While making a trip to the salon is always a welcome treat, you can easily save time and money with a DIY manicure at home. We asked Chelsie Wright, a nail technician at Studio D Salon and Spa, for professional advice on getting a chip-free, long-lasting manicure at home.
Step No. 1: Soak and prep your nails
To get great results at home, you have to do a bit of prep work. Remove any existing polish with a nail polish remover and then soak your fingers for two to three minutes in a dish of lukewarm (not hot) water to soften the cuticles. (Hot water can cause your nails to expand, which can impact how well your nail colour goes on.)
After you're done soaking your nails, very gently push your cuticles back using a cotton swab or an orangewood stick that has the tip covered in a cotton ball. However, Wright cautions against trimming your cuticles at home.
"The cuticle tissue at the base of the nail is very fragile, and if it's cut improperly it could lead to infection or other nail problems," she says. If desired, you can carefully snip away any hangnails on the sides of your nails with cuticle scissors.
Step No. 2: File and shape your nails
After you complete the cuticle treatment, you'll want to file your healthy nails to a smooth shape. Right now the "it" shape is short and straight with slightly rounded corners. A subtle oval shape is also always an elegant option. Make sure your nails are completely dry as filing wet nails can cause breakage, and file them in one direction, says Wright.
"Don't seesaw back and forth across the nail as this can weaken the nail and lead to splitting and peeling," she says. You can use a traditional emery board file, or consider trying a crystal file, such as Revlon's Crystal Nail File. "The grit on a crystal file is much finer, so it's not as hard on your nails," says Wright.
Page 1 of 3 -- Find great advice on buffing and cleaning your nails, plus how to apply nail polish for the perfect at-home manicure on page 2
Step No. 3: Buff and clean your nails
Buffing is another step that will help smooth out your nails, ensuring that the nail polish will go on smoothly. Use a buffing block to smooth the surfaces of your nails and get rid of any ridges or discoloured patches. Apply moisturizer to your hands and nails, and remember to swab your nails with nail polish remover after you apply your moisturizer.
"Wiping your nails with nail polish remover is essential," says Wright. "Even if your nails are paint free, the acetone will remove any oils or filing dust that can prevent polish from going on correctly," she says.
Step No. 4: Paint
This is the fun, but tricky, part! The first thing you need do is to apply a base coat. "Not only will it help your polish last longer, but it will also strengthen your nails and prevent any colour from staining the nail," says Wright. If your nails are especially weak, look for a base coat that protects nails with conditioning agents like vitamins A, C and E and/or panthenol, says Wright.
Then, once the base coat dries completely (after about one minute), you're ready for your nail polish. To ace the painting process, having the right amount of product on your brush is essential. "Don't put too much polish on the brush," says Wright. "That can lead to a goopy application, and it will take forever to dry and be more prone to smudges." Instead, apply two thin coats of enamel, waiting a few minutes between coats, and use three short, vertical and even strokes to coat the nail.
No matter the colour, two coats should be applied for a solid, even colour, says Wright. "Keep it to two coats, and no more. Adding more layers will often lead to smudges, and because of the added thickness, the polish will be more likely to chip and crack after it dries," she says.
Page 2 of 3 -- Learn how to apply a topcoat to your manicure with expert tips on page 3
Step No. 5: Finish with a topcoat
Now your nails are ready for the final touch: a quality topcoat. Aside from sealing in the nail polish to extend the life of your manicure, a topcoat will also give your nails a healthy, shiny glow. Wright recommends using salon-quality brands like OPI or CND because they last longer. "It's worth the money," she says. "Using a cheap topcoat will result in chipping much sooner."
Another tip on topcoats is a technique known as "capping."
"Capping the nail is when you put a clear coat at the tip of the nail, where it is most likely to take abuse from daily tasks like typing or washing dishes," says Wright. "This method will help prolong your manicure more than any other step." Finish with a drop of a no smudge product like the Sephora by OPI Colour Drying Drops to accelerate the drying process.
When it comes to do-it-yourself manicures, remember these simple tricks the next time you're due for a nail upgrade and you'll be sure to get the most out of your at-home manicure. An even better idea? Make a night of it and invite your best friend over to do each other's nails while watching a chick flick. You can swap colours, and it's always good to have an extra pair of steady hands nearby!
Page 3 of 3