There’s no way around it — times are tough. But that doesn’t mean our beauty routine should suffer! Instead of springing for weekly nail appointments, why not create your own DIY manicures?

We asked Ginger and Liz of Ginger + Liz Nail Lacquers for tips on how to paint your nails perfectly at home…

ESSENCE.COM: A fierce manicure starts with healthy nails! What are some ways to keep your nails healthy and strong?

GINGER + LIZ: Eating protein-rich foods will help develop stronger nails. Foods rich in sulfur are also vital for nail health, so incorporate apples, cucumbers, grapes, garlic, asparagus and onions into your diet. Your nails, like the rest of your body, depend on sufficient supplies of protein, minerals and vitamins to function.

ESSENCE.COM: What tools do you need before you begin painting nails?

G+L: You’ll need to use the proper nail care implements, like cotton squares, an orange wood stick to push cuticles back, an emery board to smooth the tips of your nails, and cuticle oil to hydrate cuticles.

ESSENCE.COM: What are the steps for creating a fabulous DIY manicure?

G+L: First, make sure your nail beds are smooth, clean, and free of oils and residue (try swiping nails with a cotton ball soaked in Essie Naturally Clean Refreshing Nail Cleanser, $24, Next, apply a base coat, followed by your nail polish. When applying polish, start with a sweep down the middle of the nail, and then fill in the sides with one smooth sweep, each. Then, sweep a bit of the lacquer across the edge of your nail to help prevent early chipping. Finally, always apply a top coat!

Click here for more info on Ginger + Liz’s fabulous Nail Lacquers ($12 each,