Manicure 101: 5 Easy Steps For A Lasting Salon-Quality Manicure At Home

I’m a nail polish addict and love doing home manicures.  I used to get acrylic nails regularly up until 2 years ago, so it’s taken me a while to perfect the process and get the results I want.  I now have a great system down for giving myself professional-looking manicures at home, and I wanted to share this process with you!  Once you get the hang of it the whole thing becomes really simple and pretty quick.

What you’ll need:

*Buffer & file (I like the 7-sided buffer–pictured–that you can get in the nail section at Walgreens for about $1.99.  It’s a file and buffer in one)

*100% Pure acetone nail polish remover (getting pure acetone is really important)

*Base coat & top coat (Essie 3-Way Glaze is the best.  It’s a base coat and top coat in one)

*Polish of choice (I’m using Essie Neo Whimsical in this post)

*A thin, flat cosmetic brush (I use an eyeliner brush that came in my Sephora brush kit that I wasn’t using for makeup.  You can get a cheap one from the drugstore or Sally’s would probably sell them)

*A protected surface where the polish and acetone cannot ruin anything!!

After you shape and buff your nails (the 7-sided one is amazing and each side has instructions), wash and thoroughly dry nails and hands.  If you need to trim your cuticles you will want to do that now.  I didn’t do that before this tutorial, and you’ll notice my cuticles aren’t looking their best.  :/  Then follow the steps below!

Step 1:  Apply base coat

Apply a thin coat of this to each nail and wait two minutes until moving on to Step 2.

Step 2:  Apply first coat of polish

Apply a thin coat of your polish and wait two minutes for it to dry before moving on to Step 3.  The below diagram I found on Pinterest is really helpful for showing the best way to apply (follow me on Pinterest here!):

Step 3:  Apply second coat of polish

Apply your second coat of polish, waiting at least two minutes since you applied the first coat.  If your polish is not as opaque as you want it after two coats, wait two minutes and apply a third and final coat of color.  I would not suggest more than 3 coats.  The thicker the polish the more likely it is to smudge because it takes longer to dry, and it’s also going to chip a lot sooner.

Step 4:  Clean up nail edges with acetone

This is the magic step!  This is where you can clean up messy cuticles and anywhere you “painted outside the lines”!  Professional manicures always have a really clean space between where the polish ends and where the cuticle begins and this step lets you achieve that at home.

Make sure you have all surfaces covered (I used a magazine as my base and then put paper towels over it) because acetone will eat through clothes, ruin wood, etc.  Now just pour some acetone into the cap, dip your brush in it, drag it along the inside of the cap to get off excess, and very carefully go around each nail making a U-shape with the brush.  Just be careful not to slip and dig into the polish with the brush!  The polish will come right off and you will have to do that nail over.

Step 5:  apply top coat

Apply a thin layer of top coat and make sure to cover the tips well.  That’s the part that chips first so it needs a good top coat application to protect it. You can apply a thin coat to the tip as well by gently dragging the brush across the top tip of your nail, just be careful not to smudge the nail bed.

End Result:

{Essie Neo Whimsical, a light lavender pink}

One final tip:  I keep the 3-Way Glaze in my purse and apply a thin coat every day after doing a manicure at home.  This keeps my polish looking fresh and protects it from chips.  My manicures last days longer when I do this.  It takes just seconds to do and it dries really quickly.

I hope this is helpful!  I’d love to hear your manicure tips as well!

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10 thoughts on “Manicure 101: 5 Easy Steps For A Lasting Salon-Quality Manicure At Home

    • Yes, that and French Affair are my favorite pale lavender polishes. So pretty and feminine any time of year! Seriously, that acetone and brush trick has saved my life!

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