A varnish free life by Esther Walker

A varnish free life!

“It started at the end of the last hot spell we had (not as hot as this one). I took all the nail varnish on my toes off. And I just didn’t put it back on. And I think I’m probably not going to for the rest of the summer.

I don’t mean I’m going for Hobbit feet. I don’t mean that I’m just going to let my toenails grow yellow and curly, I just mean I’m not painting my toenails any more. Not sure how long for – maybe the rest of this summer, maybe the rest of my life?

I’ve always loved painting my toenails. Before I watched telly while messing about on my laptop, I watched telly while painting my toenails. The ritual of it… it would take ages. The soaking, the dabbing, the massage, the filing, the bottom coat – really letting it dry – and then the shiny lacquer. The new toes, the new feet. The feeling that if your toes were twinkly, neat and lovely then life must be under control.

But now having to paint my toenails has become something else – a tedious chore for me or an hour sitting about while someone else does it when I could be doing other things.

I don’t want gel because that stuff is freaking monstrous – you basically have to hack your toes off to remove it – and a normal pedicure is just another ticking cosmetic time bomb, like fake tan (can I push it for another day??)

There’s something else going on, too. When I was about 27 I decided for a while to stop wearing eye make-up because I realised that I hadn’t actually seen myself without my eyeliner and mascara on for about 10 years. I had grown to assume without questioning it that I was a hideous monster without my eyes done and that felt wrong and frightening. Was it possible to feel pretty without effectively drawing a face on?

It was time to get to know my own face again. So, I went without eye liner or mascara for a few weeks – I did the rest of my face as normal, just no eye make-up. And it was incredibly freeing. And, yes, I felt pretty enough.

And I think recently the same is true of my feet. I’m not kidding myself that I have these beautiful feet but I have not let them see the light of day without nail varnish for years. And in fact, if you look after your feet properly – they actually look rather sweet and appealing unpainted.

But you do have to look after them. That means a light brush with a foot file once a day – not too hard because that encourages cracks – and keeping nails neat and tidy.

I also use Vaseline intensive care hand and nail cream on my feet at night – it absorbs in really well so that you don’t have infuriatingly slimy feet all night. I find that most for-feet creams are hellishly thick and horrible, as if your feet were some kind of vile medical anomaly for which only goose fat will do as an emollient.

Sally Hansen’s cuticle oil stops emergent Hobbit feet.

If I’m actually invited to a very smart party I will concede to paint my toenails with clear varnish, but that will be it.

The revolution starts here ladies!”

Esther Walker is a journalist for The Times, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. She is married to the writer and broadcaster Giles Coren. Esther was born in London but her mother was born on a farm in Llandysul -and Welsh is her first language. Visit her blog

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