How to Get a Salon-Quality & Budget-Friendly Manicure at Home

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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At home manicure header image

This post will show you how to do a flawless, salon-quality at home manicure.

With all the time we’re spending in virtual classes and working from home, it’s hard to ignore these hands of ours typing away on our keyboards.

There’s just something about having your nails done that increases one’s drive to type up a paper or scroll through emails.

Whether your issue is sheltering in place, financial worries, or you’re simply uneducated in the world of manicures, this list is made for you.

Welcome to a step-by-step guide in achieving a salon-grade manicure from the comfort of your own home.

Step One: Invest in the Essentials

At home manicure tips: 3 nail polishes on table light shining on them
source: Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
Pexels

You do not have to break the bank with the market’s top-grade products. Trust me, the at home manicure essentials below are not just necessary but very budget-friendly.

Both your nails and wallet will thank you!

Nail File

Glass and crystal nail files are making a huge appearance on the market right now, but they are wicked expensive. Emery boards will be your best bet, as they are affordable and effective.

You can typically find these at your local drug store, but this one from Target is both well-reviewed and won’t break the bank.

Buffer

This product is essential when it comes to achieving shiny and healthy-looking nails.

This three-way shine buffer block is sure to make your nails feel smoother and give them a dreamy, long-lasting shine.

Buy from Amazon.com

Clippers

To keep nails healthy, it is important to trim them. A good pair of clippers will go a very long way during an at home manicure.

Buy from Amazon.com

Cuticle Remover

Taking care of your cuticles is just as important as painting your nails, so this instant cuticle remover is essential.

It is extremely easy to use and you won’t need to go through the hassle of cutting your cuticles, which can be tricky if you’re not a professional.

Hand & Cuticle Cream

Even if you’re not interested in perfectly-painted nails, it is still important to moisturize your cuticles and hands to keep them healthy and hydrated year-round.

This hydrating coconut cream is a lifesaver for at home manicures, as it’s effective and affordable.

Buy from Amazon.com

Base Coat

While it might seem counterproductive, adding a layer of this natural nail base coat to your at home manicure is recommended.

This product is the simplest and most effective on the market right now. For a good price, you can ensure your nails are going to stay clean and protected.

Buy from Amazon.com

Top Coat

This top coat is just as practical as luxury topcoats and a fraction of the cost.

It dries quickly and keeps your polish shining and lasting for a long time.

Buy from Amazon.com

Step Two: Prep + Paint

Start With Clean Nails

two hands at home manicure from @juanpphotoandvideo at Pexels
Pexels

For this step of your at home manicure, if there is any remaining polish or base coat left on your nails, it could affect the quality of the paint.

You will want to start with a (preferably) non-acetone nail polish remover, which will be less harsh on your skin.

Quick tip: Swab your nails with remover even when you’re not wearing polish to get rid of dirt and grime.

Clip, Shape, and Buff

After all polish and dirt has been removed, trim your nails to your desired length and buff them to create a smooth surface. This only takes a few seconds and is immensely important if you’re planning on polishing.

Decide how you want to shape your nail with the file. You might want to stick with your personal favorite or try something new.

Quick tip: Round or almond nail shapes elongate the nail bed and will help your nails appear slimmer.

Check Out Those Cuticles

At home manicure tips: hands holding oil dropping from Shiny Diamond at Pexels
Pexels

Cuticle care is necessary for a professional-looking manicure for several reasons. As much as it may be dreaded or even ignored, pushing or cutting your cuticles will make your nails look much cleaner and more elongated.

However, many manicure experts emphasize the difficulty of cutting your cuticles properly at home. So if you’re against the idea entirely, remember to keep them hydrated regardless!

Using cuticle oil to help moisturize your nail beds will prevent dreaded hangnails and ugly splintering.

Prep For Polish

at home manicure hand putting cream on skin
Pexels

Once you’ve washed away and removed excess oils, it’s time to get everything ready for painting. Applying your regular moisturizer will keep your hands hydrated throughout the process.

Need help deciding a paint color? We rounded up our top 10 favorite polish colors of all time.

Quick tip: Wipe off any residue with a cotton ball prior to polishing.

Painting Process

woman in striped shirt puts on black nail polish for an at home manicure from Karolina Grabowska at Pexels
Pexels

A base coat makes for a clean set of nails. It prevents chipping and protects your nail, so this step is crucial to the process.

Timing is everything when it comes to polish. While you might want to rush through the process, give each layer a couple minutes to dry before putting on another. Thin layers are key.

Quick tip: Touch up your at home manicure every other day with the same topcoat to make the manicure more durable.

Finishing Touches

At home manicure: woman with pink nail polish writing something out from energepic.com at Pexels
Pexels

It is important to clean up any rough edges or any mistakes you made along the way, which is simple to do with a cottonball dipped in acetone.

You’re done! Now it’s back to work, but with a proper manicure to get you through the day.

Tell us about your at home manicure!

I hope you found these tips helpful and keep them in mind for your next spa day. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this guide in the comments below!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2009; it was completely updated and revamped in 2020 with new photos and information.

21 thoughts on “How to Get a Salon-Quality & Budget-Friendly Manicure at Home”

  1. Good 10 rules, great thing you posted them here, thank you!

    As for step 1, I find acetone kills and chips my nails real easily, and therefore I wouldn’t use it even if my life depended on it. =) But I DO like my glitters…

    Something that works for me every time is using a non-acetone polish remover on pieces of cottons as big as my nails (or nails size cut-outs of polish wipes). Put them on the nails and wrap them up in some tin foil. Leave for approx. 8-12 minutes, rub a little bit and voila! Everything comes of in (most times) one piece.

    Reply
    • to add to this, I just found little foil pockets with cotton inside at Walmart, all you do is add the nail polish remover and they’re easy and not messy to just stick your finger in and twist the foil around.

      Reply
  2. I’ve heard that when you’re drying your nails, you shouldn’t wave them around because then you’ll get bubbles? I’m not sure if it’s true but just wanted to mention it.

    Reply
  3. anelise: Sally Hansen makes a nail polish remover pen (kind of like a thin marker). I’ve had pretty good luck with it. Where I am (Texas), it is around $9.00.

    Hope this helps! 😉

    Kim

    Reply
  4. I am obsessed with doing my nails. Before I was so insecure about painting my nails especially when it came time to painting with my non domininat hand, i would ask my sister to do my nails for me b/c I was so scared, but she would be annoyed and do my nails all sloppy. So one day during my senior year in H.S I decided to just try my best. And fast forward to just a year later and I just love painting my nails, French Manicures and all.

    After practicing for so long, doing my nails is like second nature to me. I’m very confindent and comfortable doing BOTH hands. It just takes practice and confidence!!

    Doing my nails is very calming and fun for me. It’s my “me time” and I’m pretty damn good if i must say so my self. I’d never spend another dime in a salon. What a waste!!!

    Reply
  5. I was wondering how you prevent brush strokes from showing on your nails…it happens every time I do my nails at home and is so frustrating and makes doing my nails so time-consuming that that I just go to the salon…but if I could figure out how exactly they get nails so smooth, I could save some bucks!

    Reply
  6. I’m super glad you wrote this article! I think that there are too many girls who don’t realize that uneven raggedy nails and cuticles and chipped polish looks really gross.

    I used to be awful at doing my nails but last year I decided to work at it and now I’m brilliant.

    I swipe nail polish remover over my nails after the moisturizing step. And speaking of moisturizing, I bought this bottle of Vitamin E oil for less than $5 from the grocery store and I’ve found it’s the best way to soothe and smooth rough cuticles.

    Also, while the bulk of my nail polishes are OPI, I’ve found that NYC New York Color nail polishes come in some really great colors and are always like 99¢.

    Reply
  7. It’s funny. I just finished doing my nails and decided to read your blog while I wait for my nails to dry. I painted them green. Anyway, I find the post helpful and very easy to follow. The latter’s important since it’s not really easy even for grown-up girls to do nails. About the three strokes, I read in a prom magazine that it’s center first then one side then the other. Hope this helps. xO

    Reply
  8. Great article! Keeping your nails looking groomed and nice is definitely a part of fashion, and an essential part of looking professional whether you are in school or working at a job.

    I love these metal emory boards from Jonel. I tried using the glass ones but they freak me out.

    Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  9. i cut my cuticles with a nail clipper, and it doesnt really do that much damage, unless i cut a lil bit too far, which will bleed a bit, but the pain goes away immediately. and it makes my nails look longer too!

    Reply
  10. Love the article! 😀 I’ve always done my nails at home coz my usual salon doesn’t offer great manicures and manicure salon is SO expensive!
    1 important part you must not forget is give the nail polish a shake before applying it to your nails. But don’t shake up and down, it will give bubbles and bubbles ruin manicures. Hold the bottle with both of your palms and move your palms to and fro (sorry if this is confusing, i’m seriously bad at describing things)
    oh and, i’ve also heard that running your hands under cold water before applying the nail polish helps the nail polish to dry evenly later after you apply the nail polish. i’ve tried this and it works. 🙂

    one question Zeph, what about French manicure?

    Reply
  11. I’ve also heard that spraying alcohol on your nails before applying the base coat is a good idea to get rid of any oil left on your nails

    Reply
  12. Love this article…you done it again…$$ saving tips 🙂

    One thing I do at the end of my at home manicure is …after 5 mins of dry time I spray 2 sprays of: Avon’s NAIL EXPERTS Liquid Freeze Quick Dry Spray on each hand…holding the bottle about 4-5 inches away from my nails. You can find this at Avon.com for about $6.00. This spray does exactly what it says…freeze quick dry.

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  13. Great tips. I’m awful when it comes to doing my nails…its because I’m so impatient and usually find the rge to do something very hands on when I have wet nails.
    I use those nail buffers aswell – they are absolutely amazing, and really smooth out your nails.

    Reply
  14. oh man, I need this article. I’m admittely the worst nail painter ever– somehow it always ends up all over my cuticles & fingers instead of my nails.

    I just had a manicure done the other week & it’s already chipped! it’s definitely a much better idea to save the money and DIY 🙂

    Reply

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