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Nail It! The Perfect Home Manicure

Master the DIY manicure once and for all with these tips from the pros.
  • Step 1: Start Fresh

    Clean off your old polish with a cotton ball soaked in acetone-based remover. Then rub oil into your nail beds and use an orange stick to push back your cuticles.

  • Step 2: Remove Residue

    Go back over the nail with a cotton swab dipped in polish remover. (This is the most-overlooked step of an at-home manicure, says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, artistic director of OPI.) If your nails are oily, the polish won't stick.

  • Step 3: Shape Up

    Use a clipper to trim nails, if necessary, then file to smooth the edges. File in one direction only: Going back and forth can split and break nails, says Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics.

     

  • Step 4: Smooth the Surface

    Run a buffing block over nails to soften ridges. Wipe off any dust, then apply a base coat both to fill in unevenness and to protect your nails from possible discoloration.

  • Step 5: Painting Class

    Bold colors can be tricky to apply by yourself, says Roxanne Valinoti of Creative Nail Design, who suggests the following "slide and glide" technique for goof-proof results.  Wipe most of the polish from the brush, then place the brush in the center of your nail. Ease it down, stopping just before you hit the cuticle.

  • Step 6: Painting Class

    Pull the brush up to the tip of the nail in one stroke. Repeat on both sides until the nail is evenly covered. Then do the rest of your fingertips.

  • Step 7: Painting Class

    Apply a second coat of polish and finish with a top coat. Once your nails are dry, use a remover-soaked cotton swab to clean up any messy edges.

  • What a Pair

    Wearing the same polish on your fingers and toes looks a little too matchy-matchy. Instead, balance a bright shade with a lighter hue for a fun, fresh look. Here, pretty pinks:

    Nails: Zoya Professional Nail Lacquer in Jessika, $6 (left)
    Toes: Borghese Nail Lacquer in Anacapri Pink, $8 (right)

  • Cool Corals

    Nails: OPI Nail Lacquer in OPI on Collins Ave, $8.50 (left)
    Toes: Wet n Wild Mega Last Nail Polish (right)

  • Classic Combo

    Nails: CND Nail Enamel in Wildfire, $6 (right)
    Toes: L'Oreal Paris Pro Manicure in In The Buff, $5 (left)

  • Join the Navy

    True, this dramatic navy polish doesn't scream summer, but it's actually quite wearable and looks utterly chic even on short nails. The dark shade reminds us of our favorite pair of jeans — fun yet polished enough to wear with anything. One we like: Nicole by OPI Nail Lacquer in No Limits, $8.50.

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