Do-It-Yourself Manicure

Written by Meredith

Believe it or not, I had only had one professional manicure in my life before moving to New York City. Perhaps what’s even more surprising is that I haven’t broken down and gone for a pedicure yet, even after living in a city chock-full of nail salons. Maybe I was blessed genetically with evenly shaped nail beds that are easy to paint (shout out to Barb and John), maybe I have an enviably steady hand, or maybe I’ve just had a lot of practice. Whatever the reason, many a New Yorker has mistaken my self-manicure for a professional one, so I’ve decided to share my process with all of you!

First of all, it’s important to moisturize, especially with the harsh winter months on their way. Hangnails are a huge pet peeve of mine, so I always keep hand cream at my desk. If you keep your hands moisturized, your cuticles will be happier and painting your own nails should be easier. I have used many different brands, but Kiehl’s Unusually Rich-But-Not-Greasy-At-All-Hand Cream is my favorite so far.

Currently, Eucerin’s Daily Skin Balance Skin-Fortifying Hand Cream is tucked away in my desk drawer. It really does moisturize my hands for most of the workday, it has a pleasant fragrance, and best of all, it’s available at the drugstore.

Choosing your color is the most difficult and interesting choice during this whole activity, and my current favorite is Sally Hansen’s Commander in Chic (ha.ha.ha.). It is the nail color I used for this post, and it’s also the color I’ve been wearing for probably the past month. Depending on the lighting, it can look purple, gray or even brown. The best part is that it has a wide, flat brush that makes the application process easier than any other brush I’ve tried. It’s so easy to use that I have since gone back and purchased more colors from the same brand. I’m even debating buying an extra bottle just for its brush (Lindsay’s suggestion!) so that I can wash it and reuse it with other nail polishes. Not quite sure of all of the mechanics of this idea yet, but I think it could work.

When setting up to give myself a manicure, I grab the necessary tools, all of which are pictured below. I need: nail polish remover, nail color, clear polish, tissues, nail clippers, nail file and Q-tips.

Step 1: Use Q-tips to gently push back cuticles. This method isn’t as intense as most manicurists’, but it works for me.

Step 2: Trim nails with clippers to create either a rounded or square shape. I prefer square. Also take care of any pesky hangnails.

Step 3: Use nail file to smooth nail edges.

Now you’re ready for some color!

What sad looking, non-polished nails.

Step 4: Always start with your dominant hand. Trust me, this is difficult to teach yourself, but it’s worth it. Painting your dominant hand with the hand that you already painted is a recipe for disaster.

Step 5: Apply first coat of polish smoothly and carefully. I find that it’s best to place the hand I’m painting on the table in front of me so as to prevent any movement. If you get any polish on your skin, then dip a Q-tip in your remover and brush it away.

Step 6: Apply second coat of polish. Yet another reason to love this particular brand is that you don’t have to wait for the first coat to really dry before applying the second one. In the amount of time it takes to go from your thumb to your pinky, your thumb is ready for its second layer!

Step 7: Just to be safe, allow more time for the second coat to dry. Then apply your clear layer. Wave your hands around, blow on your fingers, hold them under a hairdryer, stick them out the window… whatever you need to do.

Much better.

Step 8: Repeat steps 5 though 7 on your non-dominant hand and… voila! But remember, no matter how impatient you may be, don’t go straight to washing the dirty dishes or touching things – you just put all of this effort into making your nails look nice and you don’t want to ruin it!

What are your nail polishing secrets?



Filed under Side Notes

13 responses to “Do-It-Yourself Manicure

  1. Nice tips. Love that Commander in Chic! I’m really impressed with Sally Hansen polishes as a whole, my nails still look good from a few days ago.


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  3. Pingback: the weekender 10/15/10 | a week from thursday

  4. Ooo – this is my new favorite color of the season, and I’ll definitely have to take the recommendation on Sally Hansen. Do you like to use a base coat when doing your nails? Or go right to the colour?


  5. I almost always do my own nails too. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Cuticle cutters are a godsend for my ragged cuticles; I just picked up a pair. And you should definitely go with a base coat for highly pigmented shades like red to avoid staining your nails.

  6. Noley

    Very nice color on you! I do my own mani too and everyone swears it’s professionally done. My secret is a product that literally changed my life…. it’s a top coat called Seche Vite (available at Sally’s and Target, even CVS I think). You can put 2 or 3 coats of color, not wait for any of it to dry, then use this topcoat and it dries in 60 seconds, is really shiny and smoothes out any inperfections so no one can see my mistakes. 🙂 I also use a hydrating basecoat to keep my nails strong and prevent them from getting stained by the polish.

  7. I’m such a HUGE fan of grey! I’ve tried that exact same shade too. It looks fab on you.

  8. I love the Sally Hansen polish, it is such good quality and I wish they would make more colors! Commander in Chic is one of my favs…

    In terms of advice, I would say practice makes perfect… the more you do your own nails the better you get. I can’t say I’m nail salon good but, I’m getting there.

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