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How to give yourself a manicure

Manicures aren’t just for painting your nails.

March 06, 2018

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At-home manicures save you money and they’re lots of fun, too. You can do them alone, with a friend, with your sibling, or even with your mom or dad. You shouldn't do them on your dog or cat, though — they don't generally appreciate it, and it's not safe to polish a pet's nails! It's also a waste of time, since most pets are basically color blind!

What you'll need

Manicure SuppliesManicure SuppliesCourtesy of Hello Little Home

How to do your own nails

  1. Remove your nail polish using nail polish wipes or non-acetone nail polish remover and a cotton ball. Then wash your hands with soap and water and dry them well.
  2. Trim your nails using a nail clipper. “With your nail clipper , trim the nails using small clips working from one side of the nail to the other. Never begin clipping your nail in the center because it can put stress on your nail plate,” the experts at Essie nail care advise.
  3. File your nails using a gentle cardboard nail file. Do not use the metal nail files that come with most nail kits. Metal files are extremely hard on your nails and can do more damage than good. When you file your nails, follow the shape of your cuticle: if you have a curved cuticle, try an oval or rounded nail shape; if your cuticles are straight, square the tips of your nails.
  4. Moisturize your cuticles. Your cuticles are a layer of skin where your skin meets the base of your fingernail. They form a protective barrier that keeps out infections and irritation. The biggest mistake you can make when doing your nails at home or at a salon is to cut your cuticles or break the barrier. Because they are made of skin, you need to moisturize them. Apply cuticle oil on each cuticle. If you don't have oil at home, you can also use baby oil, Vaseline, or regular hand cream.
  5. Gently push back your cuticles using what's called an orange stick, which is basically just a wooden stick with a flat end. You can also use the stick to clean out any dirt from under your fingernails, but put a piece of cotton on the end first so you keep the stick clean for another day.
  6. Buff your nails using a four-sided buffer. Watch the video to see how to do it properly!
  7. Care for your skin. Moisturize your hands by rubbing in a nice thick hand cream. Leave it on for a few minutes to let your skin absorb the moisture, then wipe the moisturizer off of your fingernails. You can swipe a layer of nail polish remover over your nails to make sure they are clean and ready for polish.
  8. Apply a clear base coat to your nails. When you polish your nail, take the brush from the bottle and wipe off any excess polish so it does not drip or glob at the end. Starting at the base of your nail, near your cuticle, swipe the brush down the center from the cuticle to the nail tip in a single motion, then repeat down the left and right sides to cover the entire nail.
  9. Polish your nails in two coats, waiting two minutes between each coat to let it dry. According to nail polish manufacturer Essie, "The aim of the first coat is coverage and the next is to achieve full depth of color." The first few times you polish your nails, choose a single color without designs. You can get fancy with it once you get the hang of basic coverage! Here are some tips from Essie, a nail polish manufacturer: "Even for pros, applying nail polish on your own hands can be challenging. Steady your hand by keeping both of your elbows on the table. For novice polishers, it's helpful to begin with the hand you're least comfortable with to ensure a less-than shaky start."
  10. Seal in the polish with a top coat. You can use the same clear polish as the base coat for this layer. This helps prevent chipping and lets your manicure last longer.

How To Buff Your Nails | Beauty Prep School

 

Tips and secrets

  • Having trouble staying within the lines? Try using nail polish stencils. They fit on each finger while you polish your nails, then peel off, leaving your fingers clean and lines straight.
  • Clean up smudges with a polish corrector pen
  • Keep your work space clean by doing your nails on a carpet-free surface. A bathroom or an outdoor picnic table are great locations for an at-home manicure! If a bathroom or outdoor space aren't available, ask a parent if you can use the kitchen table or a counter. To avoid staining your work area, never polish your nails in a carpeted room! Cover your workspace with a few layers of paper towels and keep extra paper towels and nail polish remover ready in case of spills.
  • Make sure your nails are completely dry before moving onto your next activity. After a salon manicure, your hands are placed under a dryer, which is basically just a mini fan. At home, a desk fan or hair dryer on a cool, low setting will work just as well. Let the polish set for 5 minutes. Resist the urge to check if it's dry until five minutes are up! Afterward, you can dip your fingers in a bowl of ice water to harden the polish. You could also use a nail brush and ordinary olive oil to paint a thin coat of oil over your polish to speed up drying and add shine.
  • For a longer-lasting polish that doesn't crack or chip, apply thinner coats of polish, and use a base coat and a top coat to seal in the polish. Wear gloves when doing dishes, gardening, or doing anything else that exposes your hands to water or other harsh elements. Apply a thin coat of olive oil or vitamin E oil at the end of your manicure to moisturize and protect your nail.

 

If polishing isn't enough, here are some simple ways to fancy up your manicure

  • Seal in the polish with a top coat. You can use the same clear polish as the base coat for this layer. This helps prevent chipping and lets your manicure last longer.
  • Dip the end of a toothpick into a contrasting color to add tiny polka dots
  • Place a sticker or sequin that is smaller than your nail in the center of your fingernail and coat it with a thin layer of clear top coat
  • Before you apply a top coat, apply a layer of glitter polish or confetti polish
  • Paint each nail a different color
  • Googly eyes make great Halloween designs!

 

Have Your Say

Do you have any at-home manicure tips? Let us know if you've tried these steps in the comments below.