Nothing beats getting pampered at a salon, but all those professional manicures can add up. Try it at home with these tips from the pros.
Step 1: Take off rings Take off any rings and set them aside until you are through and your nails are dry.
Step 2: Clean tools Make sure all reusable tools are clean. Run them through the dishwasher or clean them with disinfectant before starting.
TIP: Lay out all your materials that you'll need for easy access—once your nails are wet, you don't want to have to dig through a makeup bag to find something.
Step 3: Remove old polish If there's any old polish on your nails, remove it with a cotton ball soaked in remover.
Step 4: Trim & shape nails Trim your nails with a clipper if they're on the longer side, and then shape them with the emery board into ovals or rounded squares. Start on one side of the nail and use short strokes in one direction only—toward the center of the nail—and then repeat on the other side of the nail.
Step 5: Soak fingers Soak your fingers in a bowl filled with warm, soapy water for two minutes and then dry your hands.
Step 6: Apply cuticle product Massage cuticle oil or cream into your cuticles to soften them further.
Step 7: Clean under nails Pull off a small piece of a cotton ball and wrap it around the tip of an orange stick. Soak it in nail polish remover and use this to remove any dirt or lingering polish under your nails.
Step 8: Push back cuticles Push back your cuticles with the orange stick—use a new, disposable one or wash the one you've just used.
TIP: Never cut your cuticles—it can lead to infection.
Step 9: Trim hangnails Trim any dead hangnails with your clippers.
TIP: To nourish your nails and make the tips whiter, dip them into a half of a lemon.
Step 10: Rub on hand cream Rub on hand cream to moisturize your hands and cuticles.
Step 11: Wrap hands Wrap your hands in a hot towel for a minute to help the cream soak in.
Step 12: Wipe nails Wipe your nails with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover—they must be oil-free for the base coat to adhere properly.
Step 13: Apply base coat Apply a base coat of a colorless nail polish and allow it to dry.
TIP: Leave your base coat just a little tacky and apply a little on the underside of the tip—it will help the colored polish resist chipping.
Step 14: Stir polish Rotate your bottle of colored polish so the mixing ball in it stirs the polish, but don't shake—it will create bubbles, which will end up marring the finish on your nails.
Step 15: Remove wand Remove the wand from your colored polish, wiping one edge of the brush against the opening of the bottle to remove excess polish.
Step 16: Apply first stroke Place the brush in the middle of your nail, almost at the base of your cuticle. Back the brush up until the color just reaches the cuticle, then pull it forward to the end of your nail.
Step 17: Cover entire nail Repeat this to the right and left of the center stripe, dunking and wiping the brush on the bottle each time, so the entire nail is covered with three strokes.
TIP: Have an orange stick handy—use it to wipe off any polish mistakes while they're still wet. Wet it with a little polish remover for big or stubborn mistakes.
Step 18: Polish all nails Continue polishing all your nails and let them dry completely.
Step 19: Add 2nd coat Add a second coat of colored polish in the same way and let them dry completely again.
TIP: Dip your nails in ice-cold water to speed the drying process.
Step 20: Apply top coat Apply a thin clear top coat to seal the color, and enjoy what might be the best part of the manicure process—at least an hour of enforced, hands-free relaxation.
FACT: Chinese aristocrats first used nail polish—made of egg whites, rose petals, beeswax, and gelatin—around 3000 B.C.