How to Get the Perfect At-Home Manicure

I'm ahead of the time, and -- boy -- am I happy about it. Quarantine is making me realize I'm pretty low maintenance in terms of my appearance. Outside of my monthly facial, I’m not missing out on any beauty appointments! Thankfully, I've been doing my nails for the past few months at home and I'm here to share my best tips and tricks for the perfect at-home manicure.

I should probably first start by saying I love to paint my nails. It's soothing, it takes my mind off of everything and when you do it enough, you get better! I feel like that is the number one tip for doing your own nails: PRACTICE. Practice holding the brush, using your other hand, painting inside the lines. Do it enough and you'll start to get good! 

Also, find a hand placement that works for you. Your hands do have to be facing the other way on the table in order to do them. Turn your hand around and paint that way (imagine painting your nails with your hand like the picture above). You can also practice on those around you. Andrew won't let me, but any time I am able, I love to paint other people's nails. Really the TLDR is that you just need to keep doing it to get better. 

I'll also go on to say that -- in normal times -- I love going out to get my nails done! Ever since living in the city (where there's a salon on every corner) I've gotten my nails done. And I've done it all: acrylic, gel, SNS/dip/powder, regular, etc. One thing I was never a fan of? Regular polish. For some reason, it was always prone to chipping and breaking within a day and I wasn't able to fix it myself. Plus, why pay for something you can do?

So, for the most part, I preferred gel. I loved the idea of it, the look of it, and how it was foolproof. You can not (generally) chip or smudge it walking out of the salon. I first learned about dip around 2015 and would travel across the city and sit for two hours to get it done. It was long and annoying but worth it!

Dip was amazing and would never chip or break and the only way it came off was back at the salon after a nice long soak. I did dip up until my honeymoon last December. So from 2015-2019, I was doing dip or gel on and off with little to no break in between. And my nails were fine. Sure, they were obviously nowhere near as healthy as they are today but I just kept masking the problem and they kept growing. If you need to grow your nails and not have them break, do two back-to-back dip sessions.

The only issue, and why I stopped going to the salon, was the amount of time it took to get my nails done. Going in for a soak off and then a full session of reapplying dip took close to two hours!! It was time I didn't want to waste this year. When we came back from our honeymoon, I kept trying to make plans with Ashby to go to the nail salon (it's much more fun with friends!) but our timing never lined up. So I said, "screw it" and committed the eternal sin: ripping off my dip polish.

And if you're new to this all, ripping off your dip consists of trying to find a sliver of space that has naturally occurred from your nail growth (at the bottom of the polish) and shimmying it up and popping it off your nail, taking off a thin layer of nail with it. It's not great, and your nails look like a MESS after so I don’t suggest it. You should never do it, but I was in desperate need to remove it!

Since around the beginning of 2020 I've been doing my own nails. I had the basics: polish, clippers, remover, but not much outside of that. I think I had a file or two around the apartment, but always seemed to lose them. The proper tools can make a world of difference!

The Tools:

Having the proper tools is important for your at-home manicure. I feel like my nails and the final product have been better because of the products I use. Most of it is thanks to GSQ by Glamsquad. They recently started their own line at CVS and sent me a few mailers. I had no idea that it was really the key to it all lol.

They sent me a manicure and pedicure set and I've been picking and choosing which items work best for my needs. I've narrowed them down to the above. Only looking at the tools, we have the purple "pusher" (idk the names lol) and this pushes down your cuticles and cleans underneath your nails. Truthfully, I get better results pushing them down with my own nails but this does a good job at getting gunk off as well.

Next we have a toothpick with two pointed ends. One side is tapered and the other (orange end) has this pointed sandpaper-like wrap. I have no idea what it does, truth be told, BUT I use it to clean up my lines and whenever I get anything on my skin or cuticles. It's pretty great.

Then the final two are the pink and silver (the silver is an old item) cuticle cutters. I know it's probably controversial but I cut my cuticles. I didn't in the past, but now I do and have survived (so have my nails). Previously, I was using the silver device and praying for the best. That was until a week or two ago when I found out what the pink one does. It cuts your cuticles and hangnails in the easiest way possible. I cannot describe it outside of the fact that it shaves them off with ease. I think I saw someone use it in an IG story and my life hasn't been the same since. 

Then it comes to files and buffers. I've always used and loved these (when I can find them) and are probably my most used items out of everything! I ONLY like rounded nails. The rounder the better. I usually ask for an almond shape at the salon and ask them to make them even more round after that. I'm talking round round.

And it's not easy to do yourself!! It's actually super hard and even harder to make them all look the same. So my tips for round nails is to trim/cut your nails at their side, make a triangle shape (where it's spikey), and then round out the edges and soften the top. I barely ever touch or file the top, it's all about hitting the sides and filing them down and around. This is something I'm still trying to master but you have all the time in the world to work on it now.

It's not pictured (because I don’t know where it is) but I have a metal file that is best for getting your nails in the proper shape. I use the pink and white ones for touchups and broken nails. The small one in the photo is one to buff and shine! I usually buff after I take off my nail polish and make sure to get any split nails away, and then shine to make them smooth for the base coat. **I also only do this to nails that need it. I believe that buffing your nails too much makes them thin and fragile. I would hate it when they did this at the salon!!

The Remover:

(Edit: as I'm linking everything, I realize that this is no longer available. I would (personally) probably buy THIS natural remover as it has even better reviews than mine!)

I think it was about a year ago I ran out of "regular" polish and was kind of fed up with it. I hated how dry it made my nails, the smell, and the overall idea of it. I hated it even more at the nail salon where you had to soak in it for 20 mins!! That cannot be good for your nails (or skin!). So I do what I do best and took to Amazon to show me a natural nail polish remover.

This one had a ton of amazing reviews and I thought why not try it out. The directions say to let it soak on your nails for a couple minutes, but honestly, it didn't do much in terms of moving things along. So after some time, I decided to go straight in and start rubbing.

The thing with natural nail polish remover (at least this one) is that it's not as quick and easy as a regular remover. It does take some time and some rubbing but it does get everything off. It also leaves your nails and fingers more oily than dry but I just wash my hands after (before painting) and I've never had an issue.

I think out of everything in my routine, THIS is the most important step that has helped my nails grow long and strong. I've always had somewhat strong nails, but since I've been doing them myself with this for the past few months (exclusively), it has made all the difference.

How I use it: drop a couple droppers on a cotton pad and start rubbing. I'll re-wet for each finger and find different parts of the pad to get through the hand. For the most part, it's a cotton round per hand and I go over everything one last time with a clean round just to make sure everything is off. Then I will wash my hands to get rid of the oily feeling/residue! 

 The Polish:

I never really believed in a base coat, but since doing my nails at home I thought, "why not?" What's the harm? I still don't know that it does much, but it's part of the routine. Pretty sure you can use any base coat you like. I have this one from OPI that I got in a mailer and have just been using it since I don't have anything else.

In terms of a topcoat (also here), this is a MUST and I am SO LOYAL to this Seche Vive. I first was introduced to this brand via an event gift bag and have been using it for the past eight years. It's the only thing I use and if you do nothing else I suggest, please listen to this!!

I don't even really know what it does but it makes my nails look SO GOOD; so shiny, like a gel finish, and keeps them from chipping. I would also like to attribute the strength of my nails to this polish as it's like a defensive layer protecting my nails at all times. 

For the polish color, I use whatever I feel like that day. My main brands are OPI and Essie but I don't discriminate as long as the color payout is there, the formula is smooth and it dries properly (I loathe when you can still dent your nail polish an hour later)!

And for the record, I do next to nothing for my toes. I cut them when needed, and repair any chips. No one is looking at my feet! Especially not now lol.
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