We’ve all been there: You saw some adorable nail art designs on Pinterest or Instagram, maybe even found a helpful tutorial, and bought a bunch of new nail art supplies. But after two hours of attempting a home manicure and failing to achieve an even coat, you begin to understand why so many people prefer to visit a professional…
It’s true that attempting a DIY manicure always sounds like a good idea (and when you’re seated in the salon chair, your manicurist probably makes it look easy), but there’s a lot more to achieving salon-perfect results than meets the eye.
As a self-proclaimed nail art fanatic, I have spent countless hours in salon chairs absorbing the knowledge of professional manicurists and nail technicians. Enough time to have learned the most common errors that most people (including myself) make, as well as the techniques for correcting them. Whether you are unable to achieve a smooth coat of color or your cuticles always end up looking shredded, professional advice can make all the difference.
1. Not Prepping Your Nails
Preparing your nails is probably not the first thing that comes to mind (and we mean more than just applying a base coat). In the same way that it is essential to cleanse your skin before applying makeup, it is essential to ensure that your nails are completely clean. Ashleigh Bamber, a nail technician, recommends always dehydrating the nail plate with a dehydrator or acetone before applying polish. If you skip this step, the oils, dust, and dirt on your nails will prevent the gel from adhering, and your polish will not last as long as it should.
2. Destroying Your Cuticles
A neat cuticle is essential to achieving a flawless manicure, but despite the temptation to pick up the nippers and attempt to replicate the techniques you’ve seen in the salon, it’s probably best to leave anything that requires tools to the experts. Rose Tucker, a nail artist, states, “Nail prep must be performed with extreme caution, as I frequently observe clients completely removing what they believed to be dead skin, only to discover it wasn’t and they’re left bleeding.” “To avoid pain and the risk of infection, only remove hangnails from your skin, and use a cuticle pusher to loosen dead skin and cells on your nail plate.” Tucker also suggests using cuticle softeners to prevent buildup and assist the pusher in performing the laborious tasks.
3. Doing Thick Coats
one. “Less is truly more when it comes to your at-home manicure, so whether you’re using regular or gel polish, each coat should be extremely thin,” advises Bamber. In fact, she warns that doing so will drastically reduce the longevity of your manicure. “Using thick coats will result in a gloopy, uncured (or not dry) manicure, and even if it cures, you may find that it peels off within a few days.
4. Not Capping
You’ve probably never heard of capping before, but this technique is the ultimate hack for preventing chipping nail polish. Tucker explains that we use capping to ensure that the product is sealed and resistant to chips. Before placing your hand in the lamp and while the remainder of your polish is still wet, lightly drag the tip of your nail brush along the nail’s tip. This technique works with standard nail polish as well. “Because you don’t want to see a ridge, you don’t need much paint on the brush, so just use what’s left and paint thinly.
5. Not Tidying Up
If you feel that your DIY manicures are never as flawless as your professional ones, pay attention. According to Bamber and Tucker, the most common error made by clients attempting a manicure at home is a lack of cleanliness. Bamber states, “It is also one of the easiest to avoid, but believe it or not, it still occurs.” “Leaving bits of polish on the surrounding areas of your nails will make them appear sloppy and, if you’re using gel, will likely cause them to lift.”
When applying nail polish, Bamber suggests beginning with a single swipe down the center of your nail, followed by a swipe on each side (if necessary) and avoiding getting too close to the edges of your nails. “It’s always preferable to leave a small gap rather than get nail polish on your skin,” she says. “You could even use a fine brush to go around the cuticle and side walls,” she adds. And if polish does get on your skin? Always use nail polish remover on a cotton swab to clean your nails as quickly as possible.
6. Not Following Aftercare
“This is the one step that you should never skip when doing your nails at home,” advises Bamber. Daily cuticle oiling is the easiest and most effective way to keep your at-home manicure looking fresh and prevent lifting and peeling. Tucker agrees. She says that proper aftercare can make the difference between a five-day manicure and a three-week manicure.
Gel and polish are durable, but they are not bulletproof, so you must continue to care for your nails once your manicure is complete. Additionally, it is advisable to refrain from subjecting your nails to anything too strenuous in the 24 hours following a manicure.
7. Picking Off Your Polish
While application and aftercare are essential, removal should not be rushed. Tucker states that picking off gel polish or acrylics is one of the most damaging things you can do to your nails. “Yes, it is tempting when your shower gels are clinging on for dear life, but the damage caused by improper removal can take months to repair and becomes progressively more difficult to correct over time.” Instead, she suggests purchasing a soak-off kit. “They are reusable, inexpensive, and simple to use, and they are widely available.