Whether you’re trying to save money or simply too busy to make an extra stop at the salon, there’s a lot to love about an at-home manicure. Follow these 10 easy steps to ensure salon-quality results without a second set of hands.
Step 1: Remove current nail polish (if any).
Eliminate spills and smudges by positioning your arms and tools on a flat, protected surface. We recommend O.P.I’s Original Polish Remover and La Fresh Acetone-Free Wipes, which are way convenient. Wash hands afterward.
Step 2: Clip, file and buff your nails.
Clip nails first, if necessary. Then file (in one direction) to get your tips square, round or somewhere in between. Buff tops and sides of nails lightly with a nail buffer (not your emery board) to create a smooth surface.
Step 3: Push back your cuticles.
Soften cuticles with oil or lotion and then push back gently with a cuticle stick. Your cuticles protect your nails from bacteria and keep them soft, so avoid cutting them.
Exfoliate hands, wrists and forearms with a hand scrub that eliminates dead skin cells and replenishes moisture. Use a nailbrush to clean under nails. Wash hands afterward and dry them thoroughly.
Step 5: Moisturize your hands.
Moisturize now to avoid smudging almost-dry nail polish later. Take the opportunity to give yourself a mini hand massage—just because you’re not at the spa doesn’t mean you can’t relax! To finish, swipe each nail with nail polish remover.
Step 6: Apply the nail polish base coat.
Apply base coat to hydrate and protect nails and prevent chipping. Nail guru Essie Weingarten, of Essie nail polish, recommends waiting two full minutes between each coat, starting with the base coat.
Step 7: Apply the first coat of color nail polish.
Now for the fun part! Apply a coat of your newest hue, being sure to get the brush all the way down to the cuticle and into the corners of the nail. Maximum coverage on the first coat makes the second coat a breeze.
After two minutes, apply the second coat of nail polish. Sheer glazes may require a third coat for full coverage.
The topcoat protects your manicure from chipping and adds shine to nails. We love Seche Vite topcoat, for preventing even the slightest nicks and chips, and Butter London Hardwear PD Quick topcoat, for its “3 free” (no formaldehyde, toluene or DBP) formula.
Step 10: Clean up rough edges and let your nails dry.
Clean up any mistakes or wobbly edges by wrapping a piece of cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover around the end of your cuticle pen and carefully going over edges. If you’re using nail polish remover pads, simply fold one into a triangle for more precise application. Let nails dry an additional five minutes. And—voilà—perfect nails…at home!