As a general rule, I don't pay for things I can do myself. Facials, maintaining my fringe, eyebrows--over the years, I've learned that with some practice (and YouTube tutorials) I can do these things just as good as a professional. That doesn't mean I'm going to pick up scissors and go to town on my hair or attempt to do super fly nail art but a basic manicure and pedicure shouldn't be something you have to pay someone to do for you...although, it IS nice to treat yourself every once in awhile. Save your hard earned money for a special occasion and try this at-home manicure in between!
What You Need (pictured below, L-R):
-Cuticle Remover/Pusher Tool or liquid cuticle remover
-Medium to Fine grit nail file
-Cuticle pen or Cuticle Oil (I'm using this one)
-Base coat (I'm using this one.)
-Nail color (L'oreal Versailles Romance)
-Top Coat (I'm using this one)
1. REMOVE POLISH + SCRUB
Start with clean, polish-free nails. After using a remover to take off polish, I always wash my hands in warm water and give them a good scrub--you don't want your skin to soak up any of those toxins and you'll soften your cuticles for the next step. Your manicurist may soak your nails in a bowl of water but this actually expands the proteins that make up your nail and cause your polish to chip when the nail bed contracts.
2. PUSH THOSE CUTICLES BACK
Using one end of the tool, push back your cuticles with care. Since we washed our hands in the step before, your cuticles will have softened to allow you to do it without exerting any pressure. Don't force anything :]
3. "REMOVING" CUTICLES or HANGNAILS (optional)
When I say removing cuticles, I'm talking about removing the excess cuticle skin (you can tell the difference between live and dead skin by just noting the color: dead skin is white and live skin is translucent). You can either use the other end of the tool to remove the cuticles or play it safe and apply a cuticle remover that dissolves them right off! Your cuticle is essentially a barrier meant to keep bacteria out and protect your newly forming nail. You definitely do not want to cut these away. In fact, if you properly care for you cuticles, all you really have to do is push them back to get them looking healthy. I highly recommend a liquid cuticle remover because it does just that--removes the dry bits but leaves the live and healthy cuticle intact. At this point, you can snip away (carefully, I might add) at any ragged bits or hangnails.
4. SHAPING THE NAIL
Your nails should have dried sufficiently by now. You never want to file wet nails--water makes them weak and will cause them to split. Use a medium grit or even a fine grit if your nails are thin. Instead of see-sawing back and forth, file in one direction to minimize damage. The shape of your nail is personal preference--square, squoval, oval, stiletto. Rounded nails that mimic the shape of your cuticle, extending just past the edge are flattering on every hand.
5. APPLY A BASE COAT
I like to apply one that is full of nutrients to keep my nails in tip top shape. Apply a thin, even layer--if it's too thick, it won't adhere to your nail or the polish and will take ages to dry. Ain't nobody got time for that. This step also protects your nail from staining if you're using a dark color on top. Occasionally, you might want to stop right here in your manicure and let your natural nails breath without a polish on top.
6. APPLY YOUR POLISH
Brush on two coats of color. Make them thin and wait a couple of minutes before applying the second coat. A general rule is to apply it in three strokes: once on either side of the nail, then a quick swipe across the tip to seal the edges and prevent chips.
6 1/2. ADD YOUR OWN FLAIR
Optional, of course. But I couldn't resist an accent color and a little dash of glitter.
7. TOP COAT TIME
One shiny top coat to finish off your manicure! I like to use ones that minimize drying time (because I will smudge it the first chance I get). Same rules apply as with your polish--thin, three strokes, seal the edges.
8. ERASE MISTAKES
Because we're all human, take a little Qtip dipped in nail polish remover to clean up around the edges. It's details like this that will make it look professional.
9. CUTICLE CARE
Don't skip this step! After you nails dry completely, rub in some cuticle oil to condition them. The poor things went through a whole lot with all the removing and snipping and pushing. It's essential to take the time to look after them often. I keep this pen in my purse and keep a thicker cream by my bed to use throughout the day or night. I can gaurantee that if you look after your cuticles, you'll not only have strong, healthy nails, but longer lasting manicures, too.
Hope that was helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions :]