I've been doing my own nails for just about as long as I can remember. While it can be a fun and relaxing experience to get a mani/pedi at the salon with girl friends, I more often than not still do my own nails at home. It saves (tons of) money and comes out just as well with few simple tricks that I've learned over the years. The years of practice have lent me a steadier hand, but just knowing these few tips can make all the difference to get that professional and flawless look we all want to achieve.
So let's dive right it. Sometimes I start with a base coat, and sometimes I don't bother. But if my nails are feeling weak and chipped I'll often do a base layer of this Nailtiques protein treatment to help my nails stay healthy and strong even while painted. Especially if I'm working with a dark color that I don't want to stain my nails, a base coat can be a great place to start.
Next comes the color. Today I'm using an Essie color I've been loving this spring called "Lady Like" which is a gorgeous muted dusty pink. It has tones of lavender and works as a lovely almost-nude that goes with everything. I always apply two coats of color to make sure each nail is evenly covered. I start with a swipe of the saturated brush up the center of the nail, and then gently spread the color up each side of the nail starting from the bottom with every stroke and making sure to evenly cover the tip of the nail. I've learned that you only need a minute or two to let one layer dry before applying the second coat.
But here's the trick I use: don't paint your thumbnails until the very end. That way, after each coat applied to your other nails you can run your thumbnail around the edge of the cuticle to remove any excess polish that has gotten onto the skin. leaving the thumbnails bare until the others are all done allows you to ensure that all of those nails are flawlessly painted with no excess color spilling over onto the skin. Because let's be real, no matter how steady your hand is you're bound to get some polish on the skin. I learned this trick by watching the ladies at the salon, who tend to use one of their own finger nails to clean polish from your cuticles as they paint, and it works like a charm. I've tried other tricks like using a polish-remover soaked q-tip to clean the cuticles, but nothing works quite as well as using a bare nail to clean up as you go.
But then, what of those unpainted thumb nails? Well, they're not forgotten. Since I'm right handed I tend to be steadier when painting with my right hand -- so I start with my weaker side and use my left hand to paint the first thumbnail. This way I can still clean the edges with the last bare nail if my weaker hand makes any mistakes. After two coats have been applied it's time for the final nail to be painted. Since I'll be using my stronger right hand at this point to paint it, chances are I can get it pretty clean and accurate on the first try. But, if I do mess up, I like to use the tip of a metal nail file to scrape away any polish from the cuticles and skin.
The last step: a clear top coat. This is essential to prolong your manicure and prevent immediate chipping. With a top coat I can get through at least a full week with fresh-looking nails as long as I let them dry properly after painting. Recently I've been using Essie's Super Duper top coat, and I really like it. I also previously used a Deborah Lippmann "Addicted to Speed" top coat that I loved until it started to get dried out and sticky after only a few short months which was really disappointing. Either way, a top coat is necessary to keep your mani looking fresh longer, and it also adds a smooth shiny finish to your nails. As much as it may seem like an annoying extra step, don't skip it! Without a topcoat your nails will be chipping within a day or two.
So there you have it, my process for getting salon-quality nails at home. With these few tips that I've learned over time I'm now able to produce a flawless home mani easily. No more messy nails! And no need for expensive salon appointments! Cheers to that, ladies.