When it comes to nailing the perfect manicure, celebrity manicurist Tom Bachik is the ultimate expert.
The talent behind the nails of some of the most famous names in the world—think J.Lo, Heidi Klum and Selena Gomez—Bachik knows a thing or two about keeping fingertips ready for a close-up.
Here, Bachik explains the most common mistakes we are probably making while giving ourselves a manicure.
You’re not actually cutting the cuticle.
“The only thing we should be clipping is the cuticle—a thin, waxy film that grows onto the nail as it grows,” he says. The thick substance that’s a little harder to maintain is actually called the eponychium, “which is living tissue,” Bachik adds. For removing cuticles, Bachik recommends using circular motions with a cuticle pusher to push back the cuticle. “This will effectively bring the cuticle down and up for easy clipping.”
You’re using the cuticle nipper wrong.
It may seem trivial, but the way we hold the cuticle nipper makes such a huge difference in the outcome of our manicure. Bachik instructs us to keep the nipper’s blade flat against the cuticle—don’t angle it. “Otherwise you will be cutting your cuticles at uneven lengths, and it will look messy.”
You’re not moisturizing your cuticles enough.
No matter the polish color, if your cuticles are dry, Bachik says hangnails and tough cuticles will become more prominent. “If you’re constantly caring for your cuticles, you’ll have less of a mess to clean up when you do this at home,” says Bachik, who always recommends moisturizing with a cuticle oil or hand lotion before bed. Another hydrating hack: “When you’re in the shower, take a little bit of hair conditioner with a washcloth and push [the cuticles] back.”
You’re not using the right file.
Many of us haven’t given our nail files a second thought, but Bachik says we should do some research before we buy one. “You want to look for a high grit number, anywhere from 180 to 280 grit is great,” Bachik instructs. “180 is perfect for pedicures; 240 is great for manicures, but something like 400 is too smooth—it will act more as a buffer.”
You’re filing wrong.
Yes, there’s a proper way to file your nails. According to Bachik, the correct technique involves filing from the sides of the nail to the center, focusing on one side at a time, instead of a see-saw motion from side to side. “By filing from the side to the center, you’ll ensure an even file on both sides of the nail.”
The way our hands are positioned while filing is another huge factor in achieving the perfect result. “You don’t want to file with the palms of your hands facing you because you’ll begin to follow the shape of your fingers and knuckles, and they’re each a little bit different,” says Bachik.
By turning the hand so you’re looking at the top of your hand (picture the way you would hold it out to look at a new ring), “your eye will turn the file with the horizon so you’ll get an even file. This is super important for a square nail because you’re looking at the horizon, not the shape of your knuckles.”
You’re soaking your nails.
Bachik says that when he wants a client’s manicure to last a long time, he opts for a waterless manicure, or a manicure without the soaking step. “Our nails are porous, so when the polish is applied onto a nail that has been soaked, you’re likely to have more splitting and pilling. When nails dehydrate and go back to their natural shape, it puts pressure on the dried polish,” he says.
You’re not prepping your nails.
“So many nail polish removers have oils and lanolin in them, things to make them less harsh,” explains Bachik. “That leaves residue on the nail and keeps the polish from every actually sitting on the nail.” His solution: Use isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to cleanse the nail just before applying polish.
You’re not using a base coat.
Bachik explains that using a base coat can help extend the life of the polish—it also helps to smooth out the base of the nail. “The smoother the nail, the higher the shine,” he says. “It also helps as a stain blocker from deep, rich polish colors and acts as a layer of protection in between.”
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