For me, a trip to the nail salon is a welcome reprieve from daily stresses. It’s our time to relax, unwind and make the big decisions, like: ballet slipper or coffin…matte or gloss. My hands are in good, able hands and my phone is thankfully out-of-reach. I can sit back and list to the chatter of the other customers or watch a random movie I never thought I’d ever watch.
Looking at our natural non-did nails can be kind of liberating. Turns out, we didn’t need manicures to look hot or be happy. YES! We are more than our nails and cuticles!
But with all that being said, there’s nothing like that fresh from the nail salon feeling to put me in a good mood and give that little attitude boost that can gear me up for the weekend or just push me over hump day.
If you’re missing your favorite nail spot and feeling the need for some fingertip pampering, we’ve got a little recipe for some relief. You’ll need to find someone to add in the complimentary shoulder/hand massage at the end, but the other parts you’ll be set to tackle solo.
Step 1: Nail Polish Removal
Although there are acetone and non-acetone varieties on the market, our advice is to go with acetone. It is more powerful, which some would argue means it’s harsher, but it makes quick work of nail polish so you can get it off quickly too. Don’t skip this step if you don’t have nail polish currently on your nails. Nail polish removal also takes off dirt and oil that can ruin polishing.
Step 2: Get out the Filing Tools
Now it’s time to trim those nails so they are all even, file them smooth and get ready to buff. Now’s not the time to try out that new trendy nail shape that’s all over Instagram. Save that for the pros! But you can choose to round or square your nails. Use a nail buffer to smooth out your nails. This is a key step to taking away the natural ridges and lines that form on our nails and gives them that just from the salon finish. Never use an emory file to buffer your nails, but a buffer specifically designed to be gentle on nails.
Step 3: Cuticles
You might be anxious to get to adding the color to your nails but it’s all these prep steps that leave your nails feeling refreshed and tidy, so try not to skip any. For this step, you’ll need manicure sticks, a pack of wood ones should set you back around $10. They’re great for pushing down cuticles, and cleaning under the nail bed, and they’re disposable! Dab a bit of cuticle remover over the tops of your tails, wait a minute and then use the blunt edge of the manicure stick to push down the cuticle. You can use the pointed side of the stick then to scrap out all the crud that invariably has accumulated under your nails (and being home alone, there’s no nail tech to apologize to for the grossness of this step). Now go wash your hands.
Step 4: Skin So Soft
Hands often show wrinkles and are age more quickly than other parts of the body. One way to curb those wrinkles is to regularly exfoliate the skin. Here’s a good time to do it and since not all exfoliants are created equal, stick to enzyme exfoliants which are less harsh on the skin. Take this time to decompress. Work the exfoliant into your knuckles and tops of your hands. Palms will need less, but still don’t neglect them. Let your mind wander as you spend a minute or two on this step. Breath deep slow breaths. Once you are through wash your hands and apply moisturizer with the same relaxing rhythm as the last step. Sooth the muscles in your palms, rub your fingertips and massage your thumb into particularly tense spots.
Step 5: Time to Paint
Start with your polish portion of your at home manicure by applying a base coat, which is an essential step to protecting your nails and your polish. It will help prevent chipping and hydrate nails. Let this dry for two minutes. In fact, now is a good time to bust out a stop watch or open your phone’s clock and make sure you’re waiting the appropriate time between coats. Next apply your first coat of polish (we’re dyin’ to know what color you chose). Some ways to achieve salon level color: don’t overload your brush, thin coats are best, and also try to apply full even strokes from the base of the nail to the tip. Your goal should be full (but thin!) coverage in three smooth strokes. Don’t forget to cover the very tip of the nail here as well. Now wait two minutes and repeat with another thin coat. Repeat with a third coat if the color is particularly light or pastel, as they might require three coats for full coverage.
Step 6: Top Coat FTW
Finish strong with an even top coat. Don’t rush this step. Although a top coat might seem like a formality just to protect the color, you want to take the same time and precision to make it a smooth, thin coat so it provides even coverage seamlessly. Again, don’t forget the tips. You can also take a bit of cotton ball or tissue with some acetone on it and wrap it on the tip of your cuticle stick to erase any imperfections that might have occurred. Voila! Your mani is complete.
If you’re looking to add some length to your nails, there’s a host of fashionable shades available in press-on nails that can be cut and filed to meet your specific needs. Static Nails for instance offers ombre, nudes and french color options. I loveeee their toasted sugar color, which just recently got delivered. It’s just enough color to look “done” while still being classic neutral. They also feature trendy shapes like square, almond and coffin. All you need to do is apply some glue and “press-on” and hold each nail for about 30 seconds each. The part I love most is they’re reusable and just pop-off in around a week to be applied again. For under $20 with shipping, that’s way less than my monthly nail salon mani spend.