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 • Nails  • Nailcare Guides  • Here’s *Exactly* How to Give Yourself a Perfectly Polished Manicure From Home

Here’s *Exactly* How to Give Yourself a Perfectly Polished Manicure From Home

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Main image – Carmenho/Stocksy

It’s amazing how much we use our hands to express ourselves, both at work and play. And we probably do it way more than we think! Our hands take centre stage when we communicate which means people notice when they look good (and, er, not so good…)

This is why keeping them neat, tidy and groomed goes a long way towards presenting yourself as a confident professional (even on the days when you’re winging it.) And, let’s face it, sporting pretty nails is also a big boost for the soul!

But regular salon appointments? Pah! Now that’s just wishful thinking!

So I say, take it back to basics. Embrace the home manicure and learn how to get a *really* glossy, long-lasting finish in the comfort of your own boudoir. (Ssh! No one needs to know.)

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to create the latest nail art craze from home or stick gummy bears to your talons, circa 2020. I’m talking simple, home-polished nails that look professional and sophisticated – without the hefty price tag and time away from the office.

I spoke to Alena Monson, a nail artist and founder of Whats Up Beauty and Nails, and Hannah Mankin, a nail artist at Dazzle Dry. Here, they tell me the skills we need to achieve the perfect, glossy DIY manicure. No appointment necessary.


Woman showing the results of doing a manicure from home

Image – @dazzle_dry/Instagram


Why your nails deserve some TLC

You may think that investing time in a manicure is a luxury, and of course it is. However, painting them a pretty colour is just a bonus and there are health benefits to looking after your nails too.

“Manicuring your nails is the most effective way to help reduce nail breakage and promote hygiene for your cuticles and nail beds,” explains Monson. “Some products even deliver vitamins and hardeners directly to the nail which can help your natural nails grow longer.”

According to Monson, the frequency of your home manicures depends on a few factors. “Polish quality, nail thickness and how you use your nails every day,” she says. “Ideally you should be repainting when you start finding chips or cracking in your polish.”

And get into a rhythm in between manicures too. “Set a cadence for a nail care routine every one or two weeks when you push your cuticles, remove hangnails and file your nails,” recommends Monson.


Woman with great nails after doing a step by step manicure

Image – @dazzle_dry/Instagram


How to get a pro finish from home

The tools you’ll need:

  • Buffing block (normally a four-sided block with a different colour and grit level on each side)
  • Orange sticks or cuticle pushers
  • Cotton wool
  • Cuticle remover
  • Glass nail file
  • Base coat
  • Nail polish
  • Small brush for cleaning up mistakes
  • Nail polish remover


1. Prep

Fail to prep, prep to fail, as they say! Mankin says this is the key to creating a long-lasting manicure at home “Be sure to prep the nails really well, removing all oils from the nails before you start application.

“This creates that perfect foundation for a long-lasting manicure.”

How, you make ask?  She says “I like to lightly buff my nails with a buffing block to remove the shine.

“It seems simple but it makes all the difference.”

The key here is to be gentle with nails.  Buffing too harshly could end up damaging your nails instead (the opposite of what we’re going for).


2. Push your cuticles

Tackling your cuticles- the clear skin that grows at the base of your nail bed- is one of the biggest markers between a pro and a DIY mani.  To get a professional finish, safely push your cuticles back before you paint your nails.

“Start by softening them using a cuticle remover gel – apply it and wait while it does the work,” says Monson. “After a minute, take a cuticle pusher and gently work your cuticles back and scrape any excess dead skin.

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover (£8.00 on the Boots UK website/$8.27 on the Walmart website) is super hydrating and nourishing.

“Use the cuticle pusher parallel to the nail to avoid the edge catching and doing damage to the nail,” adds Monson.

Now wash your hands to remove excess product. I like Tweezerman Dual-Sided Pushy Cuticle Stick (£16 on the Tweezerman UK website/$17.00 on the Tweezerman US website) as it’s really simple and safe to use thanks to its easy-to-grip handle.


how to do a manicure at home nail file image



3. File your nails

“File them to your desired length and shape using a glass file,” Monson advises. “The tips of your nails can be brittle and the layers are prone to splitting which the glass nail file can help you to avoid,” she says.

And remember to file in one direction. “The back and forth motion can also be damaging to the tip.” Champneys Manicure Glass Nail File (£10 on the Champneys UK website) is proof that something can do its job effectively and be reasonably priced.


4. Start painting

Before you even get to your chosen colour you’ll want to use a good base coat to avoid a bumpy finish, “Most polishes are self-leveling but if you have ridges or uneven nails you could try a ridge-filling base coat which can help make a perfectly smooth mani,” Monson advises.

Try OPI Infinite Shine Ridge Filler Primer (£16.90 on the OPI UK website/$19.95 on the OPI US website) to beautifully condition nails whilst creating a smooth canvas for nail polish.

“Then two layers of your favourite nail polish colour and a clear top coat to seal your manicure,” explains Monson.

When applying your colour, begin just above the cuticle in the middle and paint upwards, pushing the brush as flat as possible as you go so that the colour spreads outwards. This will give you a useful template for your next brush stroke and create a neat shape.

It’s also important to do something that professionals call “capping the free edge”. Simply put, this means painting the end of your nail with the nail varnish brush, making the polish much less likely to chip.

For some great tips on how to apply polish perfectly without hitting your cuticles, take a look at Monson’s video below.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Alena Monson (@alena.monson)


Essie has an array of fab colours to choose from. Check out ‘Mademoiselle’, one of my own favourite shades; a beautiful baby pink that’s perfect for a classic mani.


Woman who has shiny nails after following steps to do an at home manicure

Image – @dazzle_dry/Instagram


5. Neaten mistakes

As careful as you are, it’s easy to get polish somewhere you don’t want it while giving yourself a manicure.

“Keeping tidy cuticles while doing your manicure is important for the final finished look,” says Monson. But don’t panic if you make a mistake. “If you accidentally flood your cuticles with nail polish, use a flat clean-up brush dipped in acetone.”

Try StylFile Acetone Nail Polish Remover (£4.99 on the Look Fantastic UK website) which is non-drying and particularly good for removing gel polish.


How to maintain your mani

So, you’ve ‘nailed’ the salon-quality at home mani. Now think about how you can maintain long-lasting results.

Regular care in between DIY manicures keeps them looking tip-top too. “Maintaining your cuticles between polish applications really helps your nails stand out and look salon quality,” says Monson.

This doesn’t have to take long. “Using a cuticle oil to moisturise between manicures is critical and should be used after washing your hands and before bed,” she adds. Keep one on your bedside table and one by the sink or on your desk at work.

Try Mavala Cuticle Massage Oil (£7.74 on the Nail Polish Direct website/$17.95 on the Mavala US website) which heals broken skin and, frankly, transforms the look of nails within weeks.

Be mindful of how you go about your daily chores to keep them looking healthy too. “Try not to use your nails as tools for opening cans or using them as a scraper.”

If you’re going to make at-home manis a regular thing, Mankin advises to “invest in a good quality manicure system, like the Dazzle Dry Mini Flight, it has all the steps you need for that salon-quality manicure at home.”


Image of woman who has followed steps to do an at home manicure

Image – @dazzle_dry/Instagram


The takeaway

With regular care and the occasional re-paint when required, who needs a salon manicure when you’ve got the skills to do it at home?

There’s nothing wrong with booking a salon appointment once in a while. But when time is of the essence and there’s money to be saved, a DIY manicure will do just fine (and can look just as professional).

File your nails regularly – in one direction – and be careful how you use your hands around the house. One failed opening of a tin or can of Coke could end in the ‘jagged’ look which we’re *pretty* sure wasn’t intentional.

Invest in a good nail kit and keep an eye on chips, wear and tear. And finally, keep on top of cuticle health between manicures by applying cuticle oil as part of your bedtime and hand-washing routine.


Meet the experts

Alena Monson is a nail artist and founder of Whats Up Beauty and Nails.  She shares regular nail tutorials with her more than 250,000 followers on Instagram.


Hannah Mankin is a nail artist at Dazzle Dry, a revolutionary nail care line free from harmful chemicals, animal byproducts and animal testing.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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