How to Give Yourself a Manicure
A fresh, beautifully done manicure helps you look clean and put together. But professional manicures can be expensive and time-consuming. Why go to the salon when you can give yourself a perfect manicure at home? Read on to learn how.
Getting Your Nails Ready
Get your supplies together.To give yourself a gorgeous manicure, make sure you have all the right supplies. You might have to spend a bit up front, but next time you want to paint your nails, you'll already be covered. Get the following products:
- Nail polish remover
- Cotton balls or cotton swabs
- Cuticle trimmer
- Nail buffer
- Nail trimmers
- Nail file
- Cuticle or hand cream
- Nail polish
- Base coat
- Top coat
Set up your workspace.Nail polish and remover can damage many surfaces such as cloth, wood finish and plastic. Wear an expendable t-shirt and no valuable accessories, sit at a desk or table, and protect it with scrap paper (not newsprint, which smudges). Make sure the table itself and anything near it is not particularly valuable or important to keep perfect because there might be a spatter or spill soaking through. You might not want to work near a computer, for instance.
Remove your old nail polish.Use nail polish remover and cotton balls or swabs. Some kinds of nail polish remover may dry the areas on your nails and around them. You may wish to find one that doesn't do this as much, but do not be concerned unless you have a severe allergic reaction.
- If you have and wish to keep fake nails, such as acrylic, choose a polish that will not remove them, and don't let it soak much.
- Unless you use it once a month or less, don't use a nail polish remover with acetone in it. Though acetone will make removing the nail polish easier, it can damage the nails themselves.
Cut and file your nails.Use nail clippers and trim your nails. Don't cut them too short; you should be able to see at least a little of the white tip still, all the way across. Using a nail file, file the nail and create a smooth and clean shape. Gently drag the file across the nail, rather than pushing it. Excessive force or sawing back and forth will weaken the nails and cause them to break. Pivot the hand with the file through each stroke to make a smooth curve rather than angles. Do not file them too short: just clean up any points or roughness left by the clippers.
- If you want to remove fake nails, perhaps because they look odd from having grown out too far, here's how to do that.
- Do not round the corners down into the sides of the nail bed. This can cause the nail to become ingrown. Be particularly careful with the big toe, which, perhaps due to shoes, is more prone to ingrowing.
Buff your nails.Using a white block of a stick-type nail buffer, or a pad-type nail buffer and buffing powder, buff the surface of the nail a little bit to even out the surface and to smooth out ridges. Remember not to buff too much; thinning it too much will weaken it. Perfect edge-to-edge flatness is not practical or necessary. A soft, flexible buffer will more easily buff the sides of the nail along with the middle.
- You may wish to buff your nails after pushing back the cuticles if there is some residue where the cuticles used to cover, in order to scrape or grind it off in the process. Being thin, soft, and not firmly attached, it should come off easily.
Soak your nails.Get a bowl or stopper the sink and fill it with warm (not hot!) water and a few drops of soap. Soak your hands only for a few minutes. The water and soap will help to loosen dirt, dead skin, and any dust left over from filing and buffing, and soften cuticles. Use a nail brush to gently clean your nails and the skin around them. Gently scrape under your nails if necessary to remove dirt. If you want your nails and cuticles really manageable, you can soak them in Dawn dishwasher soap.
- If you have dry skin or fragile nails you should not soak them; just rinse them.
- Don't go overboard with scraping, since you can damage your nails if you remove the white powdery substance that is actually part of your nails.
Prepare your cuticles.Dry your nails and apply a cuticle cream. Using a cuticle pusher, also called an orange stick, gently push back the cuticle. Do not force them back, and never cut your cuticles. Even if the equipment is sterile, removing the cuticle can cause infection and leaves the then-less-protected margin of the skin vulnerable. Wipe off the excess cream with a tissue or towel in the direction that you pushed.
- A small binder clip is great for pushing back cuticles. Make sure it's clean and well-formed, without sharp edges. Fold the wire grips to lay flat against each other. Hold the clip between the thumb and forefinger or middle finger by the flat metal sides, with the grips passing between in the direction of the little finger tip; the flat back piece extending past the thumb and forefinger. Now you're ready to push back the cuticles on the other hand (switch later to do the one currently holding the clip).
Apply hand cream or lotion.Take a lotion or hand cream and massage it into your hands. If you have very dry skin use an intensive lotion, if not, any lotion will do. Be sure to rub it into and around your nails and let it soak in for 30 minutes or longer.
- This is as well done after painting the nails and allowing them to dry thoroughly as before painting. For very dry skin, apply some greasy lotion and sleep with cheap cotton gloves over your hands to allow it to remain on and work for a long time without keeping you from productive activities.
- Nail polish/lacquer will not stick to nails with moisturizer on them, so take a Q-tip dipped in nail polish remover and quickly wipe the nails to remove the lotion. Wipe excess remover off promptly to mitigate nail damage.
Painting Your Nails
Apply the base coat.Cover the nail with a clear base coat or nail hardener. This will even out and ridges and unevenness that may still be on the nail, serve as a primer for the polish, help the polish to last longer, and keep the color from staining your nails.
Polish your nails.Pick a nail polish that you really like. Roll the nail polish bottle between your hands for about 10 seconds. Shaking the bottle causes air bubbles in the polish and makes harder for the polish to stick to your nails. Begin painting nails using a thin coat. Dip the brush into the bottle of polish and as you remove it, gently swirl the brush around the inside rim of the bottle to remove excess polish. Slowly paint a vertical stripe down the center of your nail, followed by another stripe on either side of the first. Try to paint all the way to the edge, but it's better to leave a small margin than paint the skin on the side.
- Angle the brush a little forward, press gently so the bristles spread out a little into a neat curve, and drag it gently and smoothly across the nail to paint it. Do not apply a blob of paint to the nail and spread it around. Blobs or runs mean too much paint or painting too slowly; subtle ridges should smooth themselves out under gravity (self-level) but very-thin spots mean too little paint or too much pressure.
- Fancy designs can be difficult, so stick with simple if it's important to get a good result the first time.
- If there is a little bit of nail polish on your fingers or around you nail you can use a toothpick (flat, not round and pointy, is generally best) to get it off if it's still wet. If it's already dry, dip a Q-tip in nail polish remover and wipe it away, or use a nail touch up pen, sold at most drugstores. Be careful not to touch the actual nail with the Q-tip or touch up pen, or you will have to redo that nail.
Let your nails dry.Try not to move your nails too much or the polish may smudge. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the polish to dry. If you apply a second coat too soon, it will only smudge the first coat. You may be able to speed drying with a fan, but don't be overly optimistic. By blowing the fumes away, the fan will remove one reminder of continuing wetness.
- After the first coat has dried, apply a second coat if you'd like. This ensures the color looks rich and even.
- After the color coats have dried, you may add designs, by brush, airbrush, mask or stencil, decal, rhinestones, or otherwise.
- Skipping the base coat, or even applying only one color coat (depending on the kind of polish and application technique; some give or appear to give more even color with uneven thickness than others), will often give acceptable results. However, extra layers add a little extra to initial surface quality.
Apply the top coat.Finish with a clear top coat for a hard, smooth, scratch-absorbing, chip and flake-resistant shield particularly important for designs that don't cover the entire nail, as well as adding shine. Let it dry completely. Have fun and enjoy your newly beautiful nails!
QuestionI always mess up painting my dominant hand, how can I get better at that?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry putting liquid school glue on the skin around your nails so that the nail polish won't get on your skin, then peel off the glue when you're done.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is nail buffing powder?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is a powder that helps remove any base coat polish and any other polish and/or dirt and dry skin.Thanks!
QuestionDo you need to soak your nails in olive oil and milk?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's not necessary to do so, but you may do it to give your hands a fresh look.Thanks!
QuestionCan I shake the nail polish if most of the color has gone into one place?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can, but let it settle for a long time before you use it again to get the bubbles to rise.Thanks!
QuestionShould I manicure my nails before I put on nail polish?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Trim your nails, use a multi-surfaced nail file, get the dirt out from under your nails, and then soak your nails in soapy water for a few minutes. Towel dry them, then use cuticle cream and moisturise your nails. Apply a clear coat of nail polish/strengthener and you're prepared to paint your nails.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if you put on too much nail polish?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake it off with nail polish remover. Do your base coat, polish and top coat again.Thanks!
QuestionWhen do I use gel polish?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhen you want nails to have long lasting color! Gel polish typically lasts longer than regular polish and it will need to be removed with a specific gel polish remover.Thanks!
QuestionDoes buffing nails remove the natural layers of my nail?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf it's done properly, no. You should just buff it to remove the shiny surface. If you buff too hard or too long, or if you use a rough file, it could damage the layer of the nail. Use a gentle buffing block.Thanks!
QuestionHow can my nail polish stay on longer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerApply a base coat and top coat, and be sure to prepare the nails properly. If your manicure is growing out, dont be afraid to top with glitter polish to make it last longer.Thanks!
QuestionShould I shave my hands if they are hairy?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou don't have to shave your hands before giving yourself a manicure, but if the hair bothers you, you can easily shave it off.Thanks!
Short Video: How to Give Yourself a Manicure
If you want to give yourself a manicure, trim your nails with nail clippers, then smooth out any rough edges with a nail file. Next, soak your nails for a few minutes in warm water to soften your cuticles. Dry your hands and push back your cuticles with an orange stick, but do not cut your cuticles. Paint your nails with a clear base coat or nail hardener and let it dry for 10-15 minutes, then apply nail polish in a color you like and let it dry as well. If you like, you can apply a second coat of polish or nail accents like rhinestones. Finish with a top coat of clear polish.
- If you put the nail polish bottle in the fridge for 5 minutes, it will turn out smoother.
- Don't apply one thick coat. Instead, add multiple thin coats. This will prevent smudging.
- Get a small train case, tackle box or toolbox to keep your manicure and pedicure supplies. Make sure that if anything spills it will be contained away from anything valuable it might damage. Keep tops on all bottles tight.
- If you have plenty of time, or are artistic, you could try complex designs. But most of the time simpler is better!
- If you type a lot, trim your nails with short white tips so they won't grow out much past your finger ends by the time the nail polish would wear out anyway. Otherwise your nails will click on the keys, knocking oddly at the tops of your fingers and damaging the paint by shock and flexing, unless you strain your hands and slow your work even more with an odd typing posture.
- Feet can be "manicured" too: it's called a "pedicure." Do all of your digits for a "manicure-pedicure". It would be most efficient to do each step to each one before moving to the next step. Plan ahead so you don't have to walk with wet paint on your toes, which could ruin a carpet. Keep cheap "flip-flop" thong sandals handy to reduce this risk in case you do have to walk.
- You can up your nails when they begin to chip to keep them looking nice, but for more than an isolated chip or scratch on an otherwise great-looking set of nails it's best to remove the polish and start over.
- You can do arty nails by doing one colour and making patterns with tape and painting over it with another colour. When you take the tape off you'll have multicoloured prints on your nails!
- Make sure you have all your supplies before starting your manicure. You don't want to have to run out to the store with wet nails.
- For a foggy look with no glare, try using a matte top coat. Try this with sparkly nail polish if you want a very elegant look.
- Don't bite your nails. If you do bite your nails, you can buy stuff that you put on your nails that gives a bitter taste whenever you bite on your nails.
- Don't type with your nails. If you do, you break them.
- Don't buff too far down. You could weaken the nail or even wear through it in a spot, which would hurt and risk infection. You just need an overall smooth surface rather than a ridged one, not a completely flawless or glossy one - the paint will take care of that.
- Keep nail polish and polish remover away from heat or flame (including smoldering tobacco) as it is very flammable.
- Your cuticles are there for a reason: they keep your nails from getting infected. Do not remove them! Do trim off torn dangling bits neatly so they don't take more with them.
- Don't inhale the polish or polish remover.
Things You'll Need
Scrap paper (to protect work space)
Nail polish remover
Nail buffing powder, if nail buffer uses a separate powder.
Bowl or sink stopper
Cuticle pusher ("orange stick") or small binder clip
Hand cream, lotion, or other skin moisturizer
Cheap cotton gloves (for overnight moisturizing)
Fan (to speed drying)
Toothpicks (preferably flat)
Cotton swabs such as Q-tips
Nail touch-up pen
Guide strips or other masking material (for French manicure)
Sources and Citations
- Videos provided by
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Video: ✧ How to: The Perfect Salon Manicure!
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