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The Ultimate Manicure At Home: Best DIY Manicure In 10 Easy Steps

Updated on July 26, 2014

Get The Best Manicure At Home In 10 Easy DIY Steps

I generally consider myself a low-maintenance girl, but I’ll confess: I love getting manicures. Nothing makes me feel more polished and presentable than having neat and polished fingertips and smooth skin. Wether going for a job interview or simply handing over a credit card at the grocery store, when my nails look great, I feel great. Although having a professional do them is a lovely treat, squeezing in a salon visit isn’t always in my budget - time-wise or money-wise. So what’s a low-maintenance-except-for-manicures girl to do? I got smart and learned how to do my own manicure at home; turns out, it’s not hard at all, once you know the process and have the proper tools. In this article I’ll share the 10 steps to your best DIY manicure - so you can do it yourself at home too. Grab your nail buffer and let’s get to it!


Supplies For An At-Home Manicure: Have These On Hand For An Easy DIY Experience

Before you start an at-home manicure, gather the essential diy tools:

  • -Nail polish remover (acetone, non-acetone, or natural)
  • -Nail buffer
  • -Nail file (I prefer glass but it’s up to you)
  • -Cuticle pusher
  • -Nail scissors if you need to trim
  • -Cuticle cream or oil
  • -Cotton pads
  • -A tiny paintbrush
  • -Nail polish in a base coat, a color, and a top coat
  • -Hand cream
  • -An old towel
  • -A hair dryer if you are impatient like me
  • -A small bowl of warm water

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, set up your workspace - ideally somewhere with plenty of light and plenty of elbow room. Lay out your tools on the old towel, get comfy, and you’re ready to begin your DIY manicure!

Follow These 10 DIY Steps To Your Best At-Home Manicure

1. Remove polish.

The first step in your at-home manicure is to remove any existing polish from your fingernails. Kind of a no-brainer, but it’s important.

Tip: Shaping Your Nails

If you’re not sure how to ‘shape’ your nails, just aim to soften the corners; a good guide is to mimic the natural shape of your cuticles!

2. Shape up.

While your nails are dry, it’s time to shape them. As a general diy manicure rule, filing is better for your nails than clipping. It’s also nice to have each nail the same length if you can swing it. Take your file and gently shape each nail. Technique is important when it comes to filing; sawing back and forth can actually leave your nail raggedy rather than smooth. The proper way is to file in the same direction with repeated strokes, lifting and repositioning the file after each pass. Start at the outer edge of the nail and stroke towards the center; then repeat on the other side.

I love crystal nail files for my own at-home manicures; they are smoother against my skin and not as irritating as other types. These ones by Cheeky are lovely to work with and I love that they come in bright colors; it somehow makes the tedious task of filing seem a little more fun

Now is also a great time to do a buffing if your nails are ridged or rough; you can also buff the nails later to finish your home manicure instead of using nail polish, if you prefer a natural look.

3. Soak.

Grab that bowl of warm water and soak your fingers in it for five to ten minutes; the purpose of this is to soften the cuticles so we can shape them more easily. For a bit of extra at home manicure pampering, add a drop or two of essential oil to the water along with a tablespoon of olive, jojoba, or coconut oil.

4. Time to love on those cuticles.

Take your cuticle pusher or orange wood stick and gently push back the cuticles on each finger. Avoid the temptation to cut them; they serve an essential role for your finger, providing a seal between your nail and your skin that prevents bacteria from entering the body. A gentle re-shaping is all they need.

CND Solaroil Cuticle Oil

Then, place a dab of cuticle cream or oil on each cuticle and massage it in well all around the edge of the finger. Dry cuticles quickly become mangy cuticles; keeping them happy goes a long way towards looking groomed and preserving your DIY manicure.

5. Strip down.

Well, your nail plate needs to strip down, at least. In preparation for polish, take a cotton swab with a little more nail polish remover and wipe down each nail. This removes oily residue from the nail plate and forms a better surface for polish adhesion. If you prefer your nails without polish, take time now to buff to a shine, then skip down to step 10..

OPI Start To Finish: Base Coat, Top Coat And Nail Strengthener

6. Apply a base coat.

This is a step you do not want to skip! A good quality base coat makes all the difference to your at-home manicure, forming a bond to the natural nail plate and creating an ideal surface for your polish to cling to. If you have weak or brittle nails, many formulas are designed to address these issues. I like this base- and top-coat combo by OPI; a legendary brand, OPI knows a thing or two about polish adhesion; this formula is Formaldehyde-free and has a strengthening effect on your nail. I personally love simplifying things wherever I can; so the fact that this is a two-in-one product appeals to me.

DIY At Home Manicure Tip:

Painting your own nails well can be a challenge, but the more you practice, the better it gets. One tip is to start with the pinky and work toward the thumb; this simple trick makes it much easier to not mess up the thumbnail as you work. Practice, practice, practice and soon it will be a snap. And always remember, thinner is better when it comes to nail polish; the less polish is on the brush, the easier it is to work with.

7. Polish up your painting skills.

Apply two thin coats of your chosen nail polish. You want thin coats because they will cure more thoroughly, making your diy manicure last longer. Aim for three swipes of color; one down the middle, and one on either side; which you do first is up to your personal preference. If you like, you can do a fourth pass along the top edge of the nail; I like to add this because it really finishes the edge, in my opinion. Allow at least two minutes dry time between each coat. Use the time to practice long division in your head, or think about your meal plan for the week, or watch Friends reruns - whatever you fancy.


8. Clean up your act.

Remember how I said that with practice, painting your nails will get a lot easier? Well, that’s true - but sometimes even the pros need a touch-up, so here’s your chance to redeem your shaky-painting ways. Take your tiny paintbrush (you have that handy, right?) and dip it into some nail polish remover; then carefully run it around the edge of each nail to clean up the edges. This trick is akin to magic; the first time I tried it, I swear I heard angels singing. It adds that finishing touch that takes your diy manicure from ‘questionable home job’ to ‘which salon d’you go to?’. I like to squeeze this in before step 9...

At Home Manicure Tip: Dry Patiently

You’ve come this far; don’t undo your hard work by rushing your DIY manicure’s dry time! Although polish may look dry on the surface, the layers take time to fully cure and you should allow at least two minutes between each coat and several minutes after all is said and done. The alternative for the impatient (ahem - myself included) is to plug in your blow-dryer and blast your nails with the cool setting for about a minute. Apparently putting your nails in ice water or the freezer for two to three minutes also works, but that method sounds mighty uncomfortable to me; stick with the blow-dryer or just sit, I say.

9. Top coat.

Just as a base coat is essential for helping your polish stick, a top coat is essential for protecting your hard work. A good-quality top coat will help avoid chips, and well worth the extra effort. Here you can choose - there are some that promise a ‘quick-dry’ effect, but be aware that these products are more prone to chipping - due to the higher content of solvents in them (necessary for quicker drying) and lower content of film-forming agents (so the film may not form as hard and firm). There are also products that promise extra shine, and I’m a big fan of these because I love the glossy effect.

Creative Nail Design’s ‘Super Shiney Fluid’ is one such product that not only helps to protect the nail polish, but adds a super shiny layer that looks - well, pardon the pun - polished. I also love that this comes in a smaller and a larger sized bottle; if you fall in love with it, you can stock up on it. It’s also three-free, meaning free of the three most toxic ingredients typically found in nail polish - so you can feel good about that too.

10. Moisturize. Although it is often recommended to moisturize your hands earlier on in your diy manicure, I prefer to wait until the end, for this simple reason: painting my own nails well is hard enough, and even harder if my fingers are at all oily from moisturizing. Depending on the temperature of the day and the product, sometimes my hands do not immediately absorb the moisturizer, and this makes for slippery grip and general frustration.

Burts Bees Tips & Toes Kit

So for me, I prefer to wait until the end. Massaging a good-quality cream into your fingers and hands is the finishing touch to your at-home manicure; it feels great, it smells great, and your skin will look and feel refreshed. If you’ve yet to find the perfect hand cream, I highly recommend trying a pack like this by Burt’s Bees. This kit includes samples of several lovely hand care products; honey and grapeseed oil hand cream, lemon butter cuticle oil, Burt’s original hand salve, and almond oil and milk hand cream, as well as a treat for the lips and the feet.

I love this entire line because the ingredients are natural and they smell amazing; just a warning, you might become hooked forever.

DIY Manicure Poll

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A Perfect, Polished Manicure At Home: Now Wasn’t That Easy?

The final step? Enjoy your perfect, made-at-home manicure - and you did it all by yourself. Now you know how easy it is to achieve a beautiful DIY manicure, without leaving the comfort of your home. Investing a little time into practicing - and a little money into proper tools and supplies - will pay off exponentially as you gain the skills to have great-looking nails every day. You’ll feel great, your hands will look great, and people will ask you who does your nails

I’d love to hear from you if you discover any other handy DIY manicure tricks! If there is something you can share with the rest of us, please do; I love learning new things and sometimes unexpected ideas work the best of all. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear from you if you give this method a whirl!


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 8 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I loved your writing and sharing how to use manicured polish and the 10 easy ways to accomplish this in a hub.

      My only question is: I know a few women who attend church with me and don't think me being stupid, but why is it these girls NEVER wear any color but white?

      Never a mild red, a Rio Red or a plain red? Sheeeesh!

      I know one is the pastor's wife and she is rather pretty and charming, but how do I delicately suggest she wear RED?

      Would you please help me?

      Thanks and honored to follow.

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      Aww. I love that.

    • LindaSarhan profile image

      L Sarhan 3 years ago

      Although my daughter is an adult now, we always had our "spa day". I just made it more age appropriate when she was younger. ;)

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      I love that idea! Now I'm looking forward to when my daughters are old enough that we can do this together. :)

    • LindaSarhan profile image

      L Sarhan 3 years ago

      I rarely go to the nail salon anymore. My daughter and I tend to pick at least one or two days a month to have a full at-home spa day including manicures and pedicures. Not only has it saved us a ton of money, but it's a great bonding experience to spend the day pampering ourselves.

      Great Hub as always! :D