How to Give Yourself a Manicure


People notice your manicure. It’s a fact of life I try to remember at all times because if I’m not careful I’ll end up with fingernails at 5 different lengths and a hangnail or two. Here, I share 30 of my most favorite manicure (and pedicure) tips. Enjoy!

How to Give Yourself a Mani and Pedi

Why spend money on a new manicure every few weeks when you can do it yourself. Below I give you all my favorite tips and tricks for getting the perfect at-home manicure.

For step-by-step instructions on how to give yourself a manicure, click here. Also check out How to Give Yourself a Pedicure.

  1. The most flattering nail shape is not long or short or square, it’s ‘squoval’ — not quite square and not quite oval. Get the look yourself by filing nails into a shape that mirrors the curve of your nail base. Square tips can make fingers look chubby, according to nail guru Deborah Lippmann in InStyle Magazine.
  2. To ensure your nails are the same length after filing, line each nail up with its counterpart.
  3. Don’t shake the nail polish bottle, instead roll it between your palms. This mixes the polish without causing air bubbles.
  4. Before polishing clean nails, soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and swipe across nails. This will remove any excess oils or soap than can cause peeling once polish is applied.
  5. One trick for applying nail polish: Hold the brush between the thumb and middle finger while resting your forefinger on the top of the cap.
  6. To get the best results, apply thin layers. Start with a thin layer of basecoat, then apply a thin layer of polish down the middle then one on the left and one on the right. After the first coat dries for a couple minutes, repeat, then follow with a thin layer of topcoat.
  7. Once your pedicure or manicure is complete, run an orangewood stick dipped in nail polish remover along either side of nail to fix any mistakes.
  8. Speed up the drying process by aiming a blow-dryer at toes (set on cool) for a minute at a time. Be sure to keep the dryer at least 12 inches from your feet.
  9. Gotta leave the house before your pedicure is dry? Apply cuticle oil over the polish. This will keep anything from sticking to your polish. See my list of the best cuticle creams.
  10. Stained nails? Remove the yellow easily by following the directions in How to Get Rid of Nail Stains.
  11. For an extra spa feeling to your home pedicure, nuke a damp towel in the microwave for a couple minutes, slather feet in moisturizer and wrap them in the warm towel.

Manicures at the Salon

  1. It’s my professional opinion that real nails are much classier than fakes. They are also much better for your nail health. So check out these 5 really, really tacky manicure trends and skip the fakes.
  2. If you are super-paranoid about germs in nail salons, you can bring along your own tools for your manicure.
  3. Cut the cuticle or not? Ji Baek, owner of the Rescue Beauty Lounges in New York City, recommends people not cut their own cuticles.
  4. The cuticle is there to protect the nail bed and a cut on a nail can easily become infected. Instead, push the cuticle back with an orangewood stick covered in a cotton ball. According to Baek, professionals are trained in cuticle cutting so most can be trusted. If you are paranoid (manicurists have accidentally cut into my skin one too many times for me), simply ask them not to cut.

  5. Like the look of clean, nude nails? Skip the polish and ask for a buffing or buff your own nails with a good buffer. Buffing removes ridges and creates a high shine that clear polish tries to emulate. About 30 percent of Baek’s clients ask for a buffing over polish. ‘Fashion editors have it done before they go to shows in Europe,’ says Baek in InStyle Magazine.
  6. Skip the fast-drying topcoat unless you are in a hurry. Salons like to charge an extra dollar or two on this gimmick. While these coats do dry faster, they are more susceptible to chipping.

Protecting Your Manicure

  1. A fresh swipe of topcoat every other day on your manicure and once a week on your pedicure will keep the polish from chipping. Check out 8 Secrets to Making Your Manicure Last Longer.
  2. When it comes to chipped polish, a nail buffer is your best friend. Repair a chip by smoothing the ragged edges with a buffer (the more smooth the chip is, the better the fix is). Fill in the chip with polish. Once it’s dry, apply a coat over the entire nail.
  3. Don’t file nails after a shower, when they are too soft. File in one direction only to prevent tears.
  4. For a pedicure, use a special pedicure nail clipper made for clipping toenails. The straight-edge works better for feet because they don’t allow nails to become curved, which can lead to painful ingrown nails (been there, done that). You can round the edges slightly with a file.
  5. Since cotton balls can leave behind fuzzies, consider a cotton band like Miss Webril (about $6 at beauty stores) instead. For stubborn polish that stains, press the cotton on the nail for several seconds before wiping off. Don’t be stingy with the polish remover, says Baek in InStyle magazine. The more nail remover you have on the cotton, the easier it will be to remove.
  6. Protect a manicure by wearing rubber gloves when cleaning and gardening.
  7. If you suffer from dry cuticles, keep cuticle oil in your bag or on your desk at all times. Cuticle oils tend to be more effective than creams.
  8. Nail-biter? Get a manicure every week for 12 weeks. According to Baek in ‘Confessions of a Beauty Editor,’ if you can commit to 12 weeks, you won’t bite your nails. It tastes gross and you’ll also think twice because of the cost of getting nails done. Baek says many women backslide in week 3, but she suggests persevering.

Pedicures: The Secret to Super-Soft Feet

  1. Keep dead skin at bay by regularly exfoliating in the shower with a pumice stone. Apply a thick lotion or cream (I love Eucerin’s Aquaphor) to feet then wear socks to bed.
  2. For extra soft feet, try this trick from ‘Confessions of a Beauty Editor,’: Apply a thick coat of diaper rash cream to feet (yes, that’s what they meant), put feet in a thin plastic bag, then put socks over it. If you can sleep like that (there is no way I could without ending up with sheets full of diaper rash goo), then you are guaranteed the softest feet ever in the morning.

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