Getting a manicure you’re proud of seems like a simple run-to-the-salon and get it done type deal. Sometimes it is, and that’s awesome. In other circumstances, there are a million and one reasons it’s not.
Either you can’t find a nail tech you prefer and trust, or you missed the chance to book an appointment. Maybe you’re totally on a time crunch and have no time for the salon, or you’re just plain tired of paying for getting your nails done.
Whatever your reason for needing an at-home manicure that’s salon good, stat—we’ve got your back on this one.
What You’ll Need
You read the title. Giving yourself an at-home manicure is one thing. You can do the minimum and brush on the polish, but that’s not what we’re going for here. “Perfect” is a controversial word and the implications of it are a little silly considering nothing is ever really perfect. But hey, aim for the moon and land among the stars, am I right?
We know you’re not a celebrity manicurist, but that’s not the point. You can totally give yourself a salon-quality manicure right from the comfort of your own home. That said, these are the basic necessities you’ll need for a GR8 finished product.
- Nail polish remover (if needed)
- Acetone (if you’ve got artificial nails)
- An emery board
- A four-sided buffer (optional)
- A nail cutter
- An exfoliating lotion or cleanser
- Hand soap
- Moisturizing lotion or oil
Step 1: Do the Prep Work
First things first, grab your nail polish remover and go to town on any existing polish. If you’ve got artificial nails on, soak them in acetone and file them off, or use a nail removal kit for best results. Keep in mind that in this case, your nails will likely be weak and need some time to get back to their normal state. If you let them breathe, they totally will get and stronger over time.
Feel free to follow all of the steps here excluding the polish related ones, and it’s best to apply a nail-strengthening top coat if anything at all. If you want to skip the process of healing your nails and you need a presentable look right away, be mindful that there may be some imperfections on your nails as far as ridges and unevenness.
Step 2: Mold the Nail Shape
It’s time to employ those tools. Once you’ve removed your old look, you can start developing the shape and state you like. First, address anything that needs to be filed on the surface, for example, any toughness or ridges from artificial nails. Use an emery board for the surface, or a four-sided buffing sponge.
Depending on your preferred length, you may want to cut or file your nail tips. I keep my nails short and sweet, and yet I like to do both. Cutting helps to get the length you want, and file is all about refining it. File them into a square, round, almond, or if you’re feeling up to it and have the length, a coffin.
Step 3: Clean, Exfoliate, and Moisturize
Once you’ve got your shape going, it’s time to whip your nails into their cleanest, well-groomed state. Use a cuticle remover to push back and discard your cuticles. Make sure to clean under the nails. Once you’ve done so, step in with an exfoliant of your choice.
Take time to gently scrub the all of the skin on your hands. This is the secret to a well-rounded mani.
Then, wash your hands with a gentle cleanser and warm water. Lastly, use a killer moisturizer or oil to seal the deal. Get into the nail cuticles, and really rub it in. If you’re healing from artificial nails, it might be best to stop here. Don’t forget to wipe any excess lotion or oil off.
Step 4: Turn on Your Inner Artist
It’s officially your (and your nail’s), time to shine. Be extra attentive to the steps from here on out as though you were getting paid to do it. I have zero proof that this works as a psychological tactic, but it works for me.
First, you’ll want to apply your base coat. Don’t do the whole shake thing if you’re in a rush. A lot of rumors and manicurists support the action of shaking polish before it’s used, but if you’re using it right away, there will be bubbles of oxygen. Instead, roll the polish on its side to get it stirred. If you’ve got time to kill, shaking might be okay. Apply the polish in gentle strokes. Very important: give it time to dry between coats.
Once your base coat has dried, go for the next one. Keep it as thin as possible, and clean around the edges as you go if you have a tendency to go over onto the skin. If you struggle with this, keep a cue tip dipped in nail polish remover handy. Lastly, you’ll want to apply your top coat.
One of the most important things about mastering the at-home manicure is allowing the time to dry. Unless you use a fast-dry polish, it takes approximately two hours. Cleaner products with less chemicals tend to take longer to dry, so be mindful of this.
With this routine you’ll be among the stars sparkling in no time, but if you want something a little extra—we’ve got you. Head on over to our Nail Care arena for more tips when it comes to choosing products as far as polishes and tools, as well as best nutritional practices for healthy, radiant, natural nails.
Oh! and don’t forget to give yourself a tip, on me.