Welcome to Mani 101! On this page, I will go through how I do my nails, detailing the products and tips and tricks I use! All of this information has been compiled over months and months of reading nail polish blogs, watching video tutorials, my nail tech training, and trial and error. I will link you to sources as appropriate! Hopefully there is some information here that is helpful to you, whether you are new to the nail world or an old pro! It should be noted that this is how I do my own nails at home, and not all of these techniques are appropriate or sanitary for use in a professional salon environment. When working on others' nails, all implements must be properly sanitized between manicures!
Regular MaintenanceFirst and foremost, you need to treat your nails to the nourishment that they need! I make sure to take my vitamins and use a treatment on my nails that provides them with the protein they need! As a vegetarian, I am very aware of my protein intake, and I find that SpaRitual Vegan Protein Boost helps keep my nails nourished! Since I started using this product, my nails have grown like weeds! When I first started using Protein Boost, I used it every time I painted my nails. Now, I try to use it about twice a week (depending on how many times I paint my nails). I apply it onto my bare nails and use my base coat over top of it. Even if I do not use it regularly, my nails still grow like crazy since I introduced this product into my nail care routine.
To keep my cuticles in shape, I use several products. My go to cuticle cream is Lush Lemony Flutter. Lemony FLutter is my favorite nail care product. Perfection in a little black pot!! Personally, I think it smells amazing and since I started using it, it has made my cuticles so much more manageable. I try to massage it into my cuticles (and I even use it on my hands as well...it's luxurious!) at least once a day. It feels so nice. I also use OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil or Julep Elixer Argon Oil after most of my manicures to counteract the acetone remover that I use. About once a week, I use a cuticle remover and push my cuticles back with an orangewood stick or metal cuticle pusher. I use OPI Avoplex Exfoliating Cuticle Treatment. This helps soften my cuticles, remove excess cuticle growth, and whiten my nails. I do NOT clip my cuticles, unless I have a hang nail. Since I started this cuticle routine, the skin around my nails has been much nicer to look at, despite the chilly Ohio weather! I'd also suggest using a hand lotion regularly. I love Lush Helping Hands.
Filing your nails into a desirable shape can be even more important than your polishing technique. Personally, I choose a shape between square and squoval. I use a glass file to shape my nails, and honestly, it has changed my life! Glass files help keep your nails healthy and they last forever if you take care of them. I used to hate filing my nails, and I'd usually just chop them down with clippers, but my glass file has turned filing into one of my favorite steps in my manicure process! No more clippers for me...they cause my nails to crack and break. If I am taking a lot of length off I will use an emery board to get started and finish with my glass file.
|My favorite nail care product: Lush Lemony Flutter|
Necessities (besides the polish!)For nail polish remover, I nearly always use pure acetone. I know a lot of people do not like using it often because it dries them out, but honestly if you treat your cuticles right, you shouldn't have a problem. After using acetone on my nails, I always immediately wash my hands with soap and water. Regular cuticle cream or oil will keep them moisturized, and acetone shouldn't be an issue.
If I am wanting a more moisturizing polish remover, I usually mix up my own. I follow the instructions presented [here] and use acetone, water, and vegetable glycerin (did you know that many "non-acetone" polish removers are not vegetarian because they contain gelatin?). It's super easy to mix up, it's moisturizing and it's still effective. If a remover is completely acetone-free, I usually have to scrub so long with the cotton ball that my cuticles are quite angry afterwards...this homemade remover still works quickly because it is still acetone.
To remove glitter polishes, I use the foil method with pure acetone. Simply cut strips of aluminum foil about 3"x 8". Saturate a small cotton ball in pure acetone, place it on the nail, and wrap the entire finger tip in foil. This prevents the acetone from evaporating while it works to remove the glitter polish. Leave this on your fingers for about 5 minutes. I usually just do one hand at a time. This technique saves time, frustration, cotton and your cuticles! Just make sure to moisturize afterwards!
Everyone knows that top and base coat can make a huge difference in the quality of a manicure. Personally, I am not a huge stickler about the kind of base coat I use, but I do always use one. My nails are sort of stained anyway, just from wearing polish all the time, but I'm sure it would be even worse without base coat. I usually just use any kind of pink base coat; currently I am using Beauty Secrets Base Coat from Sally's. Now, if you read my blog regularly, you know about my love affair with NYC In A New York Minute Grand Central Station, or as I call it, NYC top coat. It's amazing! I'd highly suggest it <3 I also love Out The Door top coat...it is super shiny and dries quickly! I've been using it a lot lately as well!
Polishing Your NailsThe application process of nail polish is important to the quality of the manicure. Everyone has slightly different techniques and different opinions on how they like their polish to look, but here I will tell you how I polish my nails (and clients' nails if I am doing a mani on someone else). Of course, start out with you nail fortifier and/or base coat and allow it to dry before applying polish. My pink base coat usually dries fully in about 60 seconds.
I like to leave a little space between the edge of the polish and my cuticles; this helps prevent growing cuticles from popping the polish off, causing your manicure to chip! Also, I think this just gives a cleaner look than when the polish floods your cuticles. To achieve this, when applying your first coat of polish, your polish brush should make contact with your nail plate in the middle of the nail, about 1/3 of the way up from the cuticle. Use the brush to push the polish down to where you'd like it to stop (1/16" away from the cuticle is ideal), and then pull your brush up to the free edge, polishing the middle of your nail! Then, carefully go back and do a similar stroke on each side of your nail. This completes your first coat. Allow it to dry for a minute or two; I like to make sure the polish is at least tacky to prevent pulling of the first coat. For the second coat, you do not want to push the polish toward the cuticle; only pull the polish towards the free edge. For most polishes, the second coat should smooth out any streakiness and level out on its own.
If you want to wrap the tips of your free edge to postpone chipping and shrinkage that could occur depending on your top coat, before the second coat of polish is the time to do it. I use the side of the polish brush, with nearly no polish flowing on it, to do this. Simply take the side of the brush and run it along the free edge of your nail. You don't want to flood under you free edge, you're just trying to put a little polish on the very tip of your nail. Once you've completed this on one nail, apply your second coat of polish like normal. Apply your top coat like you applied the second coat of polish. You can even wrap your tips in top coat to make your mani semi-indestructable!
Clean up is an important part of every mani! Even professionals sometimes need to clean up polish on the skin or around the cuticle. For this, I use an angled eyeliner brush. I bought mine at Target for less than $2! I simply dip it in pure acetone and use it to remove any access polish. This technique is affordable, easy, and much more precise than using a cotton ball!