Ever wonder how to paint nails like a pro? If you want to be able to give yourself an at-home manicure without ending up with smudged nails or cuticles covered in polish, you’ve come to the right place. Long gone are the days of spending excess money at the salon for a mani; instead, you can save money in your beauty routine by opting to do your own nails. From filing your nails to sealing everything in with a top coat, follow the steps below for an Instagram-worthy manicure by your favorite person: you!
STEP #1. CLEAN YOUR NAILS
Before diving in, it’s important to make sure your nails are clean without any previous nail polish or residue lingering on them. Saturate a cotton ball in an acetone-based nail polish remover, then wipe it across your nails to ensure you’re working with a blank canvas.
STEP #2. CLIP, CLIP, CLIP
You wouldn’t want an uneven manicure, would you? We thought not! Your nails can grow at different lengths, not to mention, you may have fallen victim to a broken nail or two. Use nail clippers to cut your claws so that they’re roughly even in length.
STEP #3. FILE AND SHAPE
Next, use a nail file to smooth the edges of your nails and shape them into your desired look. From rounded to oval to square, there are quite a few options to choose from. Not sure which shape is best for you? Here’s How to Choose the Right Nail Shape.
STEP #4. SOAK YOUR NAILS
Allow your nails to soak in a bowl of lukewarm water for a few minutes. This will help soften your cuticles, which will come in handy for the next step.
STEP #5. PUSH BACK YOUR CUTICLES
Use an orangewood stick to gently push back your cuticles. Your cuticles are there for a reason, so we recommend not breaking out cuticle clippers. You can simply push them to create a uniform, clean look.
STEP #6. SMOOTH ON A BASE COAT
For your last prep step, you’ll want to apply a base coat on each of your nails. This will help your polish last longer and prevent it from staining your nails over time.
STEP #7. APPLY YOUR NAIL POLISH
Drum roll, please! It’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for: learning how to paint nails at home. Start by taking your nail polish brush and wipe it off on the neck of the bottle so that there’s not too much polish on the bristles. Then apply one coat of nail polish to each of your nails. Start with a stripe of polish down the center of the nail, then curve the brush and go over the sides, so your nail is completely coated. Don’t worry if you color outside of the lines—we can talk about fixing that later.
Wait at least two minutes before going in with a second layer of polish. You can add one more layer after that—if needed—but don’t exceed three coats, as applying too many layers can lead to the polish peeling off later on.
STEP #8. REACH FOR A TOP COAT
Just as you would finish with a setting spray to seal in your makeup look, you’ll want to finish your at-home manicure by applying a top coat. This will help prevent chipping and will also determine the finish of your nails. There are top coats with high-shine finishes and matte finishes that allow you to customize your at-home manicure.
STEP #9. CLEAN THINGS UP
We’ll be the first ones to admit that nobody’s perfect. If you made a mistake here and there and ended up with polish on your fingertips, there’s an easy fix. Simply saturate a cotton swab with nail polish remover and carefully go over the perimeter of your nails to remove any polish that shouldn’t be there.
You can also wait for your nails to dry completely, then wash your hands with warm water. Any polish that got on your skin should rub right off!
STEP #10. APPLY CUTICLE OIL
The pros always finish a manicure with cuticle oil, and you should do the same. Show the skin around your nails a bit of TLC and make your manicure look even better by adding a drop of oil to the base of each of your nails.
STEP #11. FINISH WITH HAND CREAM
Don’t let your cuticles be the only spot that’s moisturized—your hands want in on the action, too. You don’t want dry, cracked hands taking away from the appearance of your manicure! For hand cream, we recommend the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Manuka Honey All Over Balm - Face, Neck, Chest and Hands, which absorbs quickly to soften skin that feels tight and uncomfortable. Give yourself a quick hand massage while you’re at it, and you’ll feel like you’re at the salon!
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