How to Give Yourself the Perfect Manicure at Home

In a perfect world, we’d all be able to afford to go to the nail salon whenever we felt like our nails needed some TLC. Or better yet, hire the nail technician to visit us in our homes!

But that could get expensive, so it’s good to know some manicure basics to take care of our own nails from time to time.

This is a step-by-step guide to giving yourself a DIY manicure at home. All the tools and products are relatively inexpensive and definitely cheaper than a trip to the nail salon.

Step 1: Grab Your Manicure Kit and Products

You will need the following tools for this manicure tutorial. If you don’t have them all to hand, they’re relatively easy to find in pharmacies and beauty stores. These are basic manicure tools and products you will use again and again.

  • Nail file/Emery board
  • Board or block buffer
  • Cuticle oil
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail scrub brush
  • Nail polish remover & cotton pads
  • Nail polish base coat & top coat
  • Colored nail polish
  • Hand lotion
  • Hand soap
  • Hand scrub (optional)

Step 2: Clean Your Nails and Hands

Let’s start these basic manicure steps by removing any residual nail polish and cleaning your hands and nails thoroughly. Use a natural, acetone-free liquid nail polish remover and a cotton pad to gently clean any old polish from your nails.

Next, gently scrub your nails using a nail scrub brush with warm, soapy water to remove any dirt. If you want to add a little luxury to your at-home manicure, you could also use a hand scrub to remove any dead skin.

And you don’t have to use a store-bought scrub! Simply mix sugar and coconut oil to a consistency that feels nice and scrub that into your skin.

Wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and finish off by applying hand lotion. Shea butter is great for dry hands because it’s creamy and rich (and smells amazing!).

Step 3: File and Shape Your Nails

Decide what shape you want to file your nails before you begin. Square, oval, or a compromise of the two (a slightly rounded square) are at-home manicure basics that anyone can achieve.

Other nail shapes like almond or coffin may require longer natural nails or extensions.

When filing your nails, only run the file in one direction. This will help keep the nails strong. Move the nail file from the edges inwards. And never cut your nails as this also makes the nail weaker at the tip.

Note about pedicures: If you are doing an at-home pedicure using this manicure basics guide, always cut your toenails straight across. Or at least follow the natural shape of the nail keeping them comfortably short.

Filing your toenails into an unnatural shape could make them ingrown and make wearing shoes uncomfortable.

Step 4: Take Care of Your Cuticles

Next, using a cuticle pusher, gently push back your cuticles. You want a nice smooth nail surface but you also don’t want to damage your cuticles as they act as a barrier against bacteria.

Soaking your hands in warm, soapy water before a DIY manicure and pushing them back often will keep your cuticles soft. 

Step 5: Buff and Shine Your Nails

The next step of this manicure basics guide is to buff and shine the surface of your nails. Not only will this remove any hidden dirt in the groves of your nails but it will also give them a smooth finish once you’ve applied nail polish.

You can use any buffer, whether it’s a board or block, as long as it has a “buff” and a “shine” side. Some of them also have a “smooth” side but this isn’t essential.

Use the “buff” side first until you’re happy that most or all of the groves have been smoothed. Then, move onto the “shine” side and yes, you can stop once your nail starts to shine!

Finally, wash your hands and dry them thoroughly. Before you apply any polish, one of the best beauty hacks for your nail health is cuticle oil. Brushing a small amount of argan oil, almond oil, or even olive oil over the top helps keep them healthy. 

Step 6: Apply a Base Coat Nail Polish

You’re ready to apply polish. Always start with a clear base coat before you apply any color. It stops your nails from being stained by the color and will make the nail polish easier to lift when you want to remove it.

You can find clear nail polish specifically tailored for base coats which often include ingredients that help strengthen your nails. But if you don’t have any on hand, a regular clear polish is fine. 

Step 7: Apply a Color Nail Polish

Next, apply the color nail polish to your nails. Work slowly and in full strokes from your cuticles to the tip of your nails. Try to use a minimal amount of nail polish on the brush and build up the color until you’re happy.

If you want to try some basic manicure designs at home, simply using different colors on each nail creates a fun look. You could choose one color, for example, purple, and use a lilac color on your thumb and gradually use darker colors for each nail, applying the darkest purple to your pinky.

Alternatively, you can try simple dots or use a marbled nail polish which will create a cool effect for you.

It depends on what brand of nail polish you’re using as to how long it will take for your color nail polish to dry. The time it takes for nails to dry could be anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes.

Leave your nails to dry for up to one hour, if possible. 

Step 8: Apply a Top Coat Nail Polish

And finally, once your nails are dry you can apply a top coat! You don’t have to apply a top coat if you don’t want to, but it’s quick-drying and will give your nails a nice sheen.

Plus, it will help hide any mistakes or tiny bubbles that may have appeared when applying your color nail polish!

Follow These Manicure Basics Tips for Great Nails!

Now, you’ve learned all the manicure basics and know how to take care of your nails and make them look great at home.

At-home manicures don’t necessarily replace getting your nails done by a professional nail artist or technician. But it’s a great skill for anyone who wants healthy nails to know.

Check out our health and wellness articles for more top beauty tips!

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