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A manicure is a cosmetic beauty treatment for the fingernails and hands performed at home or in a nail salon. A manicure consists of filing, shaping of the free edge, treatments, massage of the hand and the application of polish. There are also manicure services that are specialties for the hands and feet. For the hands, the soaking of a softening substance and the application of a lotion is a common specialty. When applied to the toenails and feet, this treatment is referred to as a pedicure.
Some manicures can include the painting of pictures or designs on the nails or applying small decals or imitation jewels. Other nail treatments may include the application of artificial nail gels, tips, or acrylics, some of which are referred to as French manicures.
In many areas, manicurists are licensed and follow regulation. Since skin is manipulated and is sometimes trimmed, there is a certain risk of spreading infection when tools are used across many people and therefore, sanitation is a serious issue.
Manicures began 5,000 years ago. French manicures can be made with artificial nails, which are designed to resemble natural ones, and are characterized by lack of base color, or natural pink base nails with white tips. The tips of the nails are painted white while the rest of the nails are polished in a pink or a suitable nude shade. However, it is also as common to do a French manicure on natural nails. French manicures may have originated in 18th-century Paris and were popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
Natural nails are made up of protein keratin. The nail plate requires a certain amount of flexibility and moisture to encourage healthy growth. Using 'hardening' treatments and harsh chemicals on natural nails will make the nail plate brittle and more prone to breakages. The use of nail moisturizers and clear polish proteins is essential for perfect growth. A professional Nail Technician or Manicurist will use a written, verbal, and observational consultation to determine the condition of a client's natural nails. A manicure treatment should take from about thirty minutes to one hour.
Hands can be dipped in melted paraffin wax for softening and moisturizing. Paraffin wax is used because it can be heated to temperatures of over 95 °F (35 °C) without burning or injuring the hand. The intense heat allows for deeper absorption of emollients and essential oils. The wax is usually infused with various botanical ingredients such as Aloe vera, chamomile, tea tree oil and azulene. Fruit waxes such as peach, apple and strawberry are often used in salons. Paraffin wax treatments are often charged in addition to the standard manicure nail treatments such as pink and whites. As such, they are often not covered in general training and are a rare treatment in most nail salons.
Occasionally, lotion is rubbed on the hand before submersion into the paraffin bath. The hand is usually dipped more than once to allow a thicker wax coat to form, making the coating stay warm for longer and less likely to break or tear prematurely. After the hands have been dipped in the wax, they are wrapped in either plastic or aluminum foil, or a special type of plastic bag or glove then covered with towel or special mitten to retain warmth. The hands are left for a few minutes before the paraffin is cooled and dried.
A hot oil manicure is a specific type of manicure that cleans the cuticles and softens them with oil. It works well for dry skin and nails that are brittle as it improves them both by leaving them soft and pliable. Types of oils that can be used are mineral oil, olive oil or commercial preparation in an electric heater.
In the United States, many nail salons are offering personal nail tool kits available for purchase to avoid the issue of sanitation. The kits are often kept in the salon and only used when that client comes in for a treatment. Since the 1970s, the overwhelming majority of professional salons now implement the use of electric nail files which are faster and yield higher quality results. 
There are several nail shapes - the basic shapes are oval, square oval, pointed, almond, round, square, square with rounded corners, and straight with a rounded tip. The square oval shape is sometimes known as a "squoval", a term coined in 1984. The squoval is considered a sturdy shape, useful for those who work with their hands.
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