Every Step You Need to Know About for a Flawless DIY Manicure

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We love walking out of the salon with freshly manicured nails that are swathed in color and so shiny that they’re almost blinding. But, there are those days when sitting through a nail appointment—no matter how desperately you may need one—just isn’t going to happen, and you resort to doing your nails yourself. For the lucky few who are able to coat their nails with polish and stay within the lines—not to mention properly remove a hangnail and file their tips to perfection—we envy you. For everyone else, that’s where these tricks of the trade come in. Straight from the experts themselves, this is what you need to have and know about the next time you decide to your nails on your own.

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1/10

Have the right tools ready.

To correctly perform an at-home manicure, you need more than just a bottle of nail polish. Essie celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders suggests taking out a small tray and placing everything you need on it to do a manicure including a towel, small bowl, polish remover, cotton rounds, nail clippers, nail file, nail buffer, nail brush, cuticle oil, orange wood stick or cuticle pusher, and hand lotion.


2/10

Clean your nails, no matter what.

Tenoverten cofounder Nadine Abramcyk says that when doing your nails at home you need to be vigilant about thoroughly cleaning the nail bed of all oil. “Prior to any polish application, clean nails with a square of paper towel as opposed to a cotton soaked in non-acetone remover,” she says. “The last cleanse before applying an 8-free base coat such as tenoverten's Foundation ($18) is what helps your at-home manicure last longer."



3/10

Exfoliate your cuticles.

After soaking your hands to soften up your cuticles, you’ll want to exfoliate them (in addition to pushing back your cuticles, or even cutting them) to remove any dead skin lingering on the surface. Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann says to apply a gentle scrub, like a facial scrub or Deborah Lippmann Marshmallow Hand & Cuticle Scrub ($29, all around your hands and cuticles to remove dead skin.


4/10

File, then buff.

There’s a reason why your manicurist always buffs your nails after filing them into the desired shape. Mazz Hanna of Nailing Hollywood says gently buffing the nails removes the nail’s natural shine, which allows the base coat to adhere better. 


5/10

Invest in a good base coat.

Not every base coat out there is clear and just acts like a barrier between your nails and your polish. “Some have treatments in them and ultimately, they will help the lacquer lay down better and keep polish lasting longer,” says Lippmann, who suggests applying a super thin layer of base coat before polish.


6/10

Don’t layer on your polish too thick.

According to Lippmann, most women make the mistake of applying their polish too thick as an attempt to get the color to appear as it does in the bottle. “This is one of the most common mistakes, which actually deters the whole process and has the reverse effect because you end up over polishing your nails, slowing down the entire application process and making the nails more prone to chipping,” she says. 


7/10

Don’t apply cuticle oil until you’ve polished your nails.

The majority of us have been taught to hydrate the cuticles (with oil or lotion) prior to applying polish. But Sally Hansen Global Color Ambassador, Madeline Poole, says that’s a major don’t. “Cuticle oil is important as is lotion, but it is best to apply cuticle oil after you have finished painting the nail and allowed them to dry for a bit.”


8/10

When fixing a chip, buff it out.

Chips happen. Instead of having to remove an entire nail of polish and start from scratch to fix a chip, Poole says to take a light buffing block and carefully buff the area around the chip so that it’s more even and less obvious. “Then, refill the area with color by dabbing it on. You may have to repeat that two times to get full coverage in the chipped area,” she says.

9/10

Make your mani last by capping the ends.

To make sure that your polish lasts for days on end, try capping the nails between each coat before applying a topcoat. “Cap the edges of the nails by painting back and forth on the tip. I apply two coats followed by one coat of a topcoat like Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat ($5). I don’t recommend two coats of a top coat, however, you may need to reapply it a few days in to prolong the manicure.”


10/10

Maintain the shine.

To prevent your nails from becoming dull and keep the color from chipping, layer on a thin—and we mean thin—coat of clear polish every few days to sustain your mani.


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