How To Master The At-Home Manicure

Photographed by Molly Cranna.
Going to the nail salon for a mani-pedi is one of my favorite little luxuries. I wish I could say that I get my nails professionally polished before chips rear their ugly heads and cuticles ever appear. But the truth is, with such a busy schedule, I can’t always find the time to make it to the salon. Plus, going to a salon regularly is an expensive habit, and in light of the recent information on the illegal practices of some nail salons, I'm all about a good old-fashioned at-home manicure.

If you have a steady hand and a covetable collection of lacquers, you will probably agree with me, too. It has taken me quite a bit of practice to get my DIY manicure to pass for a professional polish change. Thankfully, I have a few handy tips that I’m going to pass on to all of you today that will have your friends ooh-ing and ahh-ing the next time they see your nails…
Here’s what you will need:
nail clippers
nail file
nail polish remover
hand scrub
hand cream
rubbing alcohol
base coat
nail polish
top coat
eyeshadow brush
cuticle oil (optional)
Step 1: Clip your nails.
Use a nail clipper and trim your nails down to your desired length. We do not recommend cutting your cuticles at home, but if you’ve had a lot of practice and you're a pro, go for it. Just be aware that your cuticles can get infected if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Step 2: File them into shape.
Using an emery board nail file, shape your nails and even out any jagged edges. You can go for a rounded nail shape or a square shape. I usually like something that’s a little bit in the middle — square with rounded edges.

Step 3: Clean your nails.
It is best to start with nails that are already polish-free, but I recommend getting them extra clean with polish remover and a cotton ball. You don’t want to have leftover polish or base coat on your nails because it will make your new manicure appear uneven.

Step 4: Gently exfoliate your hands.
Using your favorite body scrub, give your hands a gentle rub. This will remove dead skin and give your skin a glow.

Step 5: Moisturize with hand cream.
Just like the skin on your body and face, the skin on your hands needs moisture after you exfoliate it. Use a rich, luxurious hand cream to keep your skin smooth and hydrated.

Step 6: Prep your nails.
Next, clean your nails again — this time with rubbing alcohol. It will remove the oils from your hand cream from your nails so that the polish will stay on longer. Plus, I have noticed that using rubbing alcohol instead of acetone for this step keeps my polish chip-free for days!

Step 7: Apply a base coat.
Evenly apply a thin layer of your trusty base coat to each nail.

Step 8: Choose a color and apply.
Pick a color, any color…and apply two coats. Use quick, light strokes to allow polish to evenly distribute on each nail. I recommend letting the first coat dry before applying the second. It will eliminate those little polish bubbles that no one likes.

Step 9: Let your nails dry and add a top coat.
After your nails have dried, apply a quick-dry top coat. If you happen to accidentally smudge a nail, follow these steps for fixing it in a snap.

Step 10: Touch up with acetone and an old makeup brush.
Salon manicurists always perfect my nails by brushing off any polish that went “outside the lines” with a makeup brush and acetone. Doing this trick at home creates a polished, professional result. Just remember to apply some cuticle oil afterwards to that your nail beds don’t look dry.

Have you ever given yourself an at-home manicure that could pass as professional?

Don’t keep your secrets from the rest of us…share them below!

Team LC

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