From gel manicures to french tips to trendy nail designs, regular trips to your local nail salon can be a great way to indulge in self-care. But it’s not always practical…or, at this point, even an option. Learning how to do a manicure at home, just like the professionals, ensures you’ll have salon-quality nails whenever you please. Plus, keeping up with your regular beauty routine can be therapeutic.
So, to help you create that Instagram-worthy manicure all by yourself, we enlisted Miss Pop, a celebrity nail artist, who’s worked with names like Regina King and Ashley Graham, to offer up her best tips, tools and techniques for doing a manicure at home—including a unique nail soak method. This easy step-by-step guide to DIYing a professional mani—that will actually last longer—starts with priming your nails and finishes with the perfect spring or summer polish, plus some easy nail art if you’re feeling ambitious.
Step 1: Gather these essential manicure tools.
Before you sit down to do your nails, here’s what you’ll need:
- Cotton balls, rounds, or squares
- Nail file
- Manicure sticks
- Cuticle clippers and cuticle remover
- Base coat
- Nail polish
- Nail polish remover
- Clear top coat
- Quick dry drops
- Bonus materials: pencil and roundhead pin
Step 2: Remove any old polish on your nails.
This should go without saying, but starting your manicure with a clean canvas a.k.a unpolished nails is a must. If you’re wearing regular polish, use the cotton balls and—you guessed it—a gentle remover, to take it off. If you have gel polish on, use a special kit to help remove the color.
Step 3: File your nails in whatever shape you desire.
The key here is to file your nails in one direction at a time.
“If you file back and forth, you’ll create micro-tears which can lead to breakage,” Miss Pop says. Instead, swipe consistently to just one side.
Step 4 (optional): Buff your nails, but only if you need to.
Gently buff your nails in one direction if they are peeling or flaking, she says. If not, you can skip this step.
Miss Pop adds that she doesn’t normally buff nails because it strips the top layer, which is the most keratin-rich.
“The reason people buff nails before they apply regular polish is because it helps the polish last longer,” she says. “Doing that, however, removes the natural oils on the nail.”
Step 5: Apply a cuticle remover on the outside edges of your nail.
This will gently soften and exfoliate the dry skin by the cuticle, making it easier to push back. An added bonus? Miss Pop finds that a cuticle remover can help eliminate the yellow staining you get after removing darker nail polish colors, too.
“Paint the cuticle remover on the nail as if it were a base coat or top coat. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then gently rub it in with your finger, and wipe it off with cotton,” she instructs.
If you’re looking for another way to remove that yellow tint to your natural nail, Miss Pop recommends soaking your nails in a bowl of warm water and a dissolved denture tablet for a few minutes.
Step 6: Push your cuticles back using a manicure stick with a cotton head.
This is a public service announcement: don’t cut your cuticles. There is no reason for it, says Miss Pop. “Cutting the cuticle—which is the seal between the nail bed and your body—leaves you open to infection,” she warns.
Also, if you keep cutting your cuticles, you run the risk of getting that bumpy, ruddy skin around your nail—and no one wants that, either. Instead, stick to the cuticle remover.
Step 6: Cut hangnails, if necessary.
Tilt the cuticle nipper (to avoid cutting yourself) and trim the unwanted skin, avoiding the cuticle.
Step 7: Apply one thin layer of base coat.
It’s really the base coat that helps your manicure last by providing a barrier between your nail and the polish
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