Achieve a Foolproof Manicure At Home

How to Achieve a Foolproof Manicure At Home

 Skip the salon and perfect your at-home manicure.

A perfect manicure can help make a great first impression, but a weekly trip to the salon takes a toll on your wallet. While clean and shapely nails can make a statement, you shouldn’t have to spend a whole paycheck to get them. Skip the salon and follow our tips for a foolproof manicure you can do at home!


A manicure isn’t just about the latest color trend. Start by prepping and cleaning to strengthen nails and lengthen the lifespan of a manicure. If necessary, cut nails to your preferred length. Then, file nails to a short length; square off the tops and round the edges (this is the most modern shape and looks best on everyone). Use a filer with at least 240 grit count, otherwise it’ll be too coarse and can cause peeling and splitting. File in one direction to the desired length (though not after a shower, because nails are too soft). Use a nail buffer to buff away any rough edges and create a smooth surface.

Don’t forget your cuticles. After filing, rub a small amount of cuticle cream into your nails and use an orangewood stick to gently push them back. Don’t cut your cuticles, which can cause infection and damage the nail, but do trim any hangnails. Use a damp cloth to remove any excess oil before painting. The cold weather not only dries out skin but cuticles as well. Use a hydrating cuticle oil and wear gloves outside to protect against harsh temperatures.

Exfoliate and Moisturize

Want to achieve that same relaxing sensation from the salon? Exfoliate with a gentle hand scrub all over your hands, wrists, and forearms to eliminate dead skin cells. Wash off and pat dry. Massage hand cream into the skin but make sure your nails are free of oils before painting (wipe with a damp cloth). Avoid the hand soak many salons use: Research shows the nail bed expands as it absorbs the water. As the polish dries, the water evaporates and your nails contract, causing early chipping.


Always start with a base coat to extend the manicure and prevent staining. Let dry for one minute before applying the first coat of color. Wait two minutes then apply a second coat; a sheer color may need a third coat. Start at the sides and finish with a swipe down the middle to fully cover each nail. Let dry and apply a topcoat. Do your nails look messy? Dip the orangewood stick in nail polish remover and swipe away any excess polish from your skin.

Greening Your Manicure

Make it last

If you want your manicure to last as long as possible, be careful with what you do with your hands. Wear rubber gloves while washing dishes to prevent the water and harsh detergent from chipping away at the polish. Apply a topcoat every couple of days and make sure to swipe it across the tips of the nails to prevent chipping. Avoid hand sanitizers since the alcohol eats away at the topcoat; wash your hands with a mild antibacterial soap instead.


While dark colors are trendy, they do require more aggressive removal methods than lighter polishes. Soak a cotton ball with a nonacetone remover and press it on the nail for a few seconds before gently rubbing the polish off. Glitter fan? Place a saturated cotton ball on each finger and secure with foil. Let sit for about five minutes, then slide off for completely bare nails.

Mani Hacks: Tips for Foolproof Nails

By Danielle Emig

Danielle Emig is a freelance writer and lipstick lover living in New York City. Originally from Portland, she moved to the big city with only a suitcase full of shoes and a mind bursting with dreams. It was her desire for adventure that led her to NYC, and even working unpaid internships and odd jobs to make ends meet — like cocktail waitressing at a pirate-themed bar — wouldn’t deter her from making it as a writer and editor. Two years later, she landed at InStyle Magazine and hasn’t looked back since. When she’s not sipping out of a lipstick-stained wineglass, Danielle loves to cook, make jewelry, and hang out on her fire escape.