Doing my nails at home is something I truly enjoy. I find it to be calming and relaxing; a form of therapy even. Over the (many) years I’ve been doing at home manicures I’ve found a way to create what I consider to be a salon quality manicure.
Nails are a very personal thing and once you find a good at home way to get a professional looking manicure it gives you more freedom to try different nail shapes and colors. Plus, it’s much less expensive and less time consuming than a weekly trip to the salon.
Below the jump you will find a step by step guide on how to achieve the perfect at home manicure.
Barielle was kind enough to provide me with many of the products for this post.
Fair warning this is a lengthy post. But I get questions all the time about how I do my nails so I wanted to be as detailed as possible 🙂
The product(s) used in this post were provided to TDV for review. For more information check out our disclosure policy.
Before you start your at home mani make sure to get out all the products you will need. This includes:
- Nail polish remover and cotton balls. I’m using Barielle Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover and super fancy cotton balls from Walgreens.
- Nail file. My nail file of choice is a Swissco glass file I picked up from HauteLook.
- Hand lotion. My current favorite is Barielle Professional Protective Hand Cream.
- Buffing block. This is optional. I use an inexpensive one from Sally Beauty Supply.
- Base coat. I’m using Barielle Fortifying Nail Builder.
- A nail polish of your choice. For this post I used Barielle Blue Capri.
- Clean up brush (if necessary). My favorite is the elf Essentials Concealer Brush.
- Top Coat. I’m currently using Barielle Gel Top Coat.
First things first: remove your old nail polish. When I really want a salon-esque experience I use Barielle Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover. Beyond that it’s a great acetone free polish remover (those can be difficult to hunt down) it has the smell of salon nail polish remover. That may seem a little silly but it really does add to the experience! Plus, since it doesn’t have acetone it won’t dry out your nails. This is especially important if you’re dealing with nails that tend to split or peel.
A couple of tips for easy as possible polish removal:
- Use small pieces of a cotton ball soaked in polish remover for each nail. Press cotton piece onto the nail one at a time. Wait a few seconds then starting at the base and pushing down onto the nail push the cotton piece towards the tip of the nail. This should remove most, if not all, of the polish. For a detailed post on this removal method including why this is hands down THE BEST way to remove polish click here.
- If you’re removing a polish that tends to stain (such as red or dark blue) add cuticle oil around the nail before removing polish (I’m currently using Barielle Intensive Nail Renewal Oil). Rub the oil in making sure to coat the skin around the nail. Not only will this protect your cuticles and skin from the polish remover but it will prevent staining.
Next it’s time to shape your nails. Using a glass or crystal file (these are much less harsh on the nail than a traditional nail file or metal file and aren’t expensive from places like Amazon and eBay) file each nail in one direction until you’ve reached your desired shape and length. I try to do this each time I do my nails that way it’s quick and easy. Never use nail clippers! This creates a blunt cut that can lead to peeling and splitting.
If your last manicure involved glitter this is where you need a buffing block. Glitter can make the surface of the nail a bit uneven which will make your next manicure look less than great. Lightly buff the nails to even the surface. This can be done occasionally even if you don’t wear glitter just try to limit how often you buff your nails. Over buffing can cause the nail to become thin.
Once you are done shaping and buffing your nails wash your hands. This will remove any nail residue and prep your hands for the next step.
This step is probably my favorite part of doing an at home manicure. Moisturizing! Using your favorite hand cream liberally moisturize your hands, cuticles and nails. It’s important to moisturize your nails when you don’t have any polish on so the actual nail receives the benefits of the hand cream. I know it goes against common thinking to use a hand cream before putting on nail polish but, believe me, your nails will thank you.
The key is to use a hand cream that isn’t too thick or sticky. This is one reason I’m really loving Barielle Professional Protective Hand Cream. It’s full of stuff that’s great for your skin but it lacks silicone which can make it difficult for polish to stick to the nail.
If you need to push your cuticles back this is the time to do it. Use a manicure stick or the metal equivalent to gently push back the cuticle. I generally skip this step. But whatever you do, DO NOT CUT YOUR CUTICLES. Just don’t do it.
Whatever hand cream you decide to use give it time to really sink in to the skin. If it feels like there’s still oils on the surface of the nails and you’re ready to add polish just take a cotton ball with polish remover or rubbing alcohol and give each nail a quick swipe. This will remove any left over residue.
And now you can finally start applying your base coat. It’s important to never skip this step. Base coats can not only prevent staining but they can extend the life of your manicure. Depending on the base coat you use they can also improve the health of your nails.
My biggest nail problem is my nails tend to peel. That’s why the Barielle Fortifying Nail Builder Base Coat works well for me. Not only is this base coat 5 free it contains calcium fluoride which bonds together weak layers of the nail and seals free edges. This is perfect for me as my nail polish doesn’t tend to chip so much and the tip of my nail will peel and take the polish with it. For that reason, this base coat is good for cracking and splitting nails as well.
The best advice for finding a base coat perfect for you is to first identify your nail issue(s). Then look for base coats that target those issues. The healthier your nails, the better any polish will wear.
Apply one coat of your base coat and wait for it to dry completely before moving on.
Next it’s time to apply the polish of your choice. For this post I used Barielle Blue Capri because…it’s pretty. And Capri, Italy is one of my favorite places on the planet. And Blue Capri has an awesome, 5-free formula.
For best results apply 2 to 3 thin coats of the polish of your choice waiting for each coat to dry before moving on to the next. If you really want this manicure to wear well wrap the tips after the first coat.
The final step to the perfect at home manicure is, of course, a super shiny top coat. Gel (like) top coats are all the rage at the moment because they are long wearing, add volume to the nail and dry to a high shine finish. This also aids in mimicking a salon manicure.
There are a slew of top coats on the market. Finding the perfect top coat for you is entirely trial and error. I personally prefer top coats that aren’t fast drying as I find they wear much better.
Once your top coat is dry you are done! You should be left with a beautiful, long lasting manicure.