How To: Get a Salon Quality Manicure at Home

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Plus a Look at Summer 2012 Nail Polish Trends

How To: Get a Salon Quality Manicure at Homephotos: we heart this – Polish: OPI’s Red Lights Ahead. Where?

Chipped nails are one of my biggest pet peeves. Having perfectly manicured digits helps me feel pulled together and completes any outfit. But, going to the salon once a week can get pricey, and really who has the patience to sit under the nail dryer?

Relax – you can give yourself a salon-quality manicure in 6-easy steps. Give yourself 20 minutes to apply and dry, and put that $20 toward your next shopping trip!


Manicure suppliesA few of our fave manicure supplies from OPI

Nail polish remover
Cotton balls
Bowl of warm water
Nail file
Nail buffer
Small paint brush
Your favorite nail color
A good top coat

Six Steps to a Salon Quality Manicure

1. Remove old nail color – you want to make sure you’re working on a clean canvas.

2. Submerge fingertips in water for approximately 2 minutes — this is just to soften the nails and make them a little bit easier to shape.

3. Buff and shape: Carefully and quickly buff the nails so they are smooth. Then shape the tips with a file. I prefer an oval shape, as it looks more natural and won’t snag on my clothes.

4. Apply 2 to 3 coats of polish. Hands down (no pun intended), my favorite colors for summer are corals and peaches.

Right now, I am loving Essie’s A Crewed Interest and OPI’s I Eat Mainely Lobster. Both are bold, beautiful and perfectly compliment the whites and turquoises of summer!

5. Apply 1 to 2 coats of topcoat: Topcoat is a MUST for every at-home manicure. It adds a little bit of shine and helps ward off chips. Make your color last longer by reapplying topcoat every 3 days. My favorite: Revlon’s Quick Dry Top Coat.

6. To seal in the color and help the polish dry faster, run your hands under your hair dryer for 2 minutes on warm, followed by a 1 minute shot of cool air.

Made a mistake? Don’t fret! Doing your own nails is tough, and it takes awhile to get a steady hand, especially when painting with your non-dominant hand. Here are 3 fast fixes:

1. Dip a small paintbrush in a little bit of remover and use it to clean up excess on your skin. Picture perfect in minutes!

A hand with a multicolored nail polish

2. The Statement Nail – this is especially good for when you chip a nail a day or two after your manicure. I recently visited a friend in Los Angeles and immediately claimed the statement nail as my own. This quick fix involves painting the flawed nail in a different (yet complimentary shade) from your other digits. Later, back on the East Coast, my friend Meg accidentally chipped her pedicure, so she added a statement nail on each foot to balance it out. Perfect solution!

A hand with black and glitters nail polish

3. Go for the glitter! Last year, Stef shared her secret for hiding bubbles, smudges and chips – a topcoat of glitter (click here for the details) will hide almost any imperfection.

we heartsters—are you willing to give an at-home manicure a go? What are your favorite nail polish trends this summer? Tell us in the comments!


  • marissa

    Marissa is a public relations professional by day and jewelry designer and entrepreneur by night. She has an affinity for creativity and inspiring style and loves writing, reading and being in the sun.

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  1. I always do at home manicures, I’ve actually only had one actual manicure and that was before my wedding. I agree with using glitter to hide smudges, I like Zoya’s Fleck Effects for that. I do need to pick up a new base/top coat since my go-to color for summer is red! I’m currently wearing Zoya’s Nidhi that’s red with gold glitter, or Sooki which is a perfect red apple color. I also love blues and oranges for summer.

  2. Love this post @marissa ! I am a huge advocate of the at-home manicure (pedicure is another story though because I’m lazy…). I also think they get easier and easier the more you do it. Nowadays I rarely need to do much cleanup after. I have tons of favorite nail polishes but my favorite pedi color is China Glaze Flip Flop Fantasy and for fingers, I love any pastels and neons. Even in the winter I rarely gravitate towards dark vampy colors. My favorite top coat is NYC Grand Central Station which is actually a quick dry clear nail polish but it’s a secret, inexpensive weapon that a lot of nail girls have been using. It doesn’t shrink newly painted nail colors which is what Seche Vite does for me unfortunately. The best part is that you can often find it on sale at drugstores, buy one get one free or half off etc. :)

  3. What a great tutorial, @marissa ! The only thing I do differently is file first, then buff. I think the buffing helps to smooth over any little uneven spots that result from the filing. I never thought of using my hair dryer to speed up the drying process, so thank you!

  4. I’m definitely going to try those tips next time I do a mani (Ialways do them at home). I love Seche Vite Quick Dry Topcoat and Sally Hansen InstaDri topcoat. They both add a lot of shine and dry super fast.

  5. I always do my own nails, and I make mistakes all of the time. My biggest weapon is an thin and stiff artists brush that I dip in my nail polish remover after my mani has dried for a few minutes and cleaning up ALL of the polish that’s gotten on my cuticles! Anyone who says you need a fancy manicure brush is nuts. Just go and get a brush from a craft store! I use s squared off one because I find that one works best for me!

    If you do nail art, like I do, you don’t need fancy manicure brushes either! I use a set of artist’s and calligraphy brushes! I do, however, use dotting tools because I just find those easier to work with!

    Here’s another tip, don’t buff with every manicure, especially if you do them as much as I do. You’ll weaken your nails. Buffing takes off the top layers of your nails. I buff mainly once a month or when my picking habit gets the best of me . I file maybe every other manicure.

    Have a glitter manicure and find that it’s eating your topcoat? Put on your first topcoat, wait until it’s dry, lightly buff the top with the softest (or second softest) side and THEN put on a second. Glitter eats top coat because it’s particles suspended in a liquid and most times that liquid isn’t thick enough!

    Mattes last the least amount of time, so if you’re wondering why it’s chipping in a day, that’s the nature of mattes. The longest lasting finish is actually creme in my experience (and I have 100+ polishes.)

    Last tip, price does, in some cases, equal quality. Chanel may have a legion of followers, but the companies with the best overall formula and attention to detail are butterLONDON and Illamasqua (each $14, Ulta for bL and Sephora for Illamasqua.) These two are the cheapest polishes with a formula that stays the same, no matter what polish you buy. If you’re a beginner and want an easy formula, get a butterLONDON or an Illamasqua. Might seem pricey, but the formulas are godly.

    1. @katezena – I would love to see your nail polish collection. Despite the fact that I have a lot of polish–I have never purchased anything from Butter or Illamasqua. I really appreciate your point of view!

    2. @hao9703 I don’t think I can honestly fit all one hundred plus nail polishes in one photo. HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha….oie. *falls over* I know there was a point where I could….that was a loooooooooong time ago. (And think, I need to get my paws on the new glitters and the dark blue from China Glaze. I NEED THEM. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Must get to Ulta. Oh, and I need Slapper from bL. NEED. NEED. Oh, and more Poshe. And more Rampage from Illamasqua…I still haven’t gotten a new one. *slams head*)

      I do have a Tumblr where I post all of my swatches and nail art! I can PM you the URL if you want! I’ll try and take photos of my collection and post them on there too. (Gives me a reason to reorganize. My bin needs it. XD)

  6. I’m loving all of these great manicure suggestions! I will definitely need to try some of these new top coats!

  7. @marissa I love this post! I prefer at home manis so I can save some cash for more fun polish.. Not to mention I’m also a bit of a perfectionist so you know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” After this I foresee a statement nail in my near future..

  8. Oh i also suggest GELOUS which you can purchase at Sally Beauty Supply Stores to smooth out glitter before putting that top coat on :)

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