Perfectly polished every time: The correct way to paint your own nails
We'll level with you: Not everyone was born to be an artist. Perhaps, as a kid, you simply couldn't colour within the lines nor keep a steady hand, and that same trouble has gone on to infiltrate every part of your adulthood. Now, as nail salons remain shut in accordance with the MCO 2.0, you again find yourself sat down for the third hour, desperately trying to make your DIY manicure look halfway presentable.
It's the same foils every single time—either your hand slips and you've flooded your nail bed, or your efforts to make use of the fine motor skills in your non-dominant hand have proved unsuccessful. Either way, you have a problem that needs solving, and we have the solution.
Ahead, find our step-by-step guide for the perfect basic manicure:
Step 1: Remove any old polish and wash your hands thoroughly
If you're the type to cut corners and paint over old polish, this is a sign to stop doing that. It's 2021: We're doing better this year. An even, polish-free nail is the first step to a perfect, sleek manicure.
Step 2: Cut and file your nails into your desired shape
The way you decide to shape your nails all comes down to personal preference, so we won't get into the specifics. All we will say is: Take care when you're filing—only file in one direction, so as not to cause micro-fraying at the tip of your nail. Why? These micro-tears may cause your nail to split down the line (ouch!).
Step 3: Deal with your cuticles
Get some cuticle oil, massage it into the base of your nail and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, take a cuticle pusher (orangewood preferred) and push back your cuticles. This will create a nice, lengthened base for your polish to go over.
If your cuticles are more unkempt than you'd like, use a cuticle remover to get rid of the excess bulk. Just keep in mind that cuticle removers can be quite harsh, and over time—with excess use—they may weaken the nail. However, as long as you're keeping its use to a minimum, you're in safe territory.
NOTE: Do not, by any means, cut your cuticle. You can find a more in-depth explanation as to why here (plus a complete guide to cuticle care), but for the TL;DR version, just take our word for it.
Step 4: Wash your hands (again) and swipe your nail with a little alcohol
We're nearly done with prep, we promise. This step is crucial in creating a clean base for the polish to glide over. Firstly, washing your hands will remove the excess cuticle oil and any nail dust left from the filing step. Next, swiping the nail with some rubbing alcohol and letting it air-dry ensures that the nail is oil-free (no touching!). Both steps are extremely important if you're looking for a seamless, professional-looking manicure.
Step 5: Apply a thin layer of base coat
To answer your question: Yes, a base coat is actually important. Put simply, your base coat fills in the little ridges in your nail that are responsible for streaky application and staining alike. Plus, it also helps to lengthen the life of your manicure!
Step 6: Apply your colour
The exact polish you choose to use is, of course, entirely up to you. However, we highly suggest that you pick a quality formula—not all polishes are made equal, and you'll want to opt for a formulation that is less viscous to get the smoothest application.
TIP: Do not shake your polish, unless you particularly enjoy getting air bubbles in your nail polish formulations and ruining them. Instead, gently roll the polish between your hands to agitate and mix it.
Plus, it's worth looking at the expiry dates on your bottles; for example, an old, gloopy bottle of nail polish will be much harder to work with than a new, fresh bottle.
TIP: If you do happen to have a old, gloopy bottle of nail varnish lying around, you could try to revive it with a few drops of nail polish thinner.
In terms of application, here's what we found works best:
- Start in the middle, then fill in the sides with a thin layer of polish. Remember: The thicker the layer, the worse it's going to look.
- Don't flood your cuticle—this is just a mistake waiting to happen. Instead, bring the polish up close enough to the cuticle and fill in any blanks as you go along with thin layers.
- Always 'cap the tip' after the very first layer, which essentially means painting the edge of your nail to seal the polish in—this is a good way of ensuring that your DIY mani lasts longer!
- Make sure each layer is completely dry before adding another—otherwise you may just fudge up your hard work!
- If you're struggling to do your other hand, try putting some tape or some liquid latex around the edges to keep your handiwork within the lines. In addition, make sure you have ample support for your wrist to keep your hand steady.
- When you're done painting, clean up any mistakes you may have made with a brush that has been dipped in nail polish remover or acetone.
PSST: If you're looking to try your hand at a little nail art, now is the time to get creative!
Step 7: Apply the top coat
The same rules from the previous point apply here: Don't shake the bottle, make sure your nails are completely dry before adding your top coat and make sure you seal off the edge of your nail!
TIP: Tired of (literally) watching paint dry? Speed up the process with a drop of Sephora's Express Drying Oil!
Find more tips and tricks for perfect manicures here.