There are few things I like more than getting a great manicure. My nail appearance is important to me (I get genuinely distracted when they are really chipped or look terrible), and so I typically go to the nail salon once a week to keep them looking nice. Unfortunately, I’m a busy person, and I don’t always have time to let skilled manicurists work their magic on my hands. On my particularly busy weekends, I am forced to give myself an at-home manicure, a ritual that many girls know as frustrating, disappointing, and basically torturous.
It sounds dramatic, but painting your own nails and making them look good is not easy. It took me a long time to come up with a collection of products that actually make the process a little more simple. Unless you are very skilled at nail polish, you need some help beyond your favorite color and a base and top coat. There are tons of nail products out there, and it can be overwhelming to go through them when you’re not sure which ones are just hype and which ones actually work magic. So, I went through them for you. Here are 16 nail products you need for an easy at-home manicure. These items will keep your nails looking quite professional – and I know that sounds appealing. Check ’em out:
1. Essie gel.setter Top Coat
If you love the look of gel manicures but hate how they can totally destroy your nails, try a gel top coat. I love this one from Essie, which is one of my favorite nail polish brands out there. While this topcoat won’t make your polish last as long as a gel manicure will, it will give your nails a super shiny appearance similar to that of a legit gel mani. Bonus: you don’t need to put nails under UV rays to use it.
essie Nail Care gel.setter Top Coat, $9.99, Target
2. Zoya Remove Plus Nail Polish Remover
In order to give yourself a good manicure, you need to first make sure your nails are clean and ready to go – no picking nail polish off! I’m a big fan of Zoya’s Remove Plus, which is a 3-in-1 formula that acts as a remover as well as nail prep and conditioner. It doesn’t feel as harsh as cheap nail polish removers you can find at the store, but it easily dissolves nail polish without forcing you to scrub too hard. It also left my nails and hands feeling considerably less dry than a typical cheap remover would. Lastly, I love the pump, which allows you to press down with a cotton puff for the remove rather than shake it out or flip it over.
Zoya Remove Plus Nail Polish Remover, $9.99, Zoya
3. OPI Avojuice Skin Quenchers Hand and Body Lotion
No matter what nail polish remover you’re using, it will make your hands and nails at least a little dry. You should absolutely prep beforehand with hand lotion, like a professional manicurist would. I love this OPI lotion. It smells wonderful and leaves your hands feeling super soft. It doesn’t have the oily finish some lotions have that can leave an annoying residue on nails.
OPI Avojuice Skin Quenchers Hand and Body Lotion in Ginger Lily, $9.95, Ulta
4. Lauren B. Nail and Cuticle Balm
By now, it should be common knowledge that cutting your cuticles is really bad for your nails – not only does it leave room for infection or annoying cuts, but your cuticles don’t even need to be cut. When they’re cut, they grow back faster. I’m pretty convinced it’s just a scam from nail salons to make you think they’re doing more for you. Anyway. You’re much better off moisturizing your cuticles if they’re looking ragged. I love this nail and cuticle balm from Lauren B. The click-pen applicator makes it so easy to apply – I carry mine around to use whenever I need it. It’s super hydrating and really helps.
Lauren B. Nail and Cuticle Balm, $30, Lauren B.
5. Zoya Renew Polish Rejuvenator
If you have a ton of nail polish bottles at home, you need this. It’s not for your nails, it’s for old nail polish. Nail polish that just sits in its bottle and doesn’t get used eventually gets icky looking – the oils separate and it just looks weird and unusable. This Polish Rejuvenator from Zoya works like a charm to bring your old nail polish back to life. So, instead of throwing out the bottles, try this first!
Zoya Renew Polish Rejuvenator, $10, Zoya
6. Kiesque Liquid Palisade
This stuff is genius for anyone who really struggles with painting their nails without getting the polish all over their skin. Apply some Liquid Palisade all around your nail – it comes out as a bright purple color. Let it dry, then paint your nails. Ideally, all of the excess nail polish goes on the Liquid Palisade and not your skin. Once your nails are dry, you can easily and carefully pull off the purple stuff, leaving you with a perfect manicure. It’s the best way for you to get a mess-free manicure at home.
Kiesque Liquid Palisade, $14, Kiesque
7. Whoa Nice Nails Manicure Set
If you’re going to be doing your own manicure, you need your own tools. I personally love this one – the mini size and pouch makes it ideal for travel or just to stick in your purse for touch-ups. It comes with mini scissors, two little nail files, and a small nail clipper, which is really all you need. And it’s adorable!
Whoa Nice Nails Manicure Set, $26, ASOS
8. Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat
Ever since I found this base coat, I almost always refuse to use anything else because it is the absolute best. It’s not just a base coat – it’s a CC cream that strengthens nails and gives perfecting coverage. Swipe this on – it looks tan, but on nails it becomes almost the same color as your skin – and let it dry. It keeps your nails smooth, it boosts the color of your polish, and gives a perfect matte finish. It is honestly one of my favorite nail products. A little pricey, but so worth it – my manicures always look better when I use it.
Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat, $20, Sephora
9. Lauren. B Nail Polish Remover Pads
It sounds weird to say that I love a nail polish remover, but in this case, it’s the truth. These little pads are excellent for traveling and are so easy to use. This is also, without a doubt, the best smelling nail polish remover I have ever used. In Sweet Berry Blossom, it smells sweet and wonderful – not at all like the strong alcoholic scent of remover you’re used to.
Lauren B. Nail Polish Remover Pads, $14, Lauren B.
10. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat
To be perfectly honest, I will not do my own manicure without this top coat from Sally Hansen. It is the absolute best one I’ve ever used. I have zero patience for waiting for my nail polish to dry, and this helps so much. Swipe it on over a top coat – you can’t just use this one, it gets sticky and weird – and let the magic happen. It helps polish dry so much faster and makes it look shinier. It also protects your manicure over time. It’s the best!
Sally Hansen Inta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat, $5.99, Ulta
11. Zoya Naked Manicure Professional Stater Kit
If you’re serious about nail care, you need this kit from Zoya. It contains nine different polishes that are actually nail perfectors that not only make nails look good, but actually strengthen them and keep them healthy. Each one does something different (lavender is for correcting discoloration, for example), but the whole kit leaves you with gorgeous, strong nails. It’s amazing.
Zoya Naked Manicure Professional Starter Kit, $96, Zoya
12. L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Nail Color
The cool thing about this L’Oreal two-step nail polish is that it comes with its own top coat. Instead of using a clear top coat, you use the one on the other side of the bottle that is custom made for that nail color. Not only does that make your nail polish look better and stay longer, but it’s also so convenient – your nail polish and top coat are in one place!
L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Nail Color, $9.99, L’Oreal
13. OPI Drip Dry Lacquer Drying Drops
I truly do not know how I would do at-home manicures without this – or how I did them before I had this. These OPI Drip Dry drops work like a dream to make polish dry quickly. Simply use one drop on your cuticles, let sit, and watch as it spread over your nail, drying polish quickly while also moisturizing your cuticle area. You only need one drop! I use this with my Sally Hansen top coat when I’m in a big rush.
OPI Drip Dry Lacquer Drying Drops, $13.50, Ulta
14. Smith & Cult Basis of Everything Base Coat
My other favorite base coat in the world is this one from Smith & Cult. First of all, Smith & Cult has arguably the best nail packaging of all time – it is glam and chic and unique and amazing. Second, this base coat works like a charm to keep nails protected and smooth. Sometimes I double it up with my Deborah Lippmann CC Coat, other times I just use this one.
Smith & Cult Basis of Everything Base Coat, $18, Birchbox
15. Lauren B. Nail Growth Serum
I take such good care of my nails, but it is so, so hard to get them to actually grow… until I became obsessed with this Lauren B. serum. Apply a small amount to your nails before polishing, and it strengthens them while boosting natural growth. After using it, I notice my nails break a whole lot less than they normally do.
Lauren B. Nail Growth Serum, $75, Lauren B.
16. Essence Gel Look Plumping Top Coat
If you’re looking for something super cheap, go for this Essence Top Coat. This is one of my favorite beauty brands, and I love this top coat. Not only does it give nails the shiny look you get from a gel manicure, but it also boosts your polish color. It’s the best and it’s so affordable.
Essence Gel Look Plumping Top Coat, $2.99, Ulta
Which of these nail products will you try? Have you tried one? What did I forget? Let me know in the comments.