How To Do An At-Home Manicure

Learn to give yourself a manicure at home! We'd all love to have perfect nails well-groomed at all times. But who wants to spend the time or money to constantly go to a professional salon? You don't have to!

Nails that look perfectly manicured aren't only found in salons. All it takes is the right tools and a little bit of practice to give yourself salon-style manicures without leaving home.

Here's a list of basic nail grooming tools that you should have. (If you have trouble finding them, visit a beauty supply store and ask for assistance. Most store owners or beauticians are happy to help you and may offer additional tips and advice.)

Nail file or emory board

Cuticle trimmer

Nail buffer (block)

Cuticle sticks/pushers

Non-acetone polish remover

Cotton balls

Cuticle oil with vitamin E

Clear nail polish base/top coat

Nail polishes in your choice of colors

Hand lotion with aloe

Q-tips or nail polish corrector pen

If your nails aren't in good condition to begin with, it is best to take some time to begin grooming them before going all out with polish and nail art. Spend a few minutes a day using cuticle oil, pushing cuticles back, and applying lotion to keep your hands and nails moisturized.

If your nails are short and bitten, try using a product such as Nailtiques or an anti-nail biting product to encourage growth. Also look for products containing "teflon," an ingredient that builds a strong bond over the nail and decreases breaks and peeling.

Once your nails get to a length that you are content with, you need to maintain them - and this is sometimes the hardest part. Be sure not to neglect your nails - apply lotion after washing to avoid drying nails and nailbeds out. Gently push cuticles back at least once a week to encourage healthy cuticles that do not split or crack.

When you're ready to attempt a full manicure, begin by washing hands thoroughly with lukewarm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly (water and excess oils on the nails will cause polish and other elements not to adhere properly). Using wooden cuticle stick, gently push cuticles back. If hangnails are present, gently trim with cuticle cutters. It is not recommended to cut the actual cuticle. While pushing cuticles back, you may use a cotton ball to massage cuticle oil onto and around nailbed. Be sure to wipe excess off nail before polishing. To gain a perfect polished look, first apply base coat. Let dry. Apply 2 coats of polish, allowing adequate time to dry between coats. Apply a strong topcoat. You may elect to purchase a quick dry finishing spray to encourage faster drying time, but you will still need to be careful with your nails for about an hour after polishing. You can correct any mistakes (remove polish on skin around edge of nail) by using a small q-tip dipped in polish remover or a nail polish corrector pen.

When you need to remove polish, be sure to use a non-acetone remover so that your nails will not become overly dry. You may want to try a product such as Pretty Nails, which is actually a container of polish remover that contains a sponge. Fingers are quickly dipped into sponge and polish is removed. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly and apply moisturizer after using a polish remover. When not wearing colored polish, it is best to wear one to two coats of a clear nail protector in order to encourage nail maintenance.

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