not a professional. just crazy.

Everything You Need for a Successful at-Home Manicure

Photo: Fleury Rose

It’s likely that in the past few days, you’ve begun to crave new, comforting activities to keep yourself entertained and distracted. You also have likely looked down and noticed that your manicure from a few weeks ago is starting to chip. Since salons across New York City (and the country, and the world) are currently closed, this is an ideal time to experiment with DIY manicures. I, for one, am not the best at painting my own nails, so I reached out to two of my favorite people in the business, Floss Gloss co-founder Janine Lee and my go-to manicurist Fleury Rose, for tips on how a beginner can make their nails look salon-done (or, at least, close to it) at home. And as a reminder: Now is a good time to support your local salons and nail techs by buying gift certificates and booking future appointments.

According to Fleury, at-home manicures are actually quite easy and low-stakes. “I wouldn’t recommend someone try and give themselves an at-home facial or DIY bleach their hair,” she says, “but if you mess up your manicure — who cares? It’s no big deal, and you can always start over. It’s a fun, cozy, activity and great way to treat yourself.” Whether you’re doing full nail art or just a little buff and shine, Fleury says that when her nails look good, her mood is just a little bit better (you can book an appointment with Fleury in advance on her site here, and she’s also currently offering amazing DIY nail-art tutorials on Instagram live). Fleury always starts her at home manicures by removing any kind of old polish with this remover by Zoya. It gently dissolves any polish, but it doesn’t have much of a smell, she says — ideal for when you’re, say, stuck inside.

Next, Fleury recommends exfoliating your cuticles. This is a great way to help get rid of any hangnails or dead skin. “You rub the exfoliant all over your nails and skin, let it sit for five minutes, and then wash it off — it melts away dead skin and loosens the cuticle from the nail plate so you can push it back easier when you paint.”

After exfoliating, you should wipe your hands with a little alcohol and then use a nipper to clip off any little hangnails or excess pieces of dead skin—don’t cut anything that isn’t obviously sticking up. Fleury explained that these ones are designed in a simple v shape, making them easy for any beginner to use.

Fleury loves this cuticle oil, which comes in all different scents, from Honey Suckle to Spring Bouquet to Hibiscus to Jasmine to Orange. It’s super-lightweight and hydrating on the hands, she says, and it’s also just really adorable. “This cuticle polish is filled with real flowers, which just makes me smile.”

One of my all-time-favorite polish brands, Floss Gloss (I’ve written about them several times on the Strategist) is doing a 25% off sale right now. My favorite polish of theirs is their newest shade, Feugo, which is a hot orange-red holographic ball of wonderfulness . It’s also super-easy to apply and effortless to remove. I also love Intergalactic — which is a more silvery holographic shade that you can use as a top coat, as well.

Although glitter can be a pain to remove, it always makes me cheerful, and it’s super-easy to apply. One of my all-time-favorite glitter polishes is this one from celebrity manicurist Jin Soon, which is a beautiful confetti-style polish. One coat and your nails automatically look like a birthday cake.

For plain colors, I especially love the pastels from Olive and June. They’re super-pigmented, vibrant, and special. My favorites are JM, a lavender-y, peony pink, and CV, which is a bright cherry red.

I’m not sure what it is about it, but I find Smith and Cult’s top coat to be the shiniest, glossiest out there. It looks beautiful on top of a polish (and does a great job sealing in the polish so it’s not as susceptible to chipping), but I’ve also used it on its own when I just want to add a pretty glaze to my dull-looking nails.

Janine Lee told me that her favorite way to make painting her nails at home feel like a spa experience is with J. Southern’s Tranquility & Peace Ritual Kit. The kit includes a lavender essential oil that Janine uses at the end of her manicures to hydrate and heal her hands and cuticles, and a slew of other relaxing goodies, including a lavender bouquet, a palo santo stick, amethyst, sage, and a palm leaf. “All of the things in this kit help me create a real sense of tranquility and peacefulness in my tiny, loud Brooklyn apartment. They help me forget that me, my dog, and my husband are all on top of each other. Even if you don’t believe in this stuff — that sage is cleansing or that amethyst is healing — which I totally do, these kinds of things at the very least will create a really wonderful, relaxing, and lovely-smelling environment.”

For combatting my more severe eczema flare-ups, I use this treatment hand lotion from Gold Bond — which is $4 and works wonders. I like to supplement a couple of times a week with these luxurious-feeling hand masks from Elixir Premium Lab. These gloves are filled with a shea butter, lemon, olive oil, and anise formula—all of which help nourish, hydrate, and heal the skin. I pop these on for 20 minutes, and afterwards my hands feel soft and moisturized.

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Everything You Need for a Successful at-Home Manicure