Go Get Your Nails Done—Your Mental Health Will Thank You

Trying to look top-notch before a special event? Just booking your routine mani-pedi? New research suggests that taking yourself to the nail salon offers more than just hygiene and style benefits.

By Andrea Mew4 min read
Pexels/Ioana Motoc

Have you ever felt frazzled by day-to-day responsibilities, not only routinely clocking in and out for your paycheck, but also clocking in and out of your own cognitive faculties? Life’s neverending stressors seem to work overtime in dampening our spirits, but when it feels as though we’re running on empty, there are some stupidly simple courses of action that are guaranteed to rekindle even the most downhearted. 

Self-care is a dicey subject. Some people insist that an indulgent pint (or two) of Jenni’s ice cream is what you really need when you’re feeling low, and other people try to overcomplicate self-care in ways that really just increase your stress levels (I mean, does anyone actually benefit from 20+ step skincare routines?) rather than reduce any anxiety. 

No, what might work way better than you’d expect in helping you come back down to earth and decompress your tightly wound mind is gifting yourself a little beauty break – and recent research suggests that a manicure could fill this role quite well. 

It’s More Than Just a Manicure, It’s a Mood Booster

Motivated by the cultural craze surrounding nail care and nail art, Japanese psychological researchers out of Saitama Gakuen University and Rikkyo University wanted to determine if humanity’s pursuit of “beauty” actually means more than just a vain effort to appear desirable. So, the researchers surveyed 500 Japanese women between 20 and 40 years old about their feelings, mood, motivation, and self-esteem when receiving salon nail care and performing their own manicures at home.

Plenty of research has already confirmed that cosmetics not only enhance physical attractiveness but also have the power to positively alter a woman’s own mental state. So, does the same principle apply to a good old-fashioned manicure? According to these researchers, nail care does indeed have positive psychological effects, from increased relaxation to enhanced emotional well-being.

“People experience happiness and gratification when their nails are being manicured. Simultaneously, nail care effectively calms and relaxes the receiver,” the researchers explained. “People who receive nail care feel more extroverted, prefer being in public and interacting with others.”

When you book your seat at a salon, you may not be consciously thinking about how you want to socialize with your nail tech, but let’s be honest, it’s kind of awkward to receive any sort of beautification in total silence. You may find yourself naturally falling into casual conversation with salon workers or with the other ladies getting their manis and pedis. 

No, these may not be the most high-level conversations, but the researchers actually found that the women who chit-chatted about superficial topics had the highest scores for relaxation and positive emotions. Too much self-disclosure or negativity contributed to worse feelings post-mani, though. 

But I’d be remiss to not point out how conversations with technicians may also be affected by language barriers. Vietnamese Americans dominate the nail salon industry, and while many techs do speak enough English to carry casual conversation (or are outright fluent), there’s a high volume of them who are immigrants that talk with one another in non-English languages. As one columnist for The Cut pointed out, some salon-goers may use this language barrier to their benefit if they’re really looking to zone out and not get lost in complex thoughts or conversations.

Don’t Sleep on At-Home Nail Care 

If you prefer to do your nails at home or perhaps are budgeting, you can actually give yourself a salon-quality manicure at home if you’ve got the time to master that craft. And yes, at-home nail care can still have very meaningful, positive effects on your mental well-being.

Think about it: Cleaning, buffing, filing, and then painting your nails is essentially a ritualized series of actions. Rituals like these allow us to temporarily switch off our focused attention – the most mentally draining to cognitive resources – and toggle our brains into rote attention mode.

Rote attention is used for engaging activities that don’t take a toll on our mental energy. Activities that fall under this category like chopping vegetables, doing household chores, playing simple games, or even taking a walk may seem totally mindless, but they’re not.

Experts believe that rote attention activities actually allow our psyches a bit of grace, refreshing our minds for when we’re needed to get back to focused attention. Clearly, you don’t always want to be sluggishly operating on rote attention around the clock, but these brief moments of respite are important for replenishing mental energy.

“When the mind becomes focused on a creative task, worrisome thoughts tend to fade away. As the creative mind ‘plays,’ feel-good neurochemicals such as serotonin activate positive feelings of wellness and serenity,” said one clinical psychologist, Dr. Carla Marie Manly. Although Dr. Manly was talking about adult coloring books as a coping strategy for anxiety, the same principle rings true for giving yourself a manicure. Slowing down, disengaging from toxic thoughts, and giving your body a little bit of TLC is worth the extra time and effort. 

“Fashions Fade, Style Is Eternal”

Co-founder of top nail care brand OPI, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, once explained how application is just the tip of the iceberg for the positive benefits of your average mani-pedi; polish itself can be transformational.

“I always say that color can change your look – and your outlook. Want to feel vibrant? What about powerful? Or, perhaps you want to feel sexy? There is a nail color that evokes each of these feelings. For example, my signature nail color is red. Red makes me feel polished, professional, powerful, and even a little sexy,” she shared.

Nail polish also gets bonus points for being extremely accessible as a versatile fashion accessory, explained Weiss-Fischmann. First off, there’s a pretty low barrier to entry when it comes to at-home nail care beyond dedicated time to apply and dry. Secondly, the varnish you choose isn’t permanent, so there’s even less stress about committing to a new aesthetic. 

“Experimenting with new colors and textures is fun, and because lacquer is affordable, you can try many different trends. Nail color is accessible for all socio-economic and age levels, unlike so many other accessories,” she said. 

You might be the type of gal to stick to a few tried-and-true manicure staples that you know will look good no matter the occasion – like the classic nude nail –  but there’s something to be said about getting outside your comfort zone and trying something new. 

At Evie, we’ve got you covered when it comes to manicure inspo to shake up your routine – from dark and moody vibes, unique French tips, cute sticker tricks, alluring romantic looks, and soft girl chic, to sunny boosts of serotonin, and many more. You’ve only got one life, so you might as well have a little bit of fun every now and then by testing out some new styles.

“Having lacquered nails is the ideal way to complete your look, try a new trend, embrace a new style, or just make a simple change that makes you look and feel more beautiful,” said Weiss-Fischmann.

Closing Thoughts

Nail care isn’t your only chance to renew your mind, soul, and body, but it’s certainly one of the best gifts you can treat yourself to. Manicures in general are relaxing and, when done in a salon setting, can offer you the added benefit of light self-disclosure and rote thought. Our world is honestly far too fast-paced, and not only do you deserve to slow down every now and then, but you also owe it to yourself to take care of the one body you’ve got.

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