DIY manicures never really appealed to me when I was younger. Until recently, I honestly just didn’t have the patience nor the skill required to do nail art. All throughout high school and up until a few years ago, I could almost always be spotted sporting fake, UV gel nails (despite the fact that my real nails have always grown quite well) with pretty patterns and fancy designs. Flash forward to today, and (aside from the occasional ‘treat’ day at the spa), I pretty much handle my manicures myself (sans gel/acrylics, because those things ruin your nails faster than anything else).
One day I’ll dedicate a post to the fancy nail art stuff, but before you even attempt to do anything super intricate you need to understand the basics of doing a proper manicure. It’s a lot easier and quicker to do your own manicures than you might think it is, and your bank balance will thank you (especially if you’re someone that religiously visits the salon on a weekly or bi-weekly basis). And hey – The ability to change your polish on a whim has never been so simple!
DIY Manicures 101
What You’ll Need
– Cotton Balls – You can get a huge bag of these at any dollar or grocery store. Even doing weekly manicures, I’m still on the initial bag I purchased.
– Nail clippers – I got mine at the dollar store in a handy package that also had scissors and tweezers.
– Non-acetone nail polish remover – It’s much less harsh than the ones that contain acetone. This (AFFILIATE) is the one that I use.
– A good nail file – I use a glass one like these (AFFILIATE) because they last a really long time and reduce landfill waste.
– A buffing block – These ones (AFFILIATE) are similar to the one I use. It’s cheap and lasts quite a while (I’m still on my first one, but I think I’ll have to replace it soon).
– An orangewood stick to push your cuticles back and get rid of any dirt under your nails – These ones (AFFILIATE) are a really great price and if you take care of them properly, they’ll last for quite some time.
– Cuticle oil to make the pushing process easier and get a great nail shape – This is the one I use (AFFILIATE) and I think it works fantastically.
– A great moisturizer – This one’s my favourite (AFFILIATE), but feel free to choose any moisturizer that works for you. As long as your hands are super soft when you’re done, you’re good!
– Nail polish – If you want your finished nails to look like they were done by a professional, you’re going to need a base coat* and top coat (AFFILIATE) in addition to your colour. OPI (AFFILIATE) makes great polishes with serious lasting power, but I’ve also had pretty good success with various grocery store brands.
*The base coat is non-negotiable when you’re using a darker colour unless you want to end up with yellow nails. If you’re starting with yellow nails, try soaking them in a baking soda paste before starting your manicure in order to get as much of the yellow out as possible. The buffing block will help too so don’t worry too much if you don’t get it all.
Step One: Getting A Blank Slate To Work With
Make sure that your nails are completely free of oils and polish by using the nail polish remover. Once you’re all clean, use your nail clippers and file to get your nails to your desired shape and size. I personally keep my nails fairly long and square shaped, but everyone’s different. Once you’re happy with your shape, use your buffing block to smooth the surface of your nails and bring out their shine.
Step Two: Soak And Scrub Until Your Hands Are Silky Smooth
In a bowl of water (or your sink like I do because I can’t be bothered), soak your hands for three to five minutes (if you’re following these steps planning to do your own pedicure, you’ll want to soak a little longer; five to seven minutes should do it) and then exfoliate with your sugar scrub to get all of the dead skin cells off of your hands. Rinse and pat dry.
Step Three: Get Your Cuticles In Order
To soften your cuticles, put a dab of oil on each one and massage it in to soften them. Once they’re nice and soft, use your orangewood stick to push them back and give your nails a nice shape (If you have any dirt hanging out under your nails, the orangewood stick will also do a fantastic job of getting it out).
Step Four: Moisturize!
Get out your favourite moisturizer and meditate while massaging a vitamin rich moisturizer into your hands. Let’s face it – The massage is the best part about getting a manicure! So take your time and focus on your biggest problem areas.
Now it’s time to move on to actually painting the nails that pretty colour you’ve been eying! But before you do, you’re going to want to get your nail polish remover out again to make sure that all of the oil and moisturizer is off of your nails – The secret to a long lasting manicure is starting with the cleanest nails possible.
Step Five: Don’t Skip The Base Coat
The base coat not only helps prevent your nails from staining, it also creates an even surface for the polish that you’re going to be using. One thin coat is definitely enough, just take your time and it’ll go on smooth.
Step Six: Colour Yourself Happy
For your colour, you’re going to want to use two thin(!) coats and you’re going to want to let your nails completely dry between each of them. It’s important to make sure that your coatings are thing for two reasons – It’ll help the polish dry faster and will also actually help it last longer. Thick coats tend to be uneven and chip faster.
Step Seven: Finish With A Shiny Top Coat
Your top coat should be just as thin as your base and polish coats were. A top coat definitely adds a lot of shine to your DIY manicure, but it also does a lot more than that – It also smooths away any unevenness in the polish (it happens, especially when you’re first starting out) and helps hide any flaws. Pro tip: Add another layer of topcoat about midway through the week to freshen up your manicure and give it more of that first day look again (you’ll be amazed by how much of a difference it makes!).
Step Eight: Let It Dry Completely
This step actually takes quite a bit of patience (and is a perfect excuse to lounge on the couch and catch up on all those TV shows you’ve been missing). If you want to get the very most out of your manicure, it needs to be completely dry before you start doing things with your hands. If you don’t have the patience to let it dry on its own, you can try using something like this (AFFILIATE) – It helps your polish dry faster and gives you a picture perfect finish so that you can go about your day.
And there you have it! As you can see, DIY manicures are not only easy, but giving yourself one will make you feel like a movie star without breaking your bank or having to worry about whether or not the salon you chose is sanitary and hygienic. What’s your favourite polish colour? Let us know in the comments section below!
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