Whatever your job, you need to find the time for nail care. <i>Illustration: Simon Letch</i>

Whatever your job, you need to find the time for nail care. Illustration: Simon Letch

Men no longer give a second thought about going to a hairdressing salon for a good style and cut. We brave department stores and even designer boutiques for smart shirts. We've been known to try out the hotel spa for a massage or facial. But a manicurist? To have the nails done? Seriously?

One of the more ape-like of my contemporaries at school claimed that if you examined your nails from above with the fingers splayed there was something "a bit funny"about you. Real men, he asserted, made a fist and turned the hand over.

That was a while ago but even now many men, I suspect, look upon any form of nail care beyond regular cutting as, well, a bit girly.

Yet a man's hands are always on show, and they are noticed by women both in and out of the business environment. Could we be letting ourselves down by letting our nails got to hell?

Yes, is the confident answer from leading manicurist Fiona Hayes.

"Men get a bit scared of manicures, a bit shy. They don't want to be feminine-looking. But keeping the nails reasonably short and the cuticles in check is always a better look," she says.

And the good news is you can pretty much DIY. No visits to nail bars or beauty salons, or even a specialist such as Hayes. At least not very often.

"It's straightforward. Keep the nails short and put on a cuticle cream at night before bed," Hayes says. "Push the cuticle back after showering in the morning."

Cuticle removers only need to be left on for one minute to work. ("It melts away any non-living material.") Cuticle oils are quick to apply.

"It's a good idea to have regular professional manicures to keep things in check and then do the maintenance at home," Hayes says. "Once a month is sufficient."

There are "portable" manicurists if you don't fancy fronting up to a salon.

"The older the nails [and you] get, the thicker they become and more difficult to manage."

Hayes says some professional men like to have their nails buffed to have a bit of a shine. "Not everyone likes that look, but you can have your nails buffed to remove ridges but not to have the shine."

And don't forget the feet. "Toes are still nails," Hayes says. "Men find after the first pedicure they wonder why they haven't been having them before."

Men, do you have manicures or pedicures? How do you look after your nails?