Do This For The Most Perfect Manicure — Ever

Think doing your own nails can never look as good as when they’re done by a pro? That’s all about to change. The secret to the perfect manicure is in the step-by-step.

The step-by-step manicure

Illustration by Candace Napier

Before You Begin
Say your goodbyes to last week’s polish shade and take it all off. We’ve found that pure acetone nail polish remover makes removal super easy. Glitter doesn’t even stand a chance. Try Studio 35 Beauty Nail Polish Remover, 100% Acetone ($3.29, drugstore.com).

Step 1: Trim Your Nails
First, if your nails are too long for your liking, give them a little trim using a nail clipper.

Step 2: File and Shape
Once you have your desired length, file and shape your nails. We love the new Revlon File ‘N Peel 6-in-1 File ($4.49, cvs.com). If it dulls down or gets dirty, just peel off the first layer to reveal a fresh one.

Step 3: Apply Cuticle Oil
Apply a healthy dose of cuticle oil and/or remover at the rim of the nail. Butter London Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator ($19, butterlondon.com) literally melts unwanted skin away.

Step 4: Soak
Soak your hands in a bowl of warm water for a minute or two to soften your cuticles. You can even add some moisturizing soap into the bowl.

Step 5: Push Back & Cut Cuticles
Using a cuticle pusher such as Tweezerman Pushy Cuticle Pusher ($17.99, ulta.com) or an orangewood nail stick, gently push back your cuticles. If necessary, grab a cuticle cutter, such as Sally Hansen Nip Em Neat Cuticle Nipper ($16.99, ulta.com) to nip away excess skin. Don’t go overboard; you don’t want to leave any redness or raw skin.

Step 6: Buff the Nails
You’re going to want a smooth nail bed for perfect polish application. This Deborah Lippmann Smooth Operator 4-Way Nail Buffer ($12, beauty.com) will leave you with a flawless finish.

Step 7: Moisturize and Massage
Just because you’re not at a salon doesn’t mean you can’t treat your hands to a relaxing massage. This anti-aging Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream ($15, sephora.com) nourishes hands and helps strengthen nails. For a real salon-style mani, wrap hands in a hot towel right after and use it to remove excess cream from the nail bed. Wipe each nail down with a cotton swab soaked with nail polish remover before you apply polish.

Step 9: Polish Time!
Now you’re ready for the good stuff! Apply a base coat, then two coats of nail polish, and finish it off with a quick-dry top coat. Apply polish in thin layers and let each one dry for a few moments before adding another coat. Sit back, relax, and wait for your polish to dry.

Read more: Tips To Make Your DIY Manicure Last Longer

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