With many of us practicing social distancing, going to the nail salon is no longer an option, making it the perfect time to master your at-home manicure skills. Not only can doing your own nails be fun, it can also work as a distraction in stressful times like these when self-care is more important than ever.
We spoke with Jaclyn Duguay-Gordon, manicurist at Green Tangerine Spa & Salon in Boston, to steer us straight when it comes to DIY nails. Turns out, all it takes is a few simple steps and the right products. Read through and use her tips, and you’ll end up with an Insta-worthy manicure that will have everyone who sees you (even just on the ‘gram) wondering how you did it.
Get your old polish off
Now if you’re rocking regular polish, you know that a good polish remover and file is all you need to get the job done. But if you’re wearing gel polish and you’re stuck at home, Duguay-Gordon has guidance.
“If you cannot make it to the salon for a gel removal, the first step is to use a fine-grit nail file to gently rough up the top coat and break the seal,” she says. “Then use pure acetone in a glass bowl to soak for three to five minutes. Use a birchwood stick to gently remove the remaining jelly-like substance.”
Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover ($8.22; walmart.com)
Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover
This acetone-free remover can gently remove regular polish without over-drying nails.
Zoya Remove Plus 3-in-1 Formula ($19.15; walmart.com)
Zoya Remove Plus 3-in-1 Formula
Excellent for weaker nails, this formula from Zoya conditions nails while removing polish.
Deborah Lippmann The Stripper ($19; sephora.com)
Deborah Lippmann The Stripper
If you’re wearing traditional nail polish, try Lippmann’s gassed-up remover, which takes just one swipe to remove the color.
Sephora Crystal Nail File ($10; sephora.com)
Sephora Crystal Nail File
The long-lasting crystal file is washable and will gently remove the top layer of your gel.
Iridesi Nail Files and Buffers Washable Emery Boards ($11.99; amazon.com)
Iridesi Nail Files and Buffers Washable Emery Boards
This 12-pack of simple emery boards has small grit for precise filing on one side and a coarser on the other for fast filing down.
Onyx Professional 100% Acetone Glitter & Polish Remover ($4.76; walmart.com)
Onyx Professional 100% Acetone Glitter & Polish Remover
For removing gel polish, soaking your nails in this 100% acetone formula can do the trick.
Nails Inc. Gel-less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit ($19; sephora.com)
Nails Inc. Gel-less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit
Get the salon gel-removal experience at home with this kit: It comes with a file, acetone conditioning solution and pot of remover, which can help remove your polish in around 15 minutes.
Graham Handsdown Birchwood Cuticle Sticks ($6.33; amazon.com)
Graham Handsdown Birchwood Cuticle Sticks
You’ve seen these tiny wood sticks at your salon. They’re a lot easier on your cuticles and nail beds than the metal tools in many kits to help remove gel polish.
Prep your hands
Before you paint your new polish, you’ll want to get your hands and nails in shape — and this is seriously the best part of a manicure anyway. “Use a fine-grit buffer to buff your natural nail,” Duguay-Gordon says. “And finally a cuticle oil or hand lotion to rehydrate.”
If your nails are looking a little long since your last appointment, this is when you can further file and clip them down to get the shape you want, too.
Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 File ($9.99; walmart.com)
Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 File
This inexpensive Tweezerman tool is the only buffer most of us need. It’s not only a buffer, but it also files, smooths and shines your nails.
Tweezerman Nail Clipper Set ($10.99; target.com)
Tweezerman Nail Clipper Set
This set of two clippers — one small and one large — will last you a lifetime.
L’Occitane Shea Nail and Cuticle Oil ($19.50; sephora.com)
L’Occitane Shea Nail and Cuticle Oil
This luxurious oil absorbs quickly, softens cuticles and nail beds, and has a built-in brush applicator. So bonus: no mess!
Caudalie Hand & Nail Cream ($15; sephora.com)
Caudalie Hand & Nail Cream
This classic hand and nail cream will keep your skin soft and your cuticles uncracked.
Pick a color
Since everyone wants to get the most out of a polish, especially when they do the work themselves, it’s important to invest in a polish that you really know sticks.
“CND Vinylux, Opi Infinity Shine and Essie Gel Couture are great long-lasting polishes,” she says. “None of these require a base coat, and each have a gel-like top coat for which a UV/LED light is not needed, which makes for easy removal with just a polish remover. All have long-lasting wear, generally for up to seven days with proper nail prep.”
CND Vinylux ($10.19; walmart.com)
Try this long-lasting polish in #283 Element, a bright and jolly red.
OPI Infinity Shine ($13; amazon.com)
OPI Infinity Shine
This high-shine polish delivers in a classic pink.
Essie Gel Couture ($11.49; target.com)
Essie Gel Couture
Try a lovely lilac shade in this powerful polish.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.