When it comes to painting your nails, getting a professional manicure at a salon is obviously ideal. You get to feel pampered while someone rubs your hands, fixes any smudges you might accidentally make while trying to text under the hand dryer, something that has personally never happened to me (it happens every time), and generally makes you feel super relaxed during a process that is kind of annoying when you think about it. Unfortunately, we can’t all get manicures on the regular. The cost adds up and they take up time you might not have, so sometimes your only option (if you want a manicure) is to do your own nails at home.
Personally, I hate doing my own nails. I would rather trek to the nail salon in any kind of weather and spend the money to have someone else do them than attempt them by myself. To put it bluntly, I suck at at-home manicures. No matter what I do, I can’t manage to make my right hand look good, at all. I always smudge something. I have no patience to wait for them to dry. The color never lasts as long as it does when I get them professionally done. Also, I am just lazy.
Whether you feel the same way or you actually prefer to do your nails yourself, I’m sure you could use some of these tips and tricks on how to make the process easier. At the end of the day, doing at-home manicures is cheaper and financially smarter, so I guess I need to learn some of these myself!
1. Make sure you have all the necessary tools.
If you want a *good* at-home manicure, you need more than just nail polish and a nail file to get it done. Here are my product recommendations:
- ncLA Mani E.R., $16 – this little kit is adorable, and includes all the tools you need – clippers, nail file, push stick, and tiny scissors. It’s also mini, which makes it easy to take anywhere.
- Zoya Remove Plus Nail Polish Remover, $4.60 – $25 – This nail polish remover actually removes everything, it’s easy to use thanks to the push top, and it doesn’t smell completely awful.
- Lauren B. Beauty Nail & Cuticle Balm, $30 – This little pen/brush is so easy to use on your cuticles, leaving them feeling smooth and hydrated.
- Zoya Armor Top Coat, $10, Zoya Anchor Base Coat, $10 – I like this top and base coat combo so much I even bring it to the nail salon. Both keep polish on for longer than most other options I’ve tried.
- Essie polish, $9 – I love a lot of different nail polish brands (my favorites aside from Essie are O.P.I., Zoya, Smith & Cult, and Deborah Lippmann), but the shade Topless and Barefoot is my number one favorite, especially for summer. It’s a pinkish-tan neutral that looks good on everyone.
- OPI Drip Dry Lacquer Drying Drops, $13.50 – Add a drop of this to each nail after your top coat, and watch your polish dry faster than you thought possible. Seriously.
2. First step: remove the polish you already have on, obviously.
If you don’t have a nail polish remover with a push top, make your own easy-to-use contraption with a mason jar and cotton balls.
3. You can even remove gel polish on your own too.
Try removing gel polish on your own before you head to the salon. It’s not as hard as you might think, it just requires some time.
4. Second step: file your nails. Pick the shape that’s best for you.
Your nail shape can change the way your fingers and hands look. You can obviously do whatever shape you want, but if you’re interested in picking the most ~flattering~ one for you, check out the above chart.
5. Here’s how they look on an actual hand:
6. Third step: Make your cuticles look good.
Don’t cut your cuticles, it will only make them grow in worse. Instead, soak them so they’re soft, push them back, and then moisturize them so they don’t look dry. Snip away any bits that are in the way, but otherwise, leave them be.
7. Step 4: fix any broken nails you might have.
Attempt to fix a broken nail instead of completely clipping it off. You can use a bit of a tea bag, as shown above.
8. Or use fabric and nail glue to fix a broken nail.
This is another popular method that is similar, so just pick what works for you.
9. Step five: Know the best way to paint your nail.
Don’t just slop the polish on any which way – there’s actually a process you can follow for the best smudge-proof way to apply nail polish. It might take more time, but the slower you go, the better your chances are of not smudging.
10. Step six: actually, you know, do your nails.
Follow the above steps for your basic manicure.
11. Try this process for extra strength:
12. Now, try some tricks. A lot of people swear by this one:
I don’t know how great it is to put glue all over your hands, but if you’re interested in trying this one, it’s supposed to help keep your polish in the lines.
13. If you DO make a mistake, you can fix it:
No need to always redo the entire nail. Try this trick out before you go that far.
14. If you want your nails to dry faster, dunk them in ice water.
As weird as this sounds, people swear by it.
15. Love gel? You can get a similar look at home.
There are now top coats that mimic gel polish for at-home manicures. In my experience, they don’t last quite as long as professional done gel, but they do help and they make polish look super shiny.
16. Want more? Check out these tips from professional nail artists:
Do you ever do your nails at home? Are you going to try any of these tricks? Let us know in the comments.