After you’ve removed your old polish, tend to your cuticles by gently pushing them back with a cuticle pusher. Contrary to popular belief, you should not cut or trim your cuticle unless it has split. To soften the cuticle before pushing it back, try soaking your hand in warm water for five minutes.
As you file your nail, choose a shape that mirrors the natural shape of your nail bed. Johnson also advises that you file your nails in one direction rather than in a back and forth motion. “That prevents chipping and the peeling of the nails,” says Johnson.
“Buffing is so crucial,” says Pickett, who also says it’s okay to use inexpensive buffers from the beauty supply stores. “Those are the best ones!” says Pickett. “I like them on the coarser side because I find that it helps the base coat really stick to my nail and I can go almost 7 days without chipping.”
Before applying your polish, be sure to wipe your nails clean. “You always want to start with a clean buffed nail with no oils or other particles on it,” advises Johnson. “Often when you get a manicure on Monday and you have a sheet peeling off by Wednesday, 9 times out of 10, I know that they didn’t take the lotion off the nail bed properly.”
A base coat will make all the difference in your at-home manicure. “Think of it as priming a canvas,” says Johnson. “A base coat not only helps your polish better adhere to your nails, but it also prevents them from yellowing if you’re wearing a highly pigmented nail color.”
Prevent bubbling and clumps by applying two very thin coats of polish. Not only will two thin coats make your color more intense, but they will also dry faster.
Equip your nail kit with a few inexpensive tools to create designs such as a French tip or funky half-moon. “The basic nail art tools would be a dotter and a tiny brush,” says Johnson. “They are fairly easy to use and you can create whatever design you want.”
Make your mani go the distance by reapplying a clear topcoat every few days. “Once or twice a week, I’ll put another layer of clear topcoat on, just to keep it shiny and protected,” advises Johnson.
Resist the urge to pick at any chips that may arise. “Grab a nail file and gently file the chip down if you don’t have time to re-polish that nail,” says Johnson. A mini nail file is a great touch up tool to keep in your purse.
Pickett and Johnson both agree that keeping your hands and fingertips moisturized will prevent dry, cracked cuticles and nails. “Keep a hand moisturizer or small tube of cuticle oil in your purse,” says Pickett.