I have given myself (+ had many professional) manicures over the years, and in the process picked up a few strategies, tools, and techniques ... all compiled here. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Step 1: Mise en place
I enjoy the process of giving myself a manicure much more if I set up a station for myself — how a chef would arrange his ingredients before he prepares a recipe.
I’m much more incentivized to take my time and move slowly when I have everything I need in front of me.
In my toolkit :
• polish remover
• nail file / clippers
• cuticle pusher
• nail brush
• cuticle oil
• hand cream
• a tiny paintbrush
• cotton rounds
• a small dish, filled with warm water
• a clean, dry washcloth
• a clear top coat
• JH polish !
Step 2: Remove existing polish
Using a cotton round, remove any existing polish on your nails.
A few non-acetone removers I like are Zoya’s 3-in-1 (available at Ulta), The Body Shop’s Almond Oil remover (can be a little hard to find, but lovely because it doesn’t have that chemical smell), and Tenoverten's remover wipes.
Step 3: Shape up your nails
File your nails using a soft filing board, moving in one direction (no sawing!)
Hold the file flat against the nail tip while filing (going at a sharp angle can result in thinning.)
If you want to trim your nails with clipper I like the black carbon steel pair by the Japanese line KIYA, a knife manufacturer that has been around for over 200 years.
Step 4: Cuticles
Fill up a small dish with warm, clean water to soften the cuticles (I add a tiny bit of soap).
Apply a drop of cuticle oil to each nail: my favorite cuticle oil is this one by Tokyo brand Uka. There are a couple of blends, each created to invoke a different time of day. The one I like is 24:45, a combination of lavender, vanilla, and orange. It smells amazing!
Next, clean up your cuticles — they don’t need to be aggressively trimmed, just gently pushed down. I use this very basic metal version from Tweezerman; I like that it is dual-sided so you also have a tool for cleaning under your nails.
After this I wash my hands thoroughly with soap and water. I will also give my nails a quick scrubbing with a nail brush (especially nice if you work with your hands a lot or they are particularly roughed up.)
Step 5: Self-care
The most fun part: Give yourself a hand massage. Take your time, and use a special hand cream or salve. I will sometimes massage my cuticles as well with a couple more drops of the oil.
I like the Hand Pomade from Le Labo...it's non-greasy, and very hydrating.
Step 6: Varnish
- When you are ready to start painting, be sure your nails are totally clean and dry (either wash your hands with soap or you can dab your nails with alcohol on a Q-tip. This is very important for making sure all the oil/lotion is completely removed).
- I don’t do a base coat!
- Add your polish in layers: apply the first coat and then let it dry completely before applying a second.
Step 7: Clean Up
When you’re done, clean up the edges with a tiny paintbrush dipped in your polish remover. This makes a huge difference, especially near the cuticle line.
I find that a soft-bristled brush works best, and will often just buy one at an art supply store (the bristles hold up better to the remover, especially if you are using one with acetone!)
My favorite top coat is OPI's Infinite Shine.
I reapply a fresh layer of top coat every couple days — this can make a big difference in maintaining a manicure longer.
I also make sure to put top coat on the outer tip of my nail, which I think helps preserve the color longer.
Step 9: Moisturize
When your nails are totally dry, add moisture back to your hands with a bit more hand cream.