Between balancing your work responsibilities and fitting in your regular workouts, finding time for a weekly manicure isn’t always possible. Perhaps your usual nail technician is fully booked, or you’re simply not keen on spending a significant amount of money for your weekly touch-up (completely understand).
Fortunately, you don’t have to go to a salon to achieve a salon-quality manicure (one that lasts for a week or longer) at home. All you need is 30 minutes and a few nail grooming essentials. Here, discover the most effective way to achieve a flawless DIY manicure at home, including how to soften your cuticles, apply your polish like a professional, and maintain the color of your nails for days.
Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving the Best Manicure at Home
1. Prepare Your Nails
The key to obtaining a salon-quality manicure at home lies in the preparation. Spending time on the necessary steps will give your manicure a professional finish.
Start by removing any existing polish using an acetone-based nail polish remover, such as Zoya Remove Nail Polish Remover (Purchase It, $12, ulta.com), suggests Julie Kandalec, a nail technician in New York City. Non-acetone removers may also work, but some of them tend to emulsify the polish into the cuticles, making it challenging to remove, she adds.
Next, it’s time to shape your nails. “The shape of your nails is determined by the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the shape comes from using a nail clipper, and the remaining 10 percent involves filing,” explains Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the founder and CEO of Olive & June. Begin by using flat-edge clippers to cut your nails into the desired shape, and then use a file to smooth out the edges. Start from the corners and work your way towards the center, advises Kandalec.
Apply a cuticle remover, such as Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover (Purchase It, $22, sephora.com), which is an exfoliating treatment designed to loosen dead skin around the nails. Use a cuticle pusher to gently push back the cuticles.
Remove any additional substance and polish using a cushioned polisher. This action will eliminate any surplus skin at the base of the nail and create a sleek surface for applying polish, states Kandalac.
Finally, swipe the whole nail with 91 percent isopropyl alcohol to eliminate excess oils, ensuring it’s free of all product and ready for polish.
2. Choose Your Polish
Selecting the appropriate nail polish is not only based on personal preference, but it’s a significant decision based on your lifestyle as well. While some prefer vibrant, daring colors over timeless, luxurious shades, there is also the consideration of fast-drying polishes or gel polishes for those who are always on the move and have limited time to wait for polish to dry. You could also add a fun variation to a classic appearance, such as JLo’s sparkling double French manicure. Choosing the right polish is crucial to achieve a flawless at-home manicure. Below, discover the finest colored, quick-drying, and vegan polishes:
Finest Colored Nail Polish
A well-known name in nail care and colors, OPI Nail Polish stands out for its daring hues and witty polish names. This is particularly true for the brand’s assortment of colorful options such as “Don’t Tell a Sol” (a warm yellow), “Cactus What You Preach” (a light blue), and “A Great Fig World” (a deep purple).
Buy It: Don’t Tell a Sol, $11.49, opi.com; Cactus What You Preach, $11, opi.com; A Great Fig World, $6.24, opi.com
Finest Quick-Drying Nail Polish
Expressie, the rapid-dry polish line from Essie, is developed to be used without (!!) a base or topcoat (though using one may prolong the wear time). The layers dry in approximately one minute, making it the ideal polish for when you lack time for a complete at-home manicure. There are 40 enjoyable shades to choose from; try slate blue “Air Dry” or deep nude “Cold Brew Crew.
Purchase: Air Dry, $10, target.com; Cold Brew Crew, $10, target.com
Finest Pure Nail Polish
If you’re in search of a vegan formulation for your DIY manicure, but have discovered the choices…insufficient, give Claw Nail Polish a try. You would never know the abundant, high-pigment shades — observe: earthy green Aspen or pure black Jonnie — were produced without the top 10 harmful components found in numerous nail polishes, such as parabens, phthalates, animal components, and formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin, which are believed to be not so fantastic for your well-being.
Purchase: Aspen, $14, shoptalon.com; Jonnie, $14, shoptalon.com
Finest Luxurious Nail Polish
In comparison to the numerous nail salons scattered throughout New York City, JINsoon’s establishments stand out for their stylish designs, long-lasting polish, and renowned citrus tea. Unable to visit one of their city-wide destinations? Not an issue. Acquire a polish on their website or at one of their national retailers and bring the experience to your home. Depending on your ~vibe~, opt for a vibrant confetti polish (that also conceals any flaws!) such as Dotty, or a timeless deep red such as Coquette.
Purchase: Dotty, $18, jinsoon.com; Coquette, $18, jinsoon.com
3. Perfect Your Approach.
Slim, consistent layers of polish are the secret to a great manicure at home, according to Gibson Tuttle. “This will aid in quicker and more thorough drying, preventing peeling and chipping in the future,” she explains. Prefer gel nails? Completely understand (after all, the zero drying time and long-lasting shine are significant advantages). But doing a gel manicure at home requires a completely different process, which involves purchasing a UV gel LED nail light (Buy It, $18.99, amazon.com). You can also purchase gel nail polish strips for a much simpler gel application process.
For a regular manicure, consider investing in a set, such as the Dazzle Dry Nail Polish Kit, which includes the base coat, nail polish, and top coat all in one.
Below, discover tips for mastering a regular manicure at home.
Do not neglect the base coat. Even though you may not notice the difference, applying a layer of base coat during an at-home manicure helps the polish adhere to the nail and apply more smoothly, according to Kandalec.
Find a comfortable position. This applies to both your seating (think: a flat surface for painting, obviously) and how you hold the polish. “Polish bottles are designed for professionals to paint with their dominant hand,” explains Gibson Tuttle. However, when doing a manicure at home, you have to use both your dominant and non-dominant hand, which can be a challenging and uncomfortable task for many DIY-ers. Sound familiar? Gibson Tuttle suggests utilizing Olive & June’s The Poppy (Buy It, $16, oliveandjune.com). “This patented polishing tool fits on top of any polish bottle and allows you to achieve comfort while painting with both your dominant and non-dominant hands on your very first attempt.
Start by painting your dominant hand. This will be the most challenging hand to do, so it’s best to do it first without worrying about getting nail polish on your other hand, according to Kandalec.
Minimize the number of brush strokes. Begin by lightly swiping a thin layer of polish in the center of your nail, then swipe on both sides, advises Gibson Tuttle. You should be able to cover the average nail with two to three strokes. Allow it to dry for at least two minutes before applying a second thin coat. If you need a third coat for full-color coverage, go ahead.
Avoid streaks in your polish. Some polish colors can appear streaky when applied, but there are techniques you can try to make it smoother. First, make sure your polish is new and not too thick. “My general rule is, if you can hear the ball in the bottle move easily when you shake it, it’s good to use and will result in fewer streaks,” says Kandalec. To prevent the pigments from separating, shake the bottle more frequently, even while doing your manicure at home.
Also, be mindful of the pressure you apply while painting. Hold the brush gently parallel to the nail, so the bristles don’t dig into the polish. It should feel like the brush is floating just above the nail, rather than pressing onto it, advises Kandalec. And importantly, allow the polish to level itself. Running the brush over a nail after applying polish will create streaks that can’t be fixed, adds Kandalec. Let the polish do the work for you.
Avoid painting your cuticles. When you start painting your nails, don’t try to cover the entire surface right away. Instead, get close to the cuticle until you feel comfortable with painting. A clean line with a small gap between the polish and the cuticle will look better than getting polish on your cuticles, says Gibson Tuttle. By the way, you should also refrain from cutting your cuticles and instead keep them hydrated with cuticle oil.
Apply a top coat. Use a top coat to seal your nails and enhance the shine while protecting your at-home manicure, advises Kandalec. Quick-dry top coats like Seche Vite dry in just five minutes, but they may be more susceptible to chipping. Longer-lasting top coats are more durable but may take up to 30 minutes to dry.
Clean up any mistakes. The signs of a subpar DIY manicure are polish on your cuticles and uneven application near the edges. Once your nail polish is completely dry, use a small brush dipped in nail polish remover to fix any smudges or uneven lines, says Gibson Tuttle.
Make Your At-Home Manicure Last
Gibson’s top tip: Every two to three days, apply a thin layer of top coat again. “This will provide an extra layer of protection against everything your hands come into contact with and significantly extend the lifespan of your manicure,” she explains.
The foe of a fresh manicure is water. Immersing or cleansing your hands prior to painting your nails will cause your polish to chip more quickly because your nail absorbs the water and doesn’t dry for an hour or two afterwards, states Kandalec. (It can also result in fragile or splitting nails.) Putting on gloves while tidying up and doing household chores can safeguard your nails from the water and also the abrasive components in your cleansing agents, she clarifies. As much as possible, evade submerging your manicure — such as during your weekly soak — you can still partake in one (hello, self-care!) just strive to keep your hands above water by, for example, holding a glass of wine.
During those times when you don’t have the time to pamper yourself with a manicure, contemplate trying out some of the finest press-on nails for a flawless appearance in minimal time.