My DIY At-Home Manicure Technique That Totally Looks Like I Went to the Salon

Salon quality nails without the salon quality small talk!
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Publish date:
December 23, 2016
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opi, glitter nail polish, manicures, nail kit, manicure tools, nail hacks, Orly

Ok, friends. Today is the day that you will learn how to do a kick-ass manicure at home that looks salon quality. So, you know, you don’t need to pay to get your nails done, and you don’t have to talk to people at the nail salon. It’s the perfect plan for poor anti-social people like me! Or if you just prefer to do your own nails and don’t want them to look like crap.

You’re going to need a great variety of nail care items, but they’re all pretty cheap and you probably already have most of them on hand.

Mostly following left to right you’ll need, nail polish remover, nail oil (I just have grapeseed oil in an old polish bottle), rubbing alcohol, a nail file, a base coat, polish color, top coat, an orange stick (or toothpick), an old eyeliner brush you don’t mind never using on your face again, and optional cuticle remover if you have cuticles that need removing. Oh, and not pictured, cotton balls/rounds/whatever your preference to put all those liquid-y items on.

Start off by prepping your nails. You know how when you go to the nail salon they have you stick your nails in water to soften up your cuticles for removing? Don’t do that, ever. Will it soften your cuticles? Yep! It also softens your nails, which makes them less ideal to put polish on and have it last without chipping.

Instead, if you need to, remove polish with nail polish remover and if it has dried the hell out of your skin, apply nail oil just to the skin (not the nail). You can also use a cuticle remover if you need to, but ideally don’t snip your cuticles because the likelihood of you cutting yourself by accident is pretty high.

When you are all done with the polish and cuticle removing, wipe down your nails with rubbing alcohol. This will clean off your nail surface and get any oil/lotion/hand goo off so your nail can take the polish and actually have it adhere. There are also nail dehydrators you can purchase that I guess do the same thing but I haven’t personally tried one.

Let’s chat base coats! I’m a big fan of the ORLY Bonder Rubberized Base Coat because it really sticks to your nails and then sticks to the polish. I used to really struggle with peel-y nails where literally the layers of the nail would peel, and this base coat seals them all together. I feel a bit like a broken record about it, but I just love this base coat so much.

Even if you don’t care about using this specific one, try to use some sort of base coat. It should protect your nails from staining (um, to a point) and should help to adhere the polish color to your nails.

Ok, now it’s finally time to paint your nails. Just do your best to not get polish absolutely everywhere and if you do get polish on your skin, scrape it off with the orange stick or toothpick before it dries.

Paint on two thin coats of your polish of choice then sit there and do nothing for a solid ten minutes. You know, so you can catch up with emails or something while you make sure you don’t ding up your polish.

This is two coats of OPI My Private Jet. See all those scraggly bits around the cuticle? It’s not totally terrible but also not great. It’s what really sets off a nice in salon manicure from a DIY home manicure.

So, we’re going to fix them! This is what that old eyeliner brush is for. Dip the brush in a little bit of nail polish remover and wipe it off on a cotton round just in case the bristles are dyed or something, you don’t want to accidently dye your cuticles.

When you’re sure your brush won’t stain your skin, dip it back in the nail polish remover and blot it real quick on that cotton round so it isn’t soaked. Then just use the brush to clean up any lines! It’s totally foolproof.

I’ve tried doing this with an orange stick, a cotton bud, even with paper towel and nothing works nearly as well as using a brush. You can get a really precise line that makes it look like you actually know how to paint your nails.

Once you’ve cleaned up the manicure, slap on your favorite top coat. If you can (it can be hard if you don’t leave a huge gap) try to get the top coat to cover the polish and to get onto that sliver of unpolished nail right by the cuticle. It’ll help to seal your manicure so it will last longer.

And that is it! Basically perfect nail manicure you can do from the comfort of your couch.

Even the other hand looks good! The polish remover on brush thing makes a world of difference.

  • Are you an at-home manicure person or do you prefer the salon?
  • Have you ever cleaned up a manicure like this?
  • Can you give some better black glittery/shimmery polish recommendations? Because this one just doesn’t live up to my high standards for glitter.