How to Give Yourself a Manicure, According to an Expert

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Missing your gel or dip manicures while we’re social distancing? The silver lining is that going a few weeks or—gasp!—months without them will allow your nails to get stronger as they grow out, explains Lauren Dunne, co-founder of Varnish Lane, a nail salon with three locations in D.C. Regularly applying cuticle oil and a nail hardener can help, too.

But that doesn’t mean you’re fated to go polish-free during quarantine. It isn’t as hard as you may think to give yourself a manicure at home, and once you get the hang of it, painting your own nails can actually be relaxing.

Looking for more ways to practice self-care? Why not enjoy a cocktail or a homemade face mask?

Here, Dunne shares the 10 steps to getting a salon-quality manicure at home:

  1. Remove any color from your nails with polish remover and a cotton ball.
  2. Cut or files nails to your desired length and shape. “Round is our most requested shape right now,” says Dunne.
  3. Push back your cuticles using a cuticle pusher, orangewood stick or spoon.
  4. Use cuticle nippers to gently remove any dead skin or hangnails on the sides of your nails. However, this step is optional. “We prefer to avoid cutting cuticles too much, as it is a protective layer of skin that keeps your nails healthy,” Dunne explains.
  5. Lightly buff your nails with a buffer or nail file.
  6. Remove any excess oils or residue by swiping a cotton ball with polish remover over your nails once more.
  7. Apply your base coat, letting it dry for two minutes.
  8. Apply your first coat of color polish using three strokes—a stripe down the middle, then one on each side. “It’s also important to make sure that you are painting thin coats of polish,” says Dunne, who is loving Dolly Mix by Londontown (a subtle lilac) and Kitty by Habit Cosmetics (a bright pink) this spring.
  9. Wait two to four minutes, then apply a second coat of color polish.
  10. Wait five minutes before applying your top coat.

If you accidentally polished your skin, use a clean-up brush and some polish remover to tidy up around your nails. Finish your mani by massaging cuticle oil or even coconut oil into the skin around your nails to restore moisture.

Another silver lining of this quarantine is that it’s OK if your nails don’t look like they were professionally painted.

“Don’t be discouraged if your polish isn’t perfect on the first go-round,” says Dunne. “Practice makes perfect.”

A version of the article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY.

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