Beautiful natural nails aren't expensive or difficult if you find a nail technician who knows what's what - such as Susan Andrews at Alves Hairdressers (0171-722-3844) in St John's Wood, north London.

Describing herself as a "soft manicurist", she has a gentle and non-aggressive approach to healthy nails. Using Nailtique products, Susan transformed my ruined nubs to long, strong nails in two months. (Nailtiques' distributor 01543 480100).

Hands give your age away, that's why Susan advises using a good hand cream several times a day, paying special attention to the cuticle area. Her favourites? Marks & Spencer's Pure Care Intensive Hand and Nail Cream (pounds 4.00), "outstanding for the price and quite heavy so it's best for night- time". Another favourite is the bestselling Crabtree & Evelyn Hand Therapy (pounds 8.50), a luxurious cream of shea butter, marigold and yarrow. Tried Crabtree & Evelyn Hand Scrub Varnish? You must. Test drive the new pale irridescent colours of MAC Shades Of Venus (pounds 6.00) and NARS Schiap (pounds 12.50), the shocking pink signature shade of the couturier Schiaparelli. Streetwear (at Boots, pounds 5.00), Mary Quant's 80 shades and Make-Up Forever's 35 shades (at Dickens & Jones, 0171-734 7070) are brilliant too.

For fun nail updates, see The Gingirl's Polish Page (http:// If you're not on-line, surf Harvey Nichols for e-nail icon sets (pounds 12.50) or a glow-in-the-dark cyberchic gleam with Barry M Accessory Paint (pounds 2.95, mail order 0181-349 2992).