I've streamlined my manicure process, and start to finish it is well under 20 minutes, usually under 10 minutes. To be truthful, the variable seems to be how long it takes me to locate all of my tools (you'd think I'd keep them in the same place, but they seem to always move around on my due to a little "helper") and picking my polish color!
I've put all of my manicure essential products in a collection, where you can follow me.
My first step is always cleaning up. I remove old polish, making sure to get all of those bits that like to cling around the outer edges. While I'm really good at using lotion after washing and I apply cuticle cream every night, all of the hand washing and foaming and gel using that we do in the hospital definitely takes its toll on my cuticles! I start with my favorite cuticle remover, the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. It's really fast and easy to use, I wet my hands, put a little bead of remover on my cuticles and rub it around. Then I run my thumbnail along the edges and wash my hands. The whole process is only a minute or two, but it makes a huge difference! I then use the Sally Hansen Push-n-Trim tool on any hang nails, neveron my cuticles.
Now I'm ready to shape my nails! I'm not allowed to have my nails long at work, so I just use a crystal nail file to shape them a little rounded but short. I prefer crystal over a regular emory board because it helps prevent splitting in my nails.
Finally, I'm ready to start applying polish! There's always a lot of discussion about which base coat and top coats work best, and while I agree that there are general trends, there is a lot of individuality in which products will work best for you. It is really because everyone has their own nail makeup, some of us have stiffer nails, some are a bit more flexible, and different base coats, top coats and polish brands all have differing amounts of flexibility. Which may or may not last longer or shorter on your own nails. So, it is definitely worth experimenting until you find the combination that works best for you! After years of trying other products, my best combo by far is Orly Bonder Base Coat and Seche Vite Top Coat.
I start with one light layer of Bonder. It dries very quickly and by the time I finish all 10 nails I can start applying polish to the first nail. I prefer to do 3 thin coats of polish over 2 thicker coats, the results are more even and last longer. I start in the middle of the nail, placing my brush tip close to the cuticle but with a small gap. I push the brush toward the cuticle to where I want my polish edge, then pull the brush down the nail. I usually do this 3x, I start in the center of the nail and then do it once on either side. Place, push and pull! After the first coat I do run my brush along the edge of my nail, "sealing" the tip. I personally don't wait long in between coats of polish. You can wait for it to dry, you can apply over still wet polish. I haven't noticed a difference in look and wear for me.
After I'm happy with my polish, I apply top coat. Seche Vite is thicker than other top coats, so it does take a little bit of getting used to using. I use the same Place, Push and Pull technique for applying and I do run my brush along the nail edge to seal the top coat in as well.
The last step is cleaning up mistakes! While I have a lot of practice doing my nails, I'm definitely not perfect. My favorite way for cleaning up mistakes is to pour a little acetone into a glass Dappen Dish and use a stiff, angled brush (usually an eye liner brush works well). The brush is stiff enough to have traction along the nail edge, it can fit under the tip of my nail to get mistakes there and since it isn't a cotton ball there aren't any little fuzzies to trail along and ruin my manicure. I typically clean up as the last step, but if I've made a lot of mistakes I sometimes will clean up earlier in the process.
My typical manicure lasts 5 days chip free despite working in a hospital and having a toddler at home! What are your favorite manicure products and tips?
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