I don’t post often about manicures and pedicures, but I love nail polish! I was once a very active member of the Makeup Alley Nail Board, and at its peak size, my collection probably reached about 3,500 polish shades. In my fellowship I was known for changing my polish nightly, though I could easily get a manicure to last chip-free for five days, despite the constant hand washing in the Pediatric ICU!
I’ll share my basic manicure routine here, but look below for links to more specific posts with tips and tricks for great at home manicures!
My Basic Manicure Routine
Obviously, a new mani must start with removal of the old mani. I really love the nail polish remover jars since I can quickly and easily remove the polish off of just 1 finger if that’s what I want. I use nail polish remover pads for removing polish on my toes.
Next, I prepare my cuticles and the sides of my nails (the lateral nail fold). I use Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover about once a week. I rinse my hands in the sink, then apply a thin bead of this along the base of my nails, on my cuticles on both hands. I then rub it in to the cuticle, along the sides of my nails and the tips of my fingers (make sure you get this under your nail tip). Then I rub my thumbnail over the skin over all the areas I’ve just covered, this removes the excess dead skin. Then just wash your hands to remove.
When shaping my nails, my preferred file is a crystal file. Glass/Crystal files don’t tear at the nail the way these files do, this helps with the nail’s strength and helps cut down on peeling. You can use it wet or dry, and it’s easily washed by either just rinsing or a little soap and water. I keep my nails fairly short with filing only, avoiding clippers. I file them to the same shape as my nailbed, a squoval shape.
I will occasionally buff my nails if ridges have become more prominent. I use a 4 sided buffing block similar to this one. Work from rough to smooth, being careful not to overbuff. I have done this, and it doesn’t allow the polish to grip your nail, and it will basically just slide off of your nail within the day. If you do this on accident, you’ll need to roughen up your nail with one of the medium grits.
Before applying polish, you will need to remove any lotion, wax or anything left on the nail. Remover doesn’t work well for this, 100% Acetone or Rubbing Alcohol both work well for this since they don’t really leave any residue and will air dry on their own quickly.
Finally, the last step is applying the polish! I start with a horizontal sweep across the nail tip and then I fill in the nail bed. I have found that this initial horizontal stroke that covers the nail edge is very important, it usually adds at least a day of wear to my mani. Some will wrap the polish all the way down the back side of the nail, for me it is most important to cover the edge of the nail. I then cover the nail bed with a sweep down the middle and then either side.
Note that I start with a base coat, then follow up with 2-3 coats of color and finally the top coat. I don’t wait long in between coats, only a minute or two and then I move one to the next coat.
If I make mistakes, the clean up method that has worked best for me is to use a cheap, stiff angled eye liner brush. Mine was $3 at Target, and the stiff bristles are tough enough to push the polish off of the skin, but the bristles will fit easily under the nail and in tight corners. This is fastest and most effective with 100% Acetone poured into a small container. As I clean, I find that the acetone will get dirty, leaving a residue on my skin that has to be removed later. This can be easily prevented by wiping the brush on a paper towel after use but before dipping it back into the acetone.
Detailed Manicure Steps
Polish Tip: Easy Clean-Up
How to get Perfect Cuticles at Home
Manicure Product Reviews
Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
CND Cuticle Eraser
Orly Cuticle Therapy Cremé
Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover
More Manicure Tips
Must Know Glitter Nail Polish Tips
The Best Vitamin Supplements for Stronger Nails
How to Fix Thick and Clumpy Nail Polish
Finger Nail Anatomy and Composition
My full manicure and pedicure guide