An ongoing struggle I hear a lot about is the question of “why isn’t my at-home mani lasting as long as the one I paid $20 for at the salon?”. There are a few things that usually come to mind, like how cuticles are treated, the fact that many people skip base and top coats (FOR SHAME!), and a number of other little details that so many of us simply overlook. To that end, this is how to do an at-home spa manicure (and the foundation of your nail art endeavors, should you want them to last without chipping off quickly).
– Cotton Balls
– Nail Clippers
– Nail File
– Nail Buffer
– Cuticle Oil
– Cuticle Nippers
– Base Coat
– Polish of your choice
– Top Coat
– Q-tips or a Flat-tipped nail art brush
Apply cuticle remover cream. Here, I’m using Julep Vanish (which I LOVE). Allow it to sit for 30-45 seconds.
Gently push back cuticles with an orangewood stick or a soft edged cuticle pusher. Here, I’m using Julep’s Teflon coated Cuticle Pusher (which I HIGHLY highly recommend).
Scrub off remaining cuticle remover with warm, soapy water. Leaving cuticle remover on the skin will allow cuticle remover to continue to eat away at the living skin you DON’T want to remove (the eponychium), so be sure to wash it off thoroughly.
Optional step that I didn’t photograph: Apply a sugar scrub and massage into hands, scrubbing gently to remove dead skin. Scrubs with glycolic acid or AHAs are particularly great additions to any mani because they have the added benefit of chemical exfoliants that encourage and enhance cellular turnover. I recommend Julep’s Glycolic Hand Scrub. Rinse thoroughly, then…
Optional step (and this is what I think really makes the spa mani experience): Massage your hands with hand creme, body oil, or a lotion of your choosing. You can warm it up to give it that extra somethin’ somethin’. I love using warm coconut oil with a couple drops of lavender oil, but here I’m using Aveda Hand Relief. Be sure to take your time on this part! Your hands do a lot for you, so give them a little extra TLC, and afterwards, wipe nails down with a warm, damp wash cloth if the lotion or oil you use doesn’t absorb all that well.
Now finish drying your nails and file them into your shape of preference. I recommend starting with a coarser grit file (but don’t go too coarse on natural nails – medium grit at most), then finishing with a crystal file. Here, I’m using the Diamancel for Sephora Mini #2 Medium. A few extra tips on filing:
- Always always remember to file in ONE direction – do not see-saw!
- Do not file to shorten – only file to shape. If you need to adjust length, use your clippers
- File in short, gentle strokes.
Apply a base coat of your choosing. There are so very many to choose from, and it really is a matter of preference. Here, I’m using Sally Hansen Complete Care Extra Moisturizing 4-in-1 Nail Treatment, but my favorite non-treatment base coat is Orly Bonder.
Make sure to “wrap” the tips of each nail, as this will help your polish from chipping and shrinking. You’ll do this by running the polish brush perpendicular to the tip of the nail plate. Here’s some more help on how to apply polish evenly.
If there is still any polish around your nails, use a brush or q-tip soaked in nail polish remover to wipe it off. Note that using a brush is MUCH much easier, because you don’t as big of a risk of smudging around the edges or getting cotton strands stuck to any still-sticky polish.