Whether you’re trying to save money or going to the salon is simply not an option, there’s never a bad time to master doing your own manicure at home. Not only is there a real satisfaction to painting your own nails, it can also have therapeutic benefits.
Step1: Clean the Nails with Polish Remover To get a great manicure at home, do as the pros do by spending as much time prepping your nails as you do polish them. That means starting with a good nail polish remover like Sally Hansen’s. It quickly takes off all polish (even glitter) and has essential nutrients to help strengthen your nails and moisturize your cuticles. Even if you don’t have polish on, you’ll still want to run a cotton ball of remover over each nail to get rid of any oils or dirt that could warp your polish. Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after.
Step2: The Act of File and Buff
Clip nails first, if necessary. Then file gently, moving in one direction to get your tips square, round, or somewhere in between. Hold the file flush to your nail and tilt it so you file from slightly underneath. This allows you to see exactly what you’re doing and helps protect against overfiling. Finally, buff the tops and sides of your nails lightly with a nail buffer—not your emery board—to create a smooth surface.
Step3: Prep Your Cuticles
Prep cuticles with cuticle remover—make sure it’s not an oil or a balm—to help dissolve dead skin and soften the area. Contrary to popular belief, cuticle oils and cuticle removers are not one and the same, nor can they be used interchangeably. Oils help moisturize, while removers act like an exfoliating treatment for your nail beds. Then push back gently with a cuticle stick.
Step4: Moisturize Your Hands and Cuticles
Moisturize now to avoid smudging almost-dry nail polish later. Opt for a luxe, light alternative to hand cream that’s also ideal for cuticle hydration. Take the opportunity to give yourself a mini hand massage—just because you’re not at a spa doesn’t mean you can’t relax for a minute. To finish, swipe each nail with nail polish remover to get rid of residue.
Step5: Applying a Base Coat.
Apply a base coat to hydrate and protect nails and prevent chipping. Then chill for a few. You should wait two full minutes between each coat, starting with the base coat.
Step6: Time for Your First Coat of Color
Now for the fun part: Apply a coat of your color of choice, being sure to get the brush all the way down to the cuticle and into the corners of your nail. Maximum coverage on the first coat makes the second coat a breeze. Just keep the layer thin.
Step7: Now Try Your Second Coat of Color
After a nice full two minutes, apply the second coat of nail polish. Sheer or pastel shades may require a third coat for full, seamless coverage. Just remember to keep it nice and thin.
Step8: Finish with a Topcoat.
A topcoat protects your manicure from chipping and adds shine to nails—don’t skip it, or you’ll significantly shorten the lifespan of the paint job you just worked so hard on. A word of warning: Be careful when you put your topcoat on, since a messy application can ruin your entire manicure. Topcoats tighten as they dry, which is what can cause those little ridges if you don’t put it on properly. To give nails that truly mirror like gleam you get at the nail salon, follow that up with a separate shine.