How to Achieve the Perfect At-Home Manicure

A few of our favorite salon pros share how to keep up with nail maintenance when cleanliness is a priority.

Photo: Getty Images

There's no better time than the present to polish up on your DIY manicure skills. Especially when the weeknight and weekend calendars are cleared for the unforeseen future, learning how to paint your own nails and upkeep their care is a helpful activity.

Thankfully professional nail artists and salons are still here to guide us on the trickiest aspects. Ever wonder how to remove gel yourself? Could your cuticles use a little love after lots of handwashing? Scroll on as the artists and founders of Olive & June, Plaza M Spa, and Paintbox share their pro tips for acing at-home manicures. Then, consider purchasing a gift card or donating directly to give back the love and have something to look forward to.

Photo: Getty Images

Shape it Up
"It's all about the 90/10 rule," says Olive & June founder Sarah Gibson Tuttle in regards to shaping and filing your nails, "90% of your shape comes from your nail clipper; 10% from filing. First, use flat edge clippers to cut your nail into your desired shape. Then, gently smooth out the edges." Her key trick? "If you have polish on with this step, that's all the better. Shaping with polish on helps you visualize the final shape without being distracted by the natural whites of the nails."

Soak it Off
Removing your own gel manicure isn't as difficult as it seems, it just requires the right supplies. The best time to do so is after the two-week mark, according to Evelyn Lim, Chief Educator at Paintbox who recently shared a DIY video here on how to do so. Supplies you'll need are 100% acetone, cotton, aluminum foil, a nail file, and orange wood sticks (Lim prefers the slanted variety). To start, cut the foil into ten 3x2 pieces and then buff off the top layer, or the shiny coat, of your polish using the file. Saturate one piece of cotton per nail in the acetone. Place each piece of cotton above each nail, carefully wrapping aluminum foil around your fingertips. Wait approximately 10-15 minutes before checking your progress. Within that time, the polish should loosen. Remove the foil and gently use the nail stick to work the remainder of the polish off. If it's still challenging for it to budge, soak for longer using the previous product combo until you have smoother results.

Photo: @oliveandjune

Polish Pro
Once ready to paint, Gibson Tuttle says it's all about learning proper technique and working on a flat surface to steady your hand. "With your first coat of polish, start with a center swipe of polish, then swipe on either side. You should be able to cover the average nail plate in 2-3 strokes." Her pro tip is waiting 5-10 minutes between coats. "This makes a world of difference in overall dry time and decreases the chance of bubbles," she says, "Then seal your nails with the topcoat to maximize shine and protect your polish."

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Because the necessary increase in handwashing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers can be super drying, artists recommend amping up your hydration. "In these times, it's best to keep nails short and hydrated with cuticle oil daily to prevent breakage," suggests Lim. Stephany Koo, Owner of Plaza M Spa Dumbo and Plaza M Spa TriBeCa (Olivia's go-to salons), mirrors that suggestion, "The answer to keeping your hands looking their best is hydration and moisturizer!" And if you don't have cuticle balm readily available, she lends an easy DIY trick, "Try mixing a dime-sized amount of Vaseline or coconut oil with a drop of your favorite facial oil. Then, take a Q-Tip and dab the mixture onto each of your cuticles and nail beds—it's a natural way to keep your hands looking fresh."

Photo: @paintboxnails

Saving Grace
"Our biggest mani-saving trick is to apply a thin layer of topcoat every third day," says Gibson Tuttle, "That layer extends the life of your manicure because it acts as an extra protection against everything your hands are interacting with." 

Squeaky Clean
To keep things extra pristine, Koo says, "Don't forget to scrub under your fingernails too when washing your hands with soap, as its where bacteria builds up the most." Gibson Tuttle agrees, "Germs can live underneath the nail, and the most effective defense is making sure you're washing and drying your hands consistently and properly. The CDC has put out a great guideline to follow."  

Want even more tips? Olive & June has recently launched a three week "Mani Bootcamp" series on their Instagram and have released new at-home mani kits with their polishes. Follow along each day for special themed tutorials and check back with us soon for more fun nail art ideas.

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