By Dana DeMercurio
We all want perfectly manicured nails, but at what cost? A trip to the salon comes with a price tag anywhere from $15-$50, so why not perfect your mani/pedi at home at a fraction of the cost? Don’t despair if your nail painting skills are on par with preschool art lessons – we’ve got the tools you need to create a polished, professional look every time.
What you’ll need:
Step 1: Stock up on tools
This is the mise-en-place portion of the polish program. For a salon-quality look, having everything you need at your fingertips is the best way to start. A quick and inexpensive trip to your local beauty store is where you can gather the majority of your essentials like these:
- Nail polish remover (Tip: we suggest using straight acetone for efficiency purposes, but fragrant nail polish gets the job done too)
- Cotton swabs/Q-Tips (Tip: using products with more cotton only allows it to end up mixed in with your newly polished nails. Stay aware from large cotton balls!)
- Cuticle remover (Tip: this is a very delicate process. Be sure to follow my instructions below on how to safely remove excess cuticles around nails)
- Emery board and nail buffer (Tip: try to find the all-in-one nail buffer with 5-7 sides that gets the job done without switching tools.)
- Nail clippers (Tip: only use clippers if your nails need a serious trim. Otherwise, stick with the emery board for shortening and shaping).
- Nail moisturizer
- Base coat
- Nail polish
- Top coat
In addition to these essentials, we suggest Liquid Palisade by Kiesque –the ultimate cure for messy manis. This peel-off liquid ($22) acts as a barrier between nails and cuticles for all those paint mishaps. It creates a perfect line around your cuticle to keep color off skin and on your nails. Just apply this quick-drying liquid before base and color, and simply peel off when done – it’s seriously that easy!
Step 2: Remove previous nail polish
Don’t, I repeat DON’T, paint over old polish. Take the time to remove previous color with polish remover with or without an acetone base. Just be sure not to soak your entire fingernail in remover unless removing a gel-based polish, as it can have a serious drying effect which may damage cuticles.
Step 3: File and shape nails
Depending on the length and strength of your nails, shaping can be just as creative as the color you choose! Take a peek at the nail-shaping cheat sheet below to help you choose the right look for you. Stiletto and ballerina shapes are the current trend for edgier looks, while rounded and oval are classic looks that are always in style.
Step 4: Soak nails and cuticles
A three to five minute soak in warm water is all your fingertips need to soften cuticles enough for trimming and pushing away excess skin from your nails.
Step 5: Cuticle removal
The cuticle is a vital area of the nail that protects it from bacteria, so it’s best to be gentle at this stage in the manicure. Simply push back the cuticle from the nail with the appropriate tool, making sure you don’t clip, cut or rip the cuticle. If you’ve got hangnails, this is also the time to remove those pesky (and painful!) growths. Again, be gentle. No need to make yourself bleed or cause discomfort. This is all about beautification, not agitation!
Step 6: Polish Prepping
Make sure your hands are clean of polish remover, debris or any other contaminants that may hinder perfect painting. Apply one layer of base coat before adding color. Now’s also the time to apply Liquid Palisade by Kiesque for those inevitable slips outside the nailbed. Apply a thin layer to areas your DO NOT want to polish, allow to dry and get ready to paint with ease and confidence.
Step 7: Applying polish in layers
I personally apply three layers of polish (depending on color), but some choose only two. Whatever your preference, make sure you allow the polish to dry between layers as to eliminate the chance of smudging or streaking. Once finished, apply a top coat for the ultimate shine and a little added protection.
Step 8: Cleanup & enjoy!
If you purchased Liquid Palisade, cleanup is a simple peel-off process. Otherwise, you may need to apply some polish remover with cotton swab around areas that were accidentally colored.
Ahh, now wasn’t that easy!? You’re welcome.