Priorities, priorities… for many, going to the salon right now and seeing your favorite nail artist is not an option. Pretty nails are one of the few ways we can achieve some sense of normalcy. They bring us that fun flair of professionalism and personality in a small way. Since our current times present a window of opportunity for learning a new skill, why not dive into some simple nail techniques? An added bonus to learning how to achieve an at-home manicure is saving that trip to the salon and some cash.
Your guide to achieving salon-worthy natural nails from home is here!
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1. Nail Growth (for those of us with nail-biting habits or weak nails!)
For me, my anxiety often manifests itself in my nails. If my nails are long, I’m probably coping well. Usually, a nail-biting habit comes from anxiety, stress, or nervousness. If you struggle with nail-biting, (this article visits some alternative ways to cope with stress) try out a polish that tastes really bad! You can purchase this kind of polish in a clear coat so you don’t have to worry about how your manicure looks. Every time you bring your hands to your mouth and bite in for some sweet relief -- ICK -- a disgusting flavor meets your once delightful pastime. Over time, your brain will associate nail-biting with this unpleasant experience instead of with anxiety relief. Mavala seems to be a favorite to kick this habit!
Other people don’t struggle with nail-biting, but with weak nails. They chip on everything. Running your hands through your hair has turned into a warzone for your delicate nails, causing you to just keep them as short as possible in order to avoid this annoying atrocity. While there are several ways to go about combating weak nails (diet and vitamins, for example) this this is going to dive into various nail-strengtheners.
2. Clean Up!
Next, it’s time to clean up your canvas. Even if you don’t have any previous nail polish on prior to application, it is important to clean those nail beds of dirt and grub. Not only should you thoroughly wash your hands (while singing the chorus to “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” obviously) but you should also specifically cleanse your nail beds. Any nail polish remover will work! If you do in fact have nail polish on from a previous manicure, the best technique for removal is to first hold the polish remover dampened cotton pad to the nail bed for a couple of seconds, then start rubbing the polish away. This allows the remover to soak into the unwanted polish first!
3. Give Those Fingertips a Bubble Bath
And clean up some more! Allow your fingertips and nail beds to take a soak in their own lukewarm hot tub, just like they do at the salon. This allows your nail beds to soften before safely continuing some cleanup. Cleaning up your nail beds doesn’t just look pretty, it prevents them from too much build-up or getting hangnails. Be very careful with this step and try not to over-do it, especially if you’re giving yourself a manicure to save temporarily. Leave the dangerous stuff to the professionals. However, giving your fingers some clipping and pushing your cuticles up should be safe enough for even amateurs to do without supervision. Amazon sells plenty of tools for this step (but I just use my own nails for the cuticle part), and Youtube has its fair share of videos for this process.
4. Clip Your Claws into Shape
Like cleaning up nail beds, shaping nails is also easy to over-do, and it takes a lot of practice. However, it is a rather useful skill to have, as clipping off the pointy edges prevent breakage and ingrown nails. For inspiration, look up nail shapes on Pinterest, and once you’ve made a choice, type “How to Shape Nails ____ Shape” into Youtube. While again, square shape, oval shape, diamond, and more take practice to perfect over time, a good ol’ Youtube video can simplify the process for you. Some nail shapes to consider look like:
5. A Base Coat
Finding your ideal base coat will require some thought and research. Ideally, you want a base coat that protects the nail beds, provides nutrients to keep those nails stay healthy, while also helping with lasting power for polish. A base coat will smooth the surface of the nails for better application as well.
100 Percent Pure makes a 10-free, vegan and cruelty-free base coat with plant-derived horsetail to help strengthen and protect your nails while promoting growth! Another nutrient-rich base polish described as “a green smoothie for your nails”1 is Nails Inc. Superfood Base Coat, containing kale and keratin for stronger, harder, and longer nails. If you’re more interested in killing two birds with one stone and nothing too fancy, try out Pacifica 7 Free Base & Top Coat
(with a wide brush… we really like those, here).
6. Picking Your Color
There are a lot of terrible nail polishes out there. From ones that just take way too long to dry, to ones that chip within a day, or ones that are so watery that your entire hands end up covered in nail polish… yeah, using a bad nail polish can ruin the entire experience for you. My favorite nail polishes have a thicker application brush; these brushes make the process go faster as well as help with streaking. Finding polishes with stronger opacity and therefore don’t require as many coats can also help with how long it takes to paint your nails in addition to preventing your nails from being too thick.
Lights Lacquer polishes, owned by Youtube beauty guru KathleenLights, are 12-free (meaning they aren’t made with harsh chemicals typically put in polishes) and cruelty-free, plus they have that thicker brush mentioned earlier! Her most recent launch is YNBB (Your Nails But Better), a line of nude nail polishes for chic simplicity.
Zoya polishes are 10-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. They also have a trade-in program for their old polishes, and recently launched a thicker brush (Z-Wide Brush) for those who want a choice between nail polish brushes. An older brand, they have any color you could imagine and their polishes are longer lasting than most!
For truly out of this world galaxy glitters, shimmers and holographic nails, look no further than Live Love Polish. These gems are a bit on the pricier side, ranging from $13 - $16, but they boast rave reviews (and they have a sale section!).
7. Get Creative With It
You don’t have to be an artist to have fun with your nails. If you want to do something fun, paint every nail a different, random color. Do an ombre. Paint all your nails one color then add a splash of glitter on one or two. We all love a good party nail! If you want to get a bit more creative, tape one side of your nails and paint on a geometric shape. Beauty retailers sell small, design brushes to paint on tips or fool-proof polka-dots. They also sell nail stickers and stencils for those of us who just don’t have the time or patience to paint those delicate shapes on ourselves!
8. Never Forget the Topcoat
A good topcoat is detrimental to your nails’ lasting power. Topcoats can also change the style of your nails; you can go for glossy, matte, fast-drying, gel-like. There really are so many options in a simple topcoat.
For a topcoat that’s long-lasting and gives a gel-like effect, check out Seche Gel Effect Topcoat (which is high-shine and removes easily with nail polish remover). If you’re more interested in the stylish matte finish, check out China Glaze's Matte Magic Top Coat (only $7.88 on Amazon right now). If you’re more interested in something fast-drying, ella+mila In a Rush Quick-Dry Top Coat is 7-free and claims to dry up to four coats in under three minutes (it has a 5-star rating and almost 400 reviews!).
9. Turn on Gilmore Girls
...and let those babies dry. The longer you allow your nails to do their thing without touching them, the longer your topcoat will protect your nails from peelings and chipping. So, scroll through Instagram, meditate, carefully read a book, or catch up with your favorite cast. Relax and know you still may have ninety-nine problems, but offensive nails are not one of them.