Like cooking a French meal, giving yourself a French manicure requires a lot of time, patience and ingredients – it's also a luxurious process you'll enjoy every second of.
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.
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—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 white 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 white polish, wiping one edge of the brush against the opening of the bottle to remove excess polish.
Step 16: Apply white polish Apply the white nail polish to the tip of your nail in a thin C-shaped stripe. Go slowly to keep the line neat and tidy and correct mistakes with an orange stick as you go.
TIP: For smooth application, place your hand on a flat surface and, keeping the brush stationary, slowly roll your finger from left to right as you paint on the C-shaped stripe.
Step 17: Polish other nails Polish the rest of your nails with this white stripe, then let them dry completely.
Step 18: Stir polish Rotate your bottle of sheer pink polish so the mixing ball in it stirs the polish.
Step 19: Remove wand Remove the wand from your sheer pink polish, wiping one edge of the brush against the opening of the bottle to remove excess polish.
Step 20: 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 21: 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.
Step 22: Polish all nails Polish the rest of your nails, then let them dry completely.
Step 23: Apply top coat Apply a thin clear top coat to seal the color—and admire your polished hands for at least an hour while they dry.
FACT: The French manicure was actually popularized in Hollywood in 1975—as a style that would coordinate with whatever costume a star might need to wear.