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Do you love getting manicures and pedicures but you’re convinced that you can’t get the same results at home? Contrary to what many people believe, it is entirely possible to get professional results while doing your nails yourself and it can save you a lot of money in the long run. Indeed, all you need are the right tools and a few tips on your techniques and you’re one step closer to getting the beautiful nails that you deserve.
The Right Tools Make a Difference
When you go to a nail salon, one of the things that you’re likely to notice is that they have more tools than you do so the first step in a DIY manicure or pedicure is to get the right nail tools. At a minimum, you’ll want to get:
You’ll learn to use other tools the better you get at the task, but these are the tools you’ll need in the beginning. Keep in mind that preparing the nails for a manicure or pedicure is just as important, if not more important, than the polishing itself. Simply put, if your nails don’t look good before you polish them, they won’t look good afterward.
To save yourself some time, you can even purchase kits with manicure tools in them. These are usually easy to find and very affordable. In fact, they will likely have more tools than you need in the beginning but they’re good to have around in case you need them in the future.
The Right Beginning
To begin either a manicure or pedicure, always remove all nail polish before doing anything else. Make sure that you use something soft, such as a cotton ball, and remove every bit of the polish from the entire nail. If you forget to remove even a small bit of the polish, it can mess up the rest of the manicure.
If your nail polish is extra dark or you have several coats of polish on the nail, simply soak your cotton ball with polish remover and press it on the nail for three or four seconds to give it time to soak through each layer of polish. You can use either cotton balls or pads or those made out of a rayon blend. Either of these will do.
Next, it is good to soften up the cuticles a bit. You can do this by placing mild soap, products made especially for soaking the nails, or even a few drops of your favorite essential oils in some warm water. You don’t want to soak the hands or feet for too long; as a general rule, 10 minutes is all you need to move onto the next step.
Once your hands or feet have soaked for a while, dry them gently with a clean towel and place a towel underneath them to make it easy to catch nails or hangnails that may fall once you start working. Naturally, you’ll want to start with cutting the nails and filing them but these steps aren’t done as many people think.
To start with, make sure that toenails are cut straight across, not curved like you do your fingernails. When you file your nails, start from the outside of your finger or toe and work inward to about the middle of the nail. Do this on each side of the finger or toe; with toenails, you can file directly across the top of the nail once you’re finished. Never file across the nail for your fingernails because this can actually make them weaker and easier to break.
Another tip to keep in mind is that when you’re filing either fingernails or toenails, you need to file in one direction only. Start on the outside of the nail and stroke inward, then lift the nail file and go to the next side. Never file back and forth because this too can weaken the nails and make them more prone to breakages.
The right nail file is also important. If you find a nail file that you love but it’s very coarse, don’t buy it. Extra-coarse nail files are usually used for artificial and acrylic nails only, not for natural nails. Natural nails need a finer type of nail file because they will never damage the nail.
It is also important to remember to use the right clippers for your toes and fingers. Only toenail clippers should be used for the toes and standard clippers for the hands. They are each made for a specific purpose so always use them as they were intended to be used.
Contrary to what many people believe, it is entirely possible to get professional results while doing your nails yourself and it can save you a lot of money in the long run.Tweet
The Cuticles Make a Difference
As you can guess, both manicures and pedicures concentrate a lot on the cuticles because if your cuticles aren’t healthy, neither are your nails. After you’ve soaked, cut, and filed your nails, place a small amount of cuticle remover cream (not cuticle oil) on the cuticles and rub it in gently. Let it sit for about a minute and you’re ready for the next step.
The first tool that you’ll use is the cuticle pusher and you use it to gently — repeat, gently — push back the cuticles. Remember, the cuticles themselves should never be cut because an infection can result. Just push them back gently and when you’re done, you’re ready to work with the nippers.
Take the cuticle trimmer, i.e., the nippers, and gently cut away any dead skin or hangnails from each and every nail. Again, never cut the cuticles themselves. After being soaked and loaded with cuticle remover, they may be very loose at this point but you have to resist the urge to cut them. Simply push them back and cut around the cuticles so that there are no hangnails or dead skin left. By this point, your nails are naturally beginning to look a lot neater and cleaner.
In addition, don’t forget to use those nippers all the way around the nail, not just at the cuticle. Your nails have to be neat-looking in order for the polish to look good and trimming the entire nail is the best way to do this. If you use the nippers and feel pain, you’re doing something wrong. Also, remember to use a set of nippers that is sharp; otherwise, it will be impossible to eliminate the hangnails properly.
Making Your Nails Smooth and Shiny
If your nails are left alone and you seldom do anything to them, they are going to have ridges. You have to get rid of these ridges if you want smooth, shiny nails in the end. This is where a good buffer comes in and there are many types available.
Before you buff your nails, however, you need to clean them thoroughly and make sure that they are as dry as possible. If you have a spray bottle filled with water, you can spray it on the nails and then wipe it off with a clean towel, preferably a lint-free towel. You can even use a paper towel if you like but, again, it should be lint-free.
Once the nails are dry and you’ve removed all traces of cuticle remover and anything else that was once attached to them, you are ready to buff. There are two main types of nail buffers — electric and manual — but it is recommended that you start off using the manual ones, especially if you’re unused to these tools.
Most nail buffers have either three or four sides and each side serves a purpose. These sides include:
If a nail buffer has a fourth side, it is normally some type of nail file and should, therefore, be used first. Many nail buffers will have numbers on each of the sides that tell you which side to use first, which is a big help. In addition, many buffers are just nail buffers and nothing else; in this case, you have to use another tool to get rid of ridges and smooth out the nail.
Much as with filing the nails, buffing your nails should be done in one direction only, either forwards or backward. If you buff them back and forth, it can thin out the nail and cause it to become weak and prone to splitting or breaking. Only buff the nail in one direction and you’ll protect and even strengthen it.
You should also never buff your nail too aggressively. This too can weaken the nail and make it easier for it to chip and break. Buffing should be done with a medium amount of pressure and only in the same direction every time.
Also keep in mind that as long as your nails are healthy, buffing them more than once a month is unnecessary and can even be dangerous. Buffing always weakens the nail slightly so if you buff more than once a month, the nails can weaken and become too thin. You should also stop buffing immediately if you feel any stinging or burning sensation. This is known as the “ring of fire” and it signals you to stop immediately.
Next up: The Fun Part
Next, we get to the part of the manicure/pedicure that most people love the most — polishing the nails. Although this job may seem cut and dry, there is a right way and a wrong way to polish nails and the right way always looks better and lasts a lot longer.
We’ve all heard about the three main parts of a good nail-polishing job: the base coat, the polish itself, and the topcoat. Believe it or not, all three steps are important if you want your nails to look great and if you want that polish to stay on longer. Never skip any of these steps or you simply won’t get the results that you were hoping for.
After the nails are cut, trimmed, cleaned, smoothed, and buffed, you should clean them one more time to make sure that no gunk gets in the way of the nail polish. You can spray the nails once again with water and dry them with a lint-free cloth. Make sure that you get into every crack and crevice of every single fingernail or toenail. Remember that the entire nail has to be dry before moving onto the next step.
For the very first step, use your base coat. It’s at this point that you may want to have a small brush on hand to clean the polish off the sides of the fingers or toes. After all, you want a clean look in the end so make sure to remove excess polish off the sides of the nails as you go along.
For this, you can use a very small paintbrush with a flat tip or, even better, use a nail brush that is made specifically for French nail polish. These brushes cost very little money — usually under $10 — and do a great job of removing the polish from your fingers or toes. Always dip it in a small amount of nail polish remover before you rub it on the polish that you’re trying to remove.
Also, when you paint each nail, the job should be done this way:
You should start each stroke approximately 1/8” from the top of the cuticle. You don’t want too much of the nail showing but you don’t want the polish to get on your cuticles either. With a little practice, you’ll learn just where to start your strokes so that they look perfect.
When you finish the base coat, the nail polish comes next. Using the same techniques and strokes as you did for the base coat, apply the nail polish carefully. Finally, apply the topcoat; for the best results, apply two coats of this one.
A Little Bit About Nail Polishes
In case you’re wondering if you need to wait in between coats of polish, there is no need to worry. You can apply the base coat, polish, and topcoat without waiting in between coats with the exception of the topcoat. Once the topcoat is applied, you should wait a minimum of five minutes before you go on with your other activities, preferably 10 minutes if you want great results.
If you get anxious about your nails drying quickly, try one of the many excellent nail-drying products that are now on the market. These usually come in two different types: a liquid that you apply to the top of the nail to dry, in which case you’d use one to two drops per nail; and a spray drying product, which looks somewhat similar to hairspray but is sprayed on the nails to make them dry a little more quickly.
When using a drying product, always follow the directions exactly as they are recommended for the best results. These products don’t dry the nails instantly; they just dry them more quickly and it’s good to keep that in mind.
If you’re curious about the gel nail polishes on the market, you can easily find them and try them out. At one time, you could only get gel polish at a salon but no more. There are numerous companies that now make gel nail polish for the general public and most of them are quite good. Some of them require the drying lamp and some do not but most of them last roughly two weeks without chipping, which is why they are now so popular.
Gel polish takes longer to apply but after you’re done, there is no drying time; therefore, you can immediately go on with your daily routine. They also come in hundreds of shades and colors so it is super easy to find something that you love.
Giving yourself a professional-looking manicure or pedicure at home is no longer a difficult task, thanks to the tools and polishes that are available to everyone. And remember that manicures and pedicures are much the same as anything else, which means the more practice you get, the better your results. Not only does it look great to have manicured nails but it also makes them feel better, especially if you follow up the routine with a good conditioning cuticle oil or hand cream.
Giving yourself a manicure or pedicure once a week is never a bad idea as long as you limit the buffing step to once a month or so. Before you know it, you can enjoy the same great results as your nail salon used to offer you.
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