How to Nail an At-Home Manicure – No Pun Intended

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DIY at home manicure
Photo: Courtesy of @oliveandjune

If there was ever a time to give your nails a break from your weekly manicure, it’s now. But if you can’t bear going bare, we’re here to help you nail the at-home manicure, no pun intended. Here, Savoir Flair breaks down the process into 10 easy steps – tips, tricks, and product picks included. Can you say hand model?

First Things First

Before you get started, make sure you have all the manicure must-haves ready. A little patience aside, there are some key tools and products you’ll need to get this right:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton wool
  • Nail file
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle oil/cuticle remover
  • Cuticle stick
  • Hand scrub
  • Hand cream
  • Base coat
  • Nail polish
  • Topcoat

Step 1

Clean Your Nails

Whether you’ve got polish on or your nails are bare, you need to make sure you have the perfect blank base to work with, which means a good old cleanse. The best way to achieve this is by using a nail polish remover (preferably one that helps strengthen and moisturize nails) to remove traces of old polish, dirt, and surface oils. This will ensure even application and helps your nail polish last longer. Win-Win.


Step 2

Shape Up

Round, square, oval, squoval, almond, coffin (yes, really) – when it comes to nail shapes, the options are endless. If you’re having trouble picking the best one to suit your hands, click here for our expert guide. Or, if you’re ready to start shaping, start by sorting your nail length.

Clip your nails first if they’re particularly long, and then take your nail file to gently whip them into shape. The secret to a flawless shape sans splitting or tearing is to opt for a soft nail file and use long, light strokes in one direction – none of that back and forth malarkey. Not not will this help you have more control over the shape, but it also protects against over-filing and prevents damaging your nails.

at home diy manicure tips
Photo: Courtesy of @misspopnails

Step 3

Get Buffing

Once you’re happy with your shape, take your buffer and lightly buff the tops and sides of nails before sweeping it across each nail three times (or until they look visibly smoother). This helps get rid of ridges while brightening, enhancing shine, and ensuring your polish goes on smoothly and evenly. Remember what we said – it’s all about that base.


Step 4

Care for Your Cuticles

This is usually the part where your nail technician soaks your cuticles before cutting them. But we’ll leave that part to the professionals as you run the risk of ripping and tearing them, which can also lead to infection. No, thank you.

Also, your cuticles are key in protecting nails from bacteria, so it’s best to avoid cutting them when you can. Instead, opt for a cuticle remover – which gently dissolves and softens skin – or simply use a nourishing cuticle oil to keep them hydrated. With the latter, you can then use a cuticle stick to gently push them back and keep them tidy.


Step 5

Scrub and Slough

Scaly hands got you down? Then this step is just the ticket. Not only do hand scrubs gently slough away dry, dead skin, but they also do so without aggravating them. They also load hands with much-needed moisture, and ensure they’re soothed and smoothed for soft, flawless fingers.


Step 6

Moisturize Your Mitts

You don’t need to be in a spa or salon to feel pampered, so treat your mitts to a moisturizing massage with a rich and hydrating hand cream. Not only will this step help you relax and unwind, but it will also ensure your skin looks and feels its best before you get painting. For an extra boost, why not try a hand mask? They help repair damage and seriously soften in as little as 10 minutes.

Top tip: Always clean your nail bed of moisturizing products before applying any polish, or it won’t adhere properly. A quick sweep of polish remover on a cotton pad will do the trick.


Step 7

Ace Your Base

Applying a base coat before your polish is absolutely essential. This will strengthen, ensure even polish application, and prevent your nails from staining. Your polish will last longer, too. A thin layer applied in three strokes (middle, then sides) is all you need.


Step 8

Apply Your Polish

Now for the fun part. But before you go crazy with your color, remember that precision is key. Using the same technique as with your base coat, use three strokes before running your polish brush over the tip of your nail to seal the color. Don’t load your brush with polish either – thin layers will ensure color applies evenly and doesn’t go gloopy.

Wait at least one minute before applying your second coat. When it comes to picking your polish, opt for more ‘breathable’ formulas that won’t damage your nails. Most major brands are “5-free” (a.k.a. made without the harshest toxic ingredients), but if you’re in doubt, check the brand’s website first.


Step 9

Seal the Deal

Protect your polish, boost shine, help your manicure last longer, and prevent chipping by sealing the deal with a top-notch topcoat. You might be tempted to rush this stage – but don’t. Although topcoats are clear, a haphazard application can lead to little ridges forming on your nails as topcoats tighten as they dry.

If your patience is really being tested, mist your mani with a quick-dry spray to help your polish dry quicker. Made a mistake? Don’t panic. Simply soak a piece of cotton wool in nail polish remover, wrap it around your cuticle stick, and use to it carefully trace around your nails to remove any excess edges.


Step 10

Maintain Your Mani

Nothing’s worse than going through all that time and effort, only to have your polish chip off a day later or your cuticles to look rough and dry. So, maintain your at-home mani by regularly moisturizing your nails and hands with your cream and oil, and – of course – avoid picking!

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