11 Things You Need to Give Yourself a Manicure

A right hand painting a left-hand index finger with bright pink nail polish.
Mrs_ya/Shutterstock.com

Getting a professional manicure is a nice luxury, but it’s not always an option. Fortunately, with the proper tools and products, you can do your nails at home. Once you stock up, your at-home manicures will save you time and some serious money.

Tips for Painting Your Nails

Doing your own nails takes a bit of practice and patience. It’s not as relaxing as it is when someone else does it, but it’s just as rewarding. Here are a few tips to help you paint your nails like a pro:

  • Be patient: Make sure you set aside enough time for prep, painting, and drying your nails. If you rush through the process, they won’t look too great. Especially in the beginning, set aside a lot of time and be patient while you paint. Yes, you might be horrible at it at first, but practice makes perfect.
  • Don’t skimp on the prep: All the stuff they do at the salon—soaking off your old nail polish, cutting, filing, and buffing your nails, and moisturizing your cuticles—make your nails look better overall and prevent them from breaking or peeling. If your cuticles are dry and messy, even a great polish job isn’t going to make them look as good as they could.
  • Use good polish: You can get really cheap drugstore nail polish, super high-end nail polish, or the stuff in between. While you certainly don’t have to spend $50 on a designer nail polish to get good quality, you’ll get what you pay for if you pick up a $1 bottle. Opt for brands like Essie or OPI, which are known for their quality and staying power. They’re also a good price and have lots of color options. Zoya, Smith & Cult, Deborah Lippmann, and Sally Hansen are also good options.
  • Use three strokes to polish each nail: That’s really all it takes to paint each nail. Starting at the base of your nail, stroke the brush upward to the left, upward to the right, and then upward in the center. After the polish is dry, apply a second coat.
  • Touch up as you go: If you accidentally paint outside your nail, you don’t have to remove all the polish and start again. Keep some toothpicks or Q-tips handy, dip one in the polish remover, and then gently remove the polish from your skin.
  • Always use a base and topcoat: Never skip these! They make your polish look better and last longer.

Nail Polish Remover: Zoya Remove Plus

A bottle of Zoya Remove Plus.
Zoya

If you paint one color of polish over another, it will look bad, especially if it’s chipped. Also, try to avoid peeling your polish off as that can peel away actual layers of your nail. Always have a good nail polish remover on hand, like Zoya Remove Plus. Not only does this remove polish, but it also cleans your nails and preps them for a manicure.

You’ll notice a difference when you use this because it doesn’t make your nails feel quite as dry and stripped as many other removers do. This is partially because it hydrates your nails while removing the polish. Of course, it removes every trace of polish, too, without leaving behind any stains. It’s genuinely one of the best nail polish removers out there.

Nail Polish Remover

ZOYA Remove Plus 3 in 1 Formula - Polish Remover, Nail Cleaner, Nail Prep, 8 Fl Oz

Zoya Remove Plus removes polish, and cleans, conditions, and preps your nails.

Gel Polish Remover: Highrock Acrylic Remover Clip Caps

A hand with purple Highrock Acrylic Nail Polish Remover Clip Caps over each fingernail.
Highrock

If you want to do your nails, but they have gel polish on them, don’t stress! You don’t have to go to the salon and soak it off—get these Highrock Acrylic Nail Polish Remover Clip Caps instead. They’re really easy to use! You soak small pieces of cotton in nail polish remover, put them over your nails, and then clip these over them.

This allows the remover to soak in and makes the whole process mess-free. It’s much easier than sitting there with your fingers wrapped in cotton pads. They’re also reusable and easy to clean.

Gel Polish Remover

HIGHROCK 10Pcs Acrylic Nail Art Polish Remover Wrap Cleaner Superior Clip Caps (Purple)

These Highrock Acrylic Clip Caps make it easy to remove gel nail polish, mess-free!

Manicure Kit: Tweezerman Nail Rescue

Tweezerman nail clippers, nail file, cuticle pusher, and cuticle trimmers.
Tweezerman

A set of nail care tools is a bathroom essential, even if you don’t do your own nails much. The Tweezerman Nail Rescue Kit includes all the small stainless steel nail tools you need for manicures or touch-ups.

This kit includes a cuticle pusher, a cuticle and hangnail trimmer, a nail clipper, and a small nail file. Tweezerman makes awesome products that are sturdy and durable, which is great—the last thing you need is a flimsy nail file that bends too easily.

Nail Care Kit

Tweezerman Mini Nail Rescue Kit, 1 EA

The Tweezerman Nail Rescue Kit has everything you need to shape your nails to perfection.

Nail Buffer: Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 File, Buff, Smooth and Shine

Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-In-1 File, Buff, Smooth & Shine
Tweezerman

Many people do their nails at home and assume they can skip the buffing part as long as they’re cutting and filing. Sure, not buffing your nails isn’t going to damage your nails or ruin your manicure, but it definitely makes your at-home mani look a little better. That’s why this Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 is a great option to have on hand.

When you buff your nails, you’re basically rubbing them with a bit of grit to smooth them out. This makes them look shiny, which is nice if you’re not going to paint them.

However, smoother nails allow your polish to go on smoother, which, of course, is helpful. This Tweezerman option has four sides so you can use it as a nail file, as well.

Nail Buffer

Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 File, Smooth & Shine Block

This Tweezerman Neon Hot 4-in-1 is a buffer and nail file all in one. It leaves your nails smoother and more even.

Nail File: Sephora Collection Crystal Nail File

The Sephora Collection Crystal Nail File next to its box.
Sephora Collection

You’re probably used to seeing emery or stainless-steel nail files. Manicurists typically use them, and your mom probably did, too. Here’s the thing, though: glass nail files, like this Sephora Collection Crystal one, are far superior. They’re much gentler than other types of files, so they leave the edges of your nails smooth and clean rather than jagged and torn.

This one is particularly good for sensitive or thin nails and won’t leave them ready to peel. It’s also easier to use because you can move it in any direction, and it feels nicer than the old emery type.

Cuticle Remover: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover

A bottle of Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover.
Sally Hansen

Most manicurists cut your cuticles (or ask if you want them cut) so often, you probably think this is a necessary step—it’s not. Cutting your cuticles can actually leave your skin exposed and open to more damage or infection. It’s really just for aesthetics and doesn’t benefit your nail at all. The best course of action is to moisturize your cuticles or soak them off.

That’s where Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover comes in. You just squeeze it onto your cuticles, and then let it sit and soak in for a few minutes. It conditions your cuticles and then kind of soaks them off. If you simply use a cuticle pusher to push back your cuticles, your nails will look much cleaner—no cutting required!

Cuticle Remover

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, 1 Fluid Ounce

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover conditions and removes cuticles safely and quickly.

Cuticle Care: Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab

A tube of Sally Hansen Treatment Cuticle Rehab
Sally Hansen

Cuticles can become dry and ragged, which doesn’t look fantastic (that’s why manicurists cut them). If yours are looking a bit haggard, all they need is a little extra love. Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab is a good solution because it moisturizes them. Made with vitamin E, jasmine, and rose extract, it’s super-hydrating, and immediately softens and smooths your cuticle area and nail.

If you use it once a day, you’ll see results quickly.

For Easy Polish Application: The Poppy by Olive and June

A hand holding The Poppy by Olive and June.
Olive and June

The biggest problem with painting your own nails is often maneuvering the tiny little brush with accuracy and precision. If you’re serious about doing your manicures yourself, invest in The Poppy from Olive and June. You slip this patented handle over the handle on your nail polish bottle. The easier grip gives you more control so you can make even, steady strokes with the polish.

The Poppy is intended to be a universal fit, so it should fit over the handle of any nail polish bottle, no matter what shape it is. It makes the task of an at-home manicure much more manageable.

Base Coat: Smith and Cult Basis of Everything

A bottle of Smith and Cult Basis of Everything.
Smith and Cult

A base coat is important for several reasons. First, it creates a barrier between your nail and the polish, which is healthier for your nail and prevents any staining from darker colors. It also helps smooth out your nail for easier painting, and it prevents your polish from peeling.

Smith and Cult Basis of Everything is a base coat that’s worth the extra money. It’s made without harmful ingredients, like formaldehyde, dibutyl, and phthalate, and it goes on super-smooth. This formula also really helps your polish adhere and last longer.

Basis of Everything has so much shine, you might consider skipping the polish altogether!

Base Coat

Smith & Cult Nail Polish, Basis of Everything, 0.5 Fl Oz

Smith and Cult Basis of Everything is a safe base coat that prevents nail damage and helps your polish last.

Topcoat: Essie Good to Go

A bottle of essie Good to Go Top Coat.
essie

A topcoat is very important for any manicure. It seals your polish, and makes it look smoother, shinier, and probably even brighter. It also protects the polish from chipping and damage, and can sometimes even help it dry faster.

Essie Good to Go is a genuinely awesome topcoat that delivers a high-shine finish. It also protects and dries quickly. It’s also great to apply if your manicure starts to look dull and needs a little boost.

Topcoat

essie Good to Go Top Coat, Fast Dry + Shine Nail Polish, 0.46 Ounces (Packaging May Vary)

Essie Good to Go Topcoat delivers a high-shine finish and protects your freshly painted nails from chipping.

For Quick Drying: OPI Drip Dry Drops

An eyedropper leaning against a bottle of OPI Drip Dry Drops.
OPI

Perhaps the most annoying thing about a manicure is waiting for your nails to dry. Sometimes, it can feel like it takes hours. While applying a topcoat should help your nails dry a bit faster, it’s not always enough.

This is why OPI Drip Dry Drops are so amazing! You just drop a small dollop at the base of each nail after you apply your topcoat, and then let it sit. It speeds up the drying process tremendously and leaves a sheen over your nail to prevent little dings and chips. It’s life-changing!

For Quick Drying

OPI Nail Polish Fast Drying Drops, Drip Dry Nail Lacquer Drying Drops, 0.28 Oz

OPI Drip Dry Drops tremendously speed up the drying process, and they couldn't be easier to use.

Jessica Booth Jessica Booth
Jessica Booth is a freelance writer for Review Geek. She has been working in the editorial world as a freelance writer for over two years and previously worked as an editor for over eight years.  Jessica writes about travel, beauty, wellness, health, food, home decor, and parenting, and has reviewed and tested out products for all of those verticals over the course of her career. Read Full Bio »

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