I haven’t gotten a salon manicure in over a year now and I have no desire to ever go back because my nails look so much better and my wallet appreciates it, too. In this post, I’m going to share my steps to get an at home manicure that lasts – and looks – like gel/shellac.
Tools you’ll need:
(pick them up at your local Sally’s Beauty Supply or Amazon for cheap)
- nail file, $1
- buffer block, $2
- cuticle nippers, (I use the Tweezerman ones and swear by them… I’ve had them for almost 10 yrs.) $12-25
- straight-edge nail clippers, $7
- stainless steel cuticle pusher (or wooden orange stick $2), $7
- cheap, skinny manicure brush, $5
- cuticle remover, $4.99
- nail polish remover (I use Zoya because it’s less drying for my nails/skin, but I keep acetone on hand for glitter removal), $8-10
- your polish color of choice
- HK Girl Top Coat, $6.99*
- ACI Gelous Nail Gel Top Coat, $5.99-7*
*These are keys to this system. Without these two, I cannot guarantee similar results.
I typically do this routine every 7-10 days, just because my nails start growing out, but I have had it last two weeks with just very minor signs of tip chippage. Note: I am extremely rough on my hands on a day-to-day basis. If you’re not, you may get more mileage from this routine. The entire routine takes me about an hour.
You can see how my nails look from an Instagram post here.
Step One – Shape
If you want to cut down the length on your nails (which I usually do because my nails grow fast and I like a shorter nail), use the nail clippers to trim up to where the nail hits the edge of your fingertip. I don’t like them so short that my skin is visible beyond the tip of my nail. I usually do three clips – center, side, side.
File very lightly to smooth and don’t forget to file the edges along the nail bed.
Buff tops of nails to create a smooth yet slightly roughed up surface to help the polish adhere.
Step Two – Clean
I noticed that getting my nails done at the salon was causing my cuticles to start growing way out of control. They were trimming them every time I went in and using very drying acetone, which was just toughening up my skin. After about a month of DIY at-home manis and pushing back my cuticles, my hands looked like a new woman!
Apply cuticle remover around nail bed and allow to sit for one minute. I am obsessed with this heavy-duty one from Sally Hansen because it truly works to loosen up and let me push back/remove the cuticle.
Use stainless steal cuticle pusher (or orange/wood stick) to simply push back cuticles and more deeply clean up the nail bed. Use the sharp side to carefully clean under the nail bed and around the cuticle’s edge.
If you notice any loose/excess skin after pushing back cuticles, delicately trim that area with cuticle nippers. These are a Godsend and help me with hangnails and the dead skin that builds up on the edges of my nails. When I first stopped going to the salon, this step was more time-consuming but as I’ve done it at home longer, it’s lessened.
Wash hands and use a nail brush, if desired.
Step Three – Base
Before polishing, take the manicure brush and swipe a little nail polish remover to clean off any residue from the nail bed. This step is very important because it dissolves any remaining oils from your nail, which helps the polish stick better.
Use the Gelous polish and apply two coats – allowing two minutes to dry between coats.
Step Four – Paint
Apply one coat of polish color. Let dry for two minutes.
Apply one coat of Gelous. Let dry for two minutes.
Apply second coat of polish color. Let dry for two minutes.
Step Five – Seal
Apply a top coat of Gelous. Let dry for five minutes.
To REALLY extend the wear-time and add a crazy dose of shine to get that gel/shellac look, apply final top coat of HK Girl. HK Girl isn’t like any other top coat I’ve used… it doesn’t get super sticky, it dries nearly instantly and it’s by far the shiniest formula I’ve used (and I used to swear by Seche Vite). Let dry for ten minutes.
Use manicure brush dampened with nail polish remover to clean up any accidental polish applied to skin.
Wash hands with cold water (for some reason, this always helps harden/dry my polish a little quicker).
*optional: apply cuticle oil/butter/cream to nails after they’re dry
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There you have it. This is how I’ve been doing my nails at home for the last year. I’ve done this before traveling and big events with no issues – no smudging (as long as you stick to my timing) and no chipping. I am so glad I stopped getting manicures at the salon because my nails are so much healthier! Of course, a girl can’t give up her pedicures, but this is how I get my at home manicure that lasts.
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