Hitting up the salon for a manicure or pedicure is arguably one of our go-to ways to practice self-care. But the cost can be prohibitive—and sometimes, we'd rather just stay in and paint our nails while watching a favorite movie. Thanks to a few supplies and expert-recommended techniques, you can do your own manicure and pedicure at home to save time and money. These tips from nail professionals include everything you need to know about filing, cuticle cutting, and painting, so even if you've never painted your nails before, you can easily have beautifully polished fingernails and toenails. Once you master the basics, try out one of our favorite seasonal nail polish trends to show off your skills.
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How to Do a Manicure at Home
Learning to paint your fingernails is especially useful for those who bite their nails. If you have a pretty polish perfectly applied, you're less likely to nibble.
1. Prep the Nail Beds
Clean the nail and remove old polish with a non-acetone polish remover. (We like Blossom's nail polish remover, $6.99, Target, which is organic and infused with real flowers.) Make sure you pay attention to your natural nail bed color during this step. "If your normally white nails have been yellowed by polish, rub them with the peel of a lemon or grapefruit," says Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics. Use an emery board to file nails into your desired shape. Revlon sells a 24-pack of boards for just $2.99 at Ulta.
Always file in a single direction. If nails are thin or peel easily, angle the file so that it lies slightly under the nail.
2. Push Back the Cuticles
Now you need to take care of your cuticles, which are the thin tissue-like skin that adheres to the bottom of the nail plate. To begin the process, soak your hands in warm water mixed with gentle liquid hand soap for five minutes. Blot hands dry with a clean towel. Massage cuticle oil (try Essie's apricot cuticle oil, $9, Ulta) into your cuticles and let it absorb for about three minutes. Use a cuticle pusher, $5.49, Amazon, to remove cuticle overgrowth from the nail bed. You may trim hangnails along the sides of the nail with a clipper, but never cut the cuticle."Treating the cuticle is paramount and leaves nails looking like they were professionally done," says Dana Caruso, founder of the Long Island Nail & Skin Care Institute.
3. Apply Polish
Before you start painting, wipe the nail surface again with polish remover to eliminate oils. Apply a clear base coat to hydrate the nail and minimize splitting and cracking. We like OPI's base coat, $5.25, Walmart. Next, apply your polish in two thin coats. (If the layers are too thick, they're more likely to chip.) Finish with a quick-drying topcoat, such as Sally Hansen's topcoat, $3.99, Target, and reapply every other day to help your manicure last longer.
How to Do a Pedicure at Home
Your feet will be sandal-ready all year long with these tricks. If you need color inspiration, a moody hue is a trendy option that looks great on toenails.
1. Prep the Nail Beds
Before you begin, make sure all your tools are clean. "Even your tools need to be sterilized after each use," says Ji Baek, former owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York. She recommends soaking tools in a zippered plastic bag filled with rubbing alcohol for 25 minutes.
Next, clip overgrown nails and remove old polish. "I'm astounded by how many people never take the polish off their toes and just continue to paint over the top," Baek says. "Take the nail lacquer off and examine your natural nails to make sure they're in healthy condition." Use a dry-skin file to get rid of stubborn calluses. Amazon sells a top-rated electronic foot file for $14.99. (If your feet have cracked soles, calluses, or corns, don't attempt to fix these yourself. Seek the help of a podiatrist.)
2. Exfoliate and Clean
Soak feet in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then exfoliate using a grainy scrub on feet, heels, and legs. We recommend Tree Hut's shea sugar scrub, $8.99, Ulta, to gently slough off dead skin and leave feet feeling soft and moisturized.
3. Push Back the Cuticles
Rub cuticle oil into cuticles, and let the oil soak in for about three minutes. Gently push back cuticles with a manicure stick, $3.50 for an 8-pack at Ulta (it can also be used to clean under toenails).
4. Moisturize Skin
Slather a moisturizing cream like Soap & Glory 's foot cream, $8.99, Target, on legs and feet. Once the cream has absorbed into skin, wipe nail beds with nail polish remover.
5. Apply Polish
Before you put on polish, insert a separator between your toes for mess-free painting (you can buy a 12-pack of separators for $5.79 on Amazon). Apply a base coat, two coats of color, and a top coat, then wait at least 20 minutes for your pedicure to dry. If you need to leave the house, it's a good idea to wear sandals or a shoe that doesn't cover your toes.