You can use the strike pad as an emery board to keep you from snagging your ragged nail until you can get your hands on a file.

You can also head down to your local pharmacy and pick up a package of emery boards. To prevent the file from cutting into your skin, as these files tend to be on the sharp side, file the sides of one board down with another and stick to the light side as it has a lower file grade.

The Hiccup: You Need Your Nails Dry NOW

The Hack: Ice Water

You’ve painted your nails in a hurry to make that 9 A.M. meeting and find yourself unable to zip up your pencil skirt with wet nails. Grab your ice bucket and fill it half way up with ice and the rest with water. (Most hotels will provide a liner so you don’t have to worry about contaminating the bucket with the chemicals found in polish.) Dip your fingers in the ice water, careful to avoid cubes that might ruin your polish, for a quick dry.

The Hiccup: No Polish Remover

The Hack: A Steamy Shower

If you’re one of the few who has polished enough nails that you can give yourself a flawless manicure without blinking: bravo! But if you find yourself without nail polish remover and have a polished mess around your cuticles, try this: let the polish dry completely, then hop in a hot shower. The heat will soften your cuticles and the polish should come right off your skin, leaving a great looking manicure on your nails.

The Hiccup: Tired Hands

The Hack: Hand Massage

The best part about travel is the excuse to splurge on a spa service to recoup your tired body. The best part about a hand massage is that you can give one to yourself!

Start by rubbing your thumb horizontally across the top of your palm, just under the base of your fingers.

Next, grab each finger at the base and firmly, but gently pull up and out. You’re not trying to crack your knuckles here, just gently massage your digits.

Now clasp your hands together by interlacing your fingers and gently bend your wrists back and forth, alternating sides.

Now the best part: with your forefinger and thumb, pinch the connecting tissue between your thumb and forefinger on the opposite hand. Rub out the tension you carry in there; you might be surprised at how painful this feels, but keep rubbing until you work out the stress.

Before you know it you’ll be back to focusing on the travel at hand instead of the hands wrecked by travel.