I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a little bit of a nail care junky. I always have a pedicure, and almost always have my nails painted as well. In high school and college, I used nail polish as a stress reliever – I always made time for a quick manicure, even in the midst of finals or big projects. I think this partially comes from the fact that I have bitten and picked at my nails and cuticles for my whole life – supposedly it started sometime around kindergarten. When I keep my nails well manicured, I pick at them a lot less.
There have been periods of my life where I regularly went into a nail salon to get mani-pedis, but honestly, it’s just so expensive! Buying high quality tools and polishes is cheaper than one or two salon appointments… why pay for what you can do yourself? I’m going to go over my absolute favorite nail care products (tested and true) and some of my most used polishes. All of the products below I have used and love! Shout out to the ladies at /r/RedditLaqueristas/ who taught me everything I know.
Step One: Prep
Preparation before you actually paint is so critical. Not only for the staying power of your manicure, but also for the health of your nails and hands! And we all know healthy nails are pretty nails 🙂
Start off by removing any old nail polish. I like to use non-acetone nail polish remover, especially those that are strengthening – so important for healthy nails! Using acetone nail polish all over your nails can really dry out your nail bad and the skin around your nails, and can cause peeling. 🙁
I usually start my manicure with a cuticle cream – this softens the skin around your nails to prepare to be pushed back. I then use a stainless steel cuticle pusher to push them back and shape my nail bed. I will also use a nail scissors to trim hang nails or loose skin – this is essentially what helps me stop picking at them. I know that it’s not recommended you cut your cuticles, it can increase risk of infection, but I always clean my tools first, and honestly, I’d rather risk it than allow myself to bite them until they bleed (self control is not my greatest strength…) After my cuticles are in pretty good shape, I’ll use some cuticle cream or oil to rehydrate them.
At this point, I will trim my nails with the nail scissor if necessary (usually not…), file them a little bit with a glass file, and use a buffer to get rid of any peeling layers. The more you keep up with your nails, the less you’ll see those pesky layers show up. Mine have certainly gotten much better in the past year or two since I’ve gotten more diligent on this.
Step Two: Polish
Before I start actually painting, I use a cotton swab with a little nail polish remover on it on my nail (NOT my cuticle, just the nail). This removes any oils from the cuticle creams or lotions you may have used, giving a clean base for the polish to adhere to.
If you want to use a treatment, start with that. These will be the most potent if you apply them directly to the nail, rather than over a base coat. Right now, I’ve been using OPI’s Nail Envy. This is a pricey treatment (though it costs less than one professional manicure…), but has really made a big difference in my nails. It helps them grow longer, faster, and improves the overall health of the nail. This is the only step that I use only on my nails, not my toes. Frankly, my toenails grow too fast already, and this stuff is too expensive for me to use on my feet! I apply one or two coats of the treatment, letting it dry about a minute between each coat.
After any treatments, apply a base coat. I have used a bunch of base coats, but my two favorites are Seche Vite Clear and Orly Bonder. Using a base coat will really increase the longevity of your manicure. Apply one coat of base coat and wait a minute or so before you move on to color.
Next, THE FUN PART, apply the color! I generally do two thin coats of polish, capping the nail between the two. Check out this post from All Lacquered Up for great information about wrapping your tips – this is KEY to a long lasting manicure. If the color is too sheer, I might add a third coat if necessary. I use both drugstore and high end nail polish, and honestly I don’t have a favorite brand or anything. I find certain colors from both ends of the spectrum are both really great or really terrible. I’ll link some of my winners below! In the pictures above, I am wearing Essie’s Ballet Slippers.
The last step of the manicure is to finish with a top coat. My holy grail top coat is Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat. This is a really thick clear polish that is really shiny and dries SUPER quickly. Honestly, before I discovered this top coat, I always smudged my manicure while it was drying because I was just too impatient – this top coat is a game changer! I can’t recommend it enough. At this point, you’re done! Once your nails are dry, I recommend putting on some hand lotion to top it off.
Step 3: Care
Of course, to keep your manicure lasting as long as possible, you’ll have to care for it! I definitely could do better in this department, but my manicures are usually chip-free for 5ish days, so I only do my nails every week. My pedicures usually last 3-5 weeks without chips, I usually only redo them when they start getting long or I’m over the color! Something I actually do often is to moisturize my cuticles. This keeps the whole nail more healthy and the manicures seem to last a little longer when I do this consistently. I recently bought Smith’s Rosebud Salve and LOVE it! I use it for everything, including my cuticles. I use it on my lips throughout the day, and then most nights I put it on my cuticles and any dry patches on my face. It smells so good and is the right about of moisturizing and protecting. On top of that, if I have time and think of it, I will reapply a coat of top coat every 2 or 3 days.
Did you like this tutorial type post? Do you have a favorite nail product or trick? Share in the comments below!