Doing your nails at home doesn’t need to be a challenge. Using the same techniques as the pros ensures you’ll get a neater, longer-lasting manicure—every time! Check out these 8 insider tricks and tools guaranteed to give you a great mani or pedi.
Start with a Clean Slate
Begin your manicure or pedicure by swiping a cotton ball dipped in polish remover across each nail. Even if you weren’t wearing polish, it will remove dirt and oils that would have prevented your polish from adhering to nails properly.
Tip: Use an acetone-free formula—it’s kinder.
Whenever you give yourself a pedicure, use a pumice stone or scrub first to remove dead skin. After soaping up in the shower, scrub along the bottom of feet in circles, focusing extra on heels or other dry areas.
Cut away extra nail length with a sharp nail clipper if necessary, then use a file to shape your nails. On hands, remember to stroke the file across nails in one direction at a time, as sawing back and forth can create roughness and tears. To seal the nail edges, use a fine grit ceramic file, which will leave them snag-free.
Care for Your Cuticles
“People should never cut their cuticles,” says celebrity nail expert Jessica Vartoughian. “The cuticle protects the nail from bacteria and infection.” Instead, sweep on some cuticle oil or gel to soften the skin and exfoliate dead cells. For extra softening, dip fingertips into a bowl of warm water for a minute or two, and then push cuticles back gently with a metal cuticle pusher. Rinse nails to remove traces of the cuticle oil.
Base coats don’t just protect and strengthen nails—they also help polish adhere better. Simply apply one coat to clean, dry nails, and let dry.
After your base coat, apply two coats of nail polish, allowing each one a minute to dry. The key to a perfect application is a steady hand: Make your initial contact at one side of the nail, as close to the cuticle as possible. Slowly swipe polish down the length of your nail, then repeat across the rest of the nail using slow, deliberate strokes. Avoid glopping on too much polish—thick coats look unnatural and chip faster.
Fix Your Flubs
It’s easier to make mistakes when you use a dark nail color. If you accidentally brush some polish onto your cuticles or the sides of your fingers, dip a wooden cuticle stick into nail polish remover, then carefully “scrape” away your mistake by tracing the thin edge of the stick around the perimeter of your nail.
Seal the Deal
The best way to make a manicure or pedicure last is with a great top coat. Apply it over polish, ensuring you swipe it all the way from just above cuticles to the edges of your nails. Even if you use a fast-trying top coat, you should still allow your nails time to set. If your polish tends to chip, apply an extra coat of topcoat a day or two after your manicure to seal it, says Vartoughian.