Yes, going for a mani (or a mani-pedi!) is amazingly decadent and sometime you deserve it. But, doing your own nails is much less expensive and less time-consuming than going to a salon—and easier to mess up. Here are our tips for getting a professional manicure at home.
Prep your nails.
To whiten stained nails, do a DIY scrub. Make a paste by mixing 2 tablespoons baking soda with one tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide in a small non-metallic bowl. If the mixture is a bit watery, gradually add more baking soda. Use a Q-tip and coat your fingernails with the paste—also put some under the tips of your nails. Leave for 3 minutes before rinsing. Be sure to moisturize your nails and cuticles afterward with an oil like Essie’s Apricot Cuticle Oil.
Pro Tip: Use lip balm to moisturize your cuticles and nails when you don’t have any cuticle cream or oil on hand.
Apply thin layers of polish and spread them out. That way, it won’t cake or smudge. First apply a base coat and then a very thin coat of polish. Make sure this initial coat is completely dry before doing the second one—if not, the second coat will take longer to dry and may smudge. Also wait before doing your top coat for the same reason.
Make a barrier.
Try scotch tape to keep polish from running off into outlying skin and cuticle. Line the tape all around the nails prior to application. It helps to keep the brush on the nail plate, and if you miss, the polish will be on the tape, which you will peel off after.
In a rush?
Try Essie Quick-e quick drying drops. With just a few drops, nails are dry to the touch in 60 seconds and completely dry in less than 2 minutes.
Toss old polish.
Make sure to use a polish that’s fresh. The consistency should be thin and easy to spread on the nail. If it’s at all goopy, stop what you’re doing and chuck the bottle. It’s not worth it.
Keep a “quick dry” top coat handy—at work and at home.
About two days after you do your manicure, apply a quick-dry top coat to protect the polish and refresh the shine. Our fave is Seche Vite.
A beautiful trend in nails is the matte look…but how do you get it when all your polishes are high gloss? Easy. Grab a bottle of Pacifica’s 7 Free Matt Top Coat to go from glossy and glam to matte and marvelous.
Clip off the excess.
After a few days of wearing polish, carefully clip the very end of your nails to get rid of that thin white line you inevitably get at the edge. Usually this trick eliminates any part of the nail that might have chipping, and when combined with a fresh top coat, you have a manicure that looks brand-spanking new.
Choose a flattering hue.
Select a shade that complements your skin tone. Light skin tones look great with purples or reds; medium skin tones can rock blues or metallics; and dark skin tones can pull off golds or deep reds. Corals and grays flatter all tones.
Love long lasting colour?
Essie, Orly, and Revlon all make easy at-home gel options for long-lasting colour.
Cleaning up the nail afterward is just as important as the painting before. Use an angled eyebrow brush dipped in acetone for precision cleanup. If you don’t feel confident fixing these flaws, take a Q-tip, dip it in hot water, lightly press it to the polish, and let it soak in. It should come off; polish isn’t meant to adhere to skin (which is why wayward polish will also come off in the shower).