There’s a reason why I pay good money to go to a nail salon: I am lazy and have no hand-eye coordination, so any attempts to do my own nails usually end in pain and disaster. But when salons closed down for the circuit break, I was forced to learn! Here is a simple guide on how to do your own manicure, even if you’re just as clumsy as I am!
- Home Manicure Tools
- How to do your own manicure: Basic Steps
- Home Manicure Hacks and Tips
- Home Manicure FAQ
Home Manicure Tools
Ready to learn how to do your own nails at home? The first step is to get the right tools. You will need:
- Nail cutter
- Nail files or emery boards
- Cuticle pusher
- Nail buffer
- Nail polish remover
- Cotton pads/cotton rounds
- Nail polish
- Base coat
- Clear top coat
- Optional: nail treatments, cuticle oils
How to do your own manicure: Basic Steps
Clean nails with a nail polish remover
Even if you don’t have any polish on, you still need to remove oils from your nails. It’s best to use cotton pads, which you can soak and then wrap around your nails. Leave these on for 30 seconds (longer if you used dark or red nail polish) and then gently rub against the nails. You can use cotton balls, but these can leave fibers.
Clip and file
Cut straight, and then use the file to create your desired nail shape. Always file in one direction (no see-saw motions!) so you don’t break your nails. If you have thin nails, says celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippman, file from slightly underneath the nail. “This allows you to see exactly what you’re doing and helps protect against overfiling.”
Soak your nails
Just fill a small bowl with warm water and dip your fingers in for a few minutes. For me, soaking really helped! As I mentioned before, I tend to be very clumsy. That’s one reason why all those videos on how to do your own manicure always ended in disaster for me — I would end up cutting myself or pushing too hard. But after I soaked my nails, it was so easy to push back cuticles or scrub away dry, flaky skin.
While you can use regular water, I actually enjoyed pouring a little rose water or even a squeeze of lemon juice. The rose water softens the skin, and the lemon can help fade any stains on the nails. Plus, your hands will smell amazing! It’s a little extra step that makes your home manicure extra special.
Push back the cuticles
Use a cuticle softener and then gently scrape the nail with an orange stick. If your cuticles have hardened, (or if you don’t have a cuticle softener) soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes before scraping.
Buff your nails
Buffing nails helps give it a natural shine, and creates a smooth surface for nail polish. It can also get rid of stains and discoloration. If you don’t have a nail buffer, you can use denim or a chamois cloth — it will take longer but still work!
Do a hand treatment
Now that you’ve cleaned your nails, the next step in your DIY manicure is to pamper your hands (which are probably really dry now from all the frequent handwashing).
Start with a hand scrub (you can DIY one with olive oil, coffee and sugar) and then finish up with hand lotion. This is also the best time to apply cuticle oil. By the way, any hair oil or skin oil can be used on your cuticles!
Apply nail polish
Clean the nail with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils. Then, apply a base coat, nail polish and top coat. Wait two minutes between each coat so it’s completely dry.
Home Manicure Hacks and Tips
To fix clumpy nail polish…
Add a few drops of nail polish remover to the bottle. Start with one drop, then shake the bottle.
To avoid streaky nail polish…
Don’t overload your brush. Get just enough product to apply one thin layer of colour. Then, use a three-stroke approach: one in the middle, then the sides. Don’t worry if it looks streaky at first — it’ll look better after the second coat.
And always, always let nail polish dry for at least two minutes before applying another coat. Set your phone timer — or do your nails while watching Netflix, you won’t even notice the time pass by!
To avoid bubbles…
Don’t shake the nail polish bottle. “Shaking creates bubbles in the polish and can be seen if you apply shortly after,” says celebrity manicurist Gina Edwards. Instead, roll the bottle. If you do shake it, wait at least an hour before using the polish.
To avoid messy application…
Apply nail balm or petroleum jelly on the cuticle and the skin around your nails. So even if you slip up — especially if you’re working on your non-dominant hand — you can just wipe away the extra polish when you’re done.
To dry your nails faster…
Plunge your hands in ice water. This is a lot better than sitting in front of the fan, because the air will just cause bubbles that will make your nail polish smudge or streak.
To fix nail polish mistakes…
Accidentally put too much nail polish? That’s why you should always have a toothpick or orange stick with a little cotton wrapped around the tip. Dip that into acetone and quickly wipe off any polish that pools in the cuticles.
If your nail polish smudged, you can try to save it by pushing your nail polish back in place and then adding a layer of top coat.
Home Manicure FAQ
As I learned how to do your own manicure, I ran into some problems that sent me running to the Internet for answers. On these beauty and nail forums, I saw many common questions from people who were learning how to do nails at home. Here’s some of the best and most useful answers I saw!
My nail polish is really streaks when I apply it. What am I doing wrong?
Is it old nail polish? Sometimes, the formula can get really thick and difficult to apply. You can thin it out with nail polish remover, but that can affect the quality. Some formulas (like pastel colours, or creamy polish) also tend to get streaky. If you’re just learning how to do your own manicure, try “easier” formulas like shimmer or metallic. They tend to be easier to apply and more forgiving of mistakes.
I have a hard time applying nail polish on my non-dominant hand. What do I do?
Rest your hand on the table, or if you like to work at an angle, prop it up on a folded towel. Keep it steady, and just move your other hand (the one you’re applying polish on) as you go from nail to nail.
You can also apply petroleum jelly with a cotton bud around the nail. If you accidentally put too much polish or it goes over the edges, the petroleum jelly will protect the skin so the colour does’t stain. When you’re done with your manicure, you can just gently scrape off the excess polish around your fingers with your cuticle pusher or a toothpick.
I want to try nail art, but I’m afraid of messing it up. How do I get started?
There are many simple nail art designs that even home manicure beginner can pull off! You can try making polka dots or flowers by dipping a cotton bud into a contrasting nail polish colour. Or, apply a base colour and let it dry, then cover half of the nail with scotch tape. Paint the exposed part with a matching colour, and voila–you have two-toned nails! You can also make ombre nails by dipping a sponge in nail polish and then tapping it on your nails. Have fun! If you make any mistakes, you can just wipe it off with nail polish remover!