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How to achieve an at-home manicure that looks salon-grade

Posted by for Beauty

Self-care comes in many different forms, especially in tricky times. Here’s Stylist’s step-by step guide to giving yourself a salon-worthy manicure from the comfort of your own home

Few moments are quite as satisfying as emerging from the nail salon with a fresh lick of paint and well-oiled cuticles. And considering gel manicures are the most booked treatment on Treatwell in the UK, it seems a lot of people agree. But given the current joy of lockdown 3.0 having a salon treatment isn’t possible right now.

While it’s worth supporting your local nail salon – and other small businesses for that matter – by buying vouchers to use later down the line, now is also the time to continue the upkeep of your nails at home. But of course, that’s easier said than done, especially if the thought of painting your own nails gives you flashbacks to being seven years old and spilling a full bottle of polish on your mum’s new carpet.

If you’re well and have the spare time (let’s face it, who doesn’t right now?) get ready to take matters into your own hands, quite literally. That means perfecting the art of safe cuticle care and acing meticulous polish painting.

We’re here to help. We enlisted the know-how of manicurist Metta Francis and below, you’ll find the ultimate, failsafe guide to giving yourself a salon-standard treatment from the comfort of your sofa. May your colleagues be suitably impressed on your next Zoom call.

Step one: care for your cuticles

Keeping cuticles tidy lengthens the nail bed significantly but avoid cutting or trimming them yourself as it can lead to infection if not done properly. Instead, Francis recommends pushing back cuticles regularly, which is best done after a bath or shower, when skin is at its softest. “Apply cuticle cream or balm and then gently push back the cuticle at the base of your nail with either a wooden cuticle stick wrapped in a cotton pad, or use the thumbnail on the opposite hand. Doing that regularly will help skin naturally shrink back and reduce cuticle build up.” 

Try: Mavala Cuticle Cream, £12.60

Mavala-Cuticle-Cream

Step two: choose the right nail file 

“A 240 grit natural wooden nail file is most likely what your nail tech uses, but a glass file is also perfect for at-home use. Avoid orange or beige-coloured emery boards; they’re too harsh and sandpaper-like so could damage your nails.”

Try: Margaret Dabbs Crystal Nail File, £15

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Step three: file with caution

“It’s best to file from the left to the middle, and then from the right to middle (or vice versa) – it helps make sure you file the nail evenly. If you’re filing in a square or ‘squoval’ shape, it’s best to round the edges slightly to avoid a 90-degree corner. Sharp edges can catch easily. For almond or round shapes, symmetry is important so always file to the centre of each nail.” 

Step four: apply base coat and colour 

Nail pros usually swipe nails in nail polish remover ahead of painting. This dehydrates the nail and soaks up any natural oils that might affect the polish on top. Then, always apply a good base coat. Not only will it help the polish last longer, but it protects the natural nail and prevents staining.

Try: Orly Bonder Base Coat, £13.50

Orly-Bonder-Base-Coat

“If you’re painting in thin, even layers, the base coat should be dry by the time you’ve painted all 10 nails,” says Francis. “Two thin coats of colour are usually enough, and always paint in five strokes: one down the centre of the nail, one to left, one to the right and then two strokes at each edge.” Stylist’s beauty director Shannon swears by Essie Expressie polish, £7.99 each.

Avoid polish flooding the cuticle by gently wiping excess polish off the brush before painting and by leaving a tiny 0.5mm gap between the skin and nail. If you make a mistake use a wooden cuticle stick to immediately tidy up.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous – or if you’re missing the joy of nail art – you could go crazy and use Ciate’s bestselling Cheat Sheet stickers, £16. Once your polish is dry, use tweezers to carefully peel off your chosen design and stick it onto your nail of choice, you could decorate all 10, or just do a couple. The choice is entirely yours. 

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Step five: finish with a top coat

“Not only will a top coat give a shiny, salon-esque finish, but it also works to seal in the colour,” says Francis. “My all-time favourite is CND Vinylux Top Coat, £8.95, because it dries quickly to a super glossy shine, and the longer it’s worn, the more hardwearing and durable it becomes.” 

CND-Vinylux-Top-Coat

Step six: apply cuticle oil

“Complete the manicure with cuticle oil to rehydrate and strengthen the nails, making them less likely to chip,” says Francis. It’s good to get into the habit of applying it once or twice a day, that’ll help your paint job last longer as well as protecting and caring for your nails. CND Solar Oil, £9.95, is a cult favourite amongst manicurists, and for very good reason. 

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Images: Ciate / courtesy of brands.

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Lucy Partington

Freelance beauty editor Lucy Partington is obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she'll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.

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