How to Give Yourself a Flawless Manicure

10 steps to a perfect at home manicure. Learn how to do your own nails at home to save money with our DIY mani tutorial.
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How to give yourself a manicure

In college, it's all about saving money. With textbook and tuition prices at their highest rates in years, who has the cash to pay for regular salon manicures? That's why it's important for every college girl to know how to do her own nails. I've been doing my own nails for years, and there's just no reason to go to a salon regularly when you can do the exact same thing yourself for next to nothing!

Here are the steps for giving yourself a flawless manicure at home:

10 Steps to a Perfect DIY Manicure

How to give yourself a manicure

1. Remove your old polish.

Use a non-acetone nail polish remover for normal polish, but switch to acetone if you need to remove stubborn colors or glitter nail polish. I like to use the instant polish remover where you stick your finger into the jar and twist to remove the polish, but whatever you prefer is fine.

2. Trim/file your nails.

Get rid of excess length with nail clippers, then file using a nail file to get your nails into the perfect shape. Which shape you choose is up to you - I'm partial to the "squoval" shape, short and squared with smooth edges, because I think it looks the most modern and fashion-forward. I also like squared-off nails. But nail shape is a personal choice, so do what works best for you. For illustrations of the different nail shapes, see this post from Glamour's Beauty Blog.

3. Soak your hands.

It's an optional step, but for the full-on nail salon experience, soak your hands in warm water for 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon or two of scented liquid soap for a nice scent and some bubbles. This will soften up your cuticles and prepare them for the next step.

4. Push back your cuticles.

Also an optional step if your cuticles aren't too out of control. For those of you who aren't familiar with cuticles, the cuticle is the little piece of skin at the bottom of your nail bed. It can sometimes get in the way of your polish, so pushing your cuticles back is usually a good idea for a uniform nail surface. Use a cuticle stick to do this, or in a pinch, a popsicle stick will do. 

Sometimes they cut your cuticles at pro nail salons, but I don't recommend it. There's no real reason to cut your cuticles, it's risky, and it can often lead to infection or gross-looking hands. Whatever you do, don't cut your own cuticles at home!

5. Use a scrub to remove dead skin.

Use a hand or body scrub, or make a simple scrub yourself using a mixture of olive oil and sugar. This will remove dead skin from your hands and get them feeling soft and looking flawless.

6. Moisturize your skin.

The next step is to slather on your favorite hand lotion or cream. My favorites include Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater Hand Therapy and Jaqua Pink Buttercream Frosting Hand Creme. Cake Beauty also makes a great hand cream that smells exactly like lemon meringue pie.

7. Wipe excess lotion from your nails.

Polish won't adhere to greasy nails, so use a paper towel or tissue to wipe the lotion off your nails before you apply polish. If they still feel greasy, use a drop of nail polish remover. It will help cut through the grease and get your nails primed for the polish.

8. Apply a ridge-filling base coat.

This is my number one tip for flawless nails - always use a ridge filler! 

This product not only makes your nail polish stay on longer, but it fills in all the ridges and bumps on your natural nails, leaving a silky-smooth surface to apply polish on top of. This is one of the reasons salon manicures seem to look nicer than when you paint your nails yourself - the ridge filler is the secret! I use Seche Base Ridge Filling Base Coat - it's $5.40 for a bottle and lasts forever.

9. Apply two coats of your chosen polish.

There are so many options when it comes to nail polish, but be sure you're using a quality polish that won't chip for best results. My favorite brands are Orly, Essie, China Glaze, and OPI. They may cost a bit more than good old 99-cent Wet & Wild, but they come in tons of fabulous colors, stay on longer without chipping, and generally stay fresh for longer.

Here are the pro secrets to perfect nail polish application: make three swipes over each nail - one on the left side, one on the right, and one down the center. Wipe off any mistakes immediately so they don't have time to dry. And always make thin coats - two thin coats of polish always come out better than one thick one.

10. Let the polish dry.

Give your nail polish a few minutes to dry. It's recommended that you let each coat dry for at least 5 minutes. To speed up drying time, you can apply a fast-drying top coat or run your semi-dry nails under very cold water. But be patient - you can completely undo your entire manicure if you use your hands too soon after polish application. Wait a little while and your nails will thank you!

What are your manicure tips?

So there you have it - my tips for an amazing DIY manicure. Do you have any tips or suggestions to add to the list? Do you normally do your nails yourself, or are regular salon manicures part of your life? Leave a comment and let us know.

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